Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Oct. 26, 2007
Johnny CashThe Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show (Legacy)
Television's variety show died an unceremonious death in the Eighties. During the previous two decades, they passed for reality TV, with everyone from Dean Martin to Donny and Marie Osmond hosting programs that featured music, comedy, magic, animals, etc. The appearance of this magnificent two-disc set might make you wonder why the format faded. The Johnny Cash Show only broadcast from Nashville's Ryman Auditorium 1969-1971 but was groundbreaking in the range of performers the Man in Black served up as musical guests. The short list includes Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong, Stevie Wonder, Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Taylor, Derek & the Dominos, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Bill Monroe, and Ray Charles. Presented as a documentary narrated by Kris Kristofferson, Best of reels off one special moment after another, totaling four hours of prime Americana. Cash fans won't be disappointed by the inclusion of performances of some of his best loved tunes, "Hey Porter" given a particularly rowdy run-through. He also shares rare duets with Linda Ronstadt, Waylon Jennings, Pete Seeger, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Merle Haggard, and his wife June. The booklet reads a bit skimpy while still offering photos from the show, an essay by noted country music historian Rich Kienzle, listings from TV Guide, and limited track info. That's a minor quibble seeing as a better depiction of the era's music might be hard to top.