Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. Today, we’re taking a look at a great live set by one of music’s real legends, Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash is one of the few figures in music that really doesn’t need a formal introduction – we all know that signature Cash sound: the dry vocal delivery, the bouncing bass and the twanging guitar parts – it’s a sound often imitated but never equalled. The thing that makes Cash’s discography somewhat impenetrable, however, is the sheer amount of work in it. With a rather frightening 96 albums under his belt, knowing where to start is something of quandary. Given his reputation as a great entertainer and crowd-pleaser on stage, perhaps the best introduction would be a quality live set from The Man In Black. Whilst it doesn’t have the level of fame as, say, his ‘Folsom Prison’ and ‘San Quentin’ albums this 1987 set for Austin City Limits is a genuinely great show from Cash. Although it didn’t receive official release until 2005 – and it wasn’t seen on wax until 2012 – it’s a great place to start for Cash newcomers and a worthy addition for acolytes and devotees. A good number of usual-suspects are here; the show includes spirited versions of ‘Ring Of Fire’, ‘(Ghost) Riders In The Sky’ and no less than two takes of ‘I Walk The Line’ – whilst that’s all well and good, ‘Live From Austin TX’ also includes lesser known, but no less impactful, moments including the heart-wrenching ‘Sam Stone’ and the macabre excellence of ‘The Long Black Veil’. Both Cash and his band are on fine form, putting in tight, zesty performances that convey a real sense of enjoyment without ever slipping into self-indulgence. Cash’s voice is very strong and sounds as good as ever, giving him free-reign to delivery some truly impassioned vocal performances throughout the set.
We’re looking at the 2012 New West Records pressing on black vinyl here; it’s a really nice release with good, solid playback and a hearty, heavyweight slab of vinyl to go with it. When viewed at certain angles there are some marks from factory handling on our copy, however these are non-sounding and, indeed, playback is excellent and sound quality is great, too. The live mix is clear and resonant, with Cash’s vocals taking centre-stage as they should; but never at the cost of the punchy brass, rollicking rhythm section or bubbling guitar lines. Aside from a couple of light errant cracks on the last song of side one, our copy is free of unwanted noise and playback is really solid throughout, boasting a nice low noise floor that never risks distracting from the music. The record itself is a good, weighty 180gms with well-cut rounded edges which make the disc easy to handle. All in all a great pressing and an excellent way to hear a rock-solid live set from Cash.
Presentation is simple but effective on this release; housed in a non gatefold sleeve the packaging itself is relatively unfussy here but it’s certainly not unattractive. Print quality is excellent throughout and all needed information – most notably writing credits for the numerous covers performed as part of the set – are present and correct on the back cover, as well as some short liner notes from Terry Lickona, Austin City Limits’ producer. Font on the spine is perhaps a tad small but the colour scheme allows it to stand out well, so it’s not hard to find on the shelf and the label design is simple but classy and effective.
This is a great release from New West Records and one that presents Johnny Cash in fine form. Playback is quiet and streamlined and allows the excellent sound quality and mix to shine through brightly.