I really have to applaud Shout! Factory for releasing something like this. Every time one of these television specials or long forgotten releases is given new light, that is one less item that will be lost to sands of time. Who knows how many different shows, performances, and similar materials have been lost over the years due to the fact that individuals did not care or know about their present. Well, Shout! Factory has released the 1976 and 1977 Christmas specials hosted by Johnny Cash, and have kept the performances sacrosanct. This means that there are a number of different performances that are present on this DVD, whether it be Cashâ€™s version of â€œWanderingâ€, â€œCamptown Racesâ€ (with Roy Clark and Tony Orlando), or â€œOld Folks at Homeâ€; Roy Clarkâ€™s â€œJuke Box Saturday Nightâ€, or Billy Grahamâ€™s â€œA Story of Christmasâ€. The video quality on this DVD is sharp, considering that the special has not been aired in any capacity since its original airing in 1976. Sure, some of the humor seems to be a little bit on the corny side and â€œstarsâ€ like Roy Clark and Tony Orlando have paled in comparison to Cash, but there is still a magic with this special that defies the withering effects of time.
The lineup for Cashâ€™s 1977 version of eir Christmas special just seems to be stronger than that on thwe 1976 special. Perhaps it is the fact that CBS allowed Cash more money to hire eir friends, or maybe there just was an alignment in the stars, but this special just seems better than the 1976 show (not to say that the 1976 show was weak in the slightest, either). This time, Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, June Carter Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis all combine to create a set of songs that are memorable even after the disc ends. Â â€œOh, Pretty Womanâ€ is given a solid treatment by Orbison, while Jerry Lee Lewisâ€™s performance of â€œWhole Lotta Shakinâ€™ Going Onâ€ is right up there with the studio version in regards to catchiness and sheer hookiness. Regardless of the effort that is put into these two tracks, it is not until the Johnny Cash, Family, and Friends version of â€œHark! The Herald Angels Singâ€ that individuals will truly be impressed by the special. The vocal qualities of everyone attached to the song just makes this rendition pop, and provides individuals with a good sense of the beginning of the end for this special. Pick it up if you can find it this season.