Johnny Cash – Here Was A Man: The Ultimate Gospel Collection (CD)

I must admit, by the time that I heard Johnny Cash, ey was doing the American (cover) series of albums. Much, if not all of the music on this disc is foreign to me. It doesn’t help the case that songs like “Ring of Fire” were covered better by Social Distortion than they were originally recorded by Cash, and that eir cover of “Hurt” could not hold a candle to the superior Nine Inch Nails version. However, these are tracks with which I have little to no referent. While it is true that many of these tracks are covers of old gospel tracks, my knowledge in the field is limited to knowing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Amazing Grace” .

Thus, it is like these tracks are Cash’s own, and in the case of the two tracks I am familiar with, Cash’s ability makes them eir own. The disc is full of tracks; with twenty-four gospel songs to choose from, individuals will be awash in Cash’s religiosity. Most of the tracks see Cash at eir best, in the studio, with only the opening track “Here Was A Man” to break free of that and move into a live format. Even though many of the tracks are decades old, there seems to be a timelessness to Cash’s voice. The inclusion of June Carter Cash in a track like “Far Side Banks of Jordan” just gives individuals a slightly different orientation in which to see Cash’s gospel music. While it may seem shocking for some that Cash did religious songs, one only need listen to the aforementioned “Hurt” to realize that deep dow, Cash was a religious man.

Maybe the greatest insult to the track as Cash covered it was changing the line “crown of shit” to “crown of thorns” in eir cover of “Hurt”; what once was a mockery of a Christian mythology just becomes another line supporting the dominating ideology. While these tracks are nowhere near as insidious as the “Hurt” cover, they also support the domination of society by Christianity. The vocals are as usual great, the sparse instrumentation (if there is instrumentation) fine, but one has to remember what these tracks were designed to do. Pick up this disc if you are a fan of Johnny Cash, if you like gospel music, or if both of these things apply to you. If you just like “Ring of Fire” for its catchy melodies, this album may be skip-worthy.

Top Tracks: Amazing Grace, Far Side Banks of Jordan

Rating: 6.3/10

[JMcQ]

Johnny Cash – Here Was A Man: The Ultimate Gospel Collection / 2006 Sony / 24 Tracks / http://www.johnnycash.com / http://www.sony.com / Reviewed 08 May 2007

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