From the Vault...


Johnny Cash

© American Recordings Records
Year of Release: 1996

track listing
  • Rowboat
  • Sea Of Heartbreak
  • Rusty Cage
  • The One Rose
    (That's Left
    In My Heart)
  • Country Boy
  • Memories Are Made
    Of This
  • Spiritual
  • The Kneeling
    Drunkard's Plea
  • Southern Accents
  • Mean Eyed Cat
  • Meet Me In Heaven
  • I Never Picked Cotton
  • Unchained
  • I've Been Everywhere

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    Johnny Cash

    Johnny Cash's 1996 release, Unchained is the continuing American Recordings albums, produced by producer legend Rick Rubin. Johnny Cash proves again, that no matter how age he was (64), he still could record great, incredible music. Country music. Johnny Cash was Country. Even after his death (2003), he is STILL Country.

    One thing for sure, is that as you listen to this album throughout, this is really Country, updated Country. In fact, this is what Country music should sound like, for at the time, preparing for the 21st Century. Not only that, but when you have Rick Rubin as your producer, you know your album is going to be of greatness.

    Unchained is "Updated Country." Every song proves greatness, as Johnny Cash's voice may sound old, frailed, rough. But it all works. And again, this is Johnny Cash. Songs such as "Rowboat," "Sea Of Heartbeat" (which on this song, makes me think of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright."

    "Rusty Cage" is defined as just one word: Great. This is Country. Ultimate Country. This is for the next track, "The One Rose (That's Left In My Heart)." This song meets old Country with the 1990s new decade. And on "Country Boy," this album just keeps getting better and better.

    "Memories Are Made Of This" was made famous by Dean Martin, as Dino took it to #1 in 1956, for 5 weeks. Johnny Cash puts a great Country feel to his version here. Johnny Cash has always done great in his musical styles. Country preferably, yet he takes us towards his spiritual roads, with the fantastic slow-paced "Spiritiual." Yes, it's very spiritual. He always enjoyed recording spiritual/gospel. This Jesus-inspired track, will get your Bic lighters out. This song is well-worth the listen, as the entire album. The spiriutal side continues, with "THe Kneeling Drunkard's Plea." It's old-fashioned, with Country Bluegrass.

    "Southern Accents" is nice and laid back, and Tom Petty'ish. (Petty had participated on this album, along with another of Petty's Heartbreakers, Mike Campbell, Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood. Also well-known particpants were Flea [from the Red Hot Chili Peppers], and Country artist Marty Stuart.) "Mean Eyed Cat" takes us back to rockabilly, and even Sun Records, the label in which Johnny Cash started out his career. "Meet Me In Heaven" is another spiritual slow-paced track. Good old-fashioned Country gets "I Never Picked Cotton," which really wasn't true about Cash; he had picked cotton as a youngster while growing up. The title track is another great laid-back song, and the classic Hank Snow "I've Been Everywhere" ends the album, as it being a great Rockabilly/Country tune.

    Unchained was the second album in Johnny Cash's American Recordings series. He recorded a total of six in this series. The first, titled American Recordings was reviewed - click here. Unchained was also titled as American II: Unchained, as the remaining albums in the series were titled accordingly: American III: Solitary Man (2000), American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002). The remaining were released after his death, which was September 12, 2003: American V: A Hundred Highways, and American VI: Ain't No Grave. The entire series was produced by Rick Rubin. Also, to mention, one last album was released in 2014, Out Among The Stars. It was not related to the American Recordings series.

    Unchained won Grammy for 1997 Best Country Album. It was #1 Country Album of the Year on Rolling Stone's 1996 Readers' Poll. As the comments clearly reads: "If Cash's gruff, soulful delivery doesn't touch the very heart of the outlaw in you, you might as well hang up them boots." (Los Angeles Daily News) ... and ... "If you don't get Johnny Cash, you got a hole in your soul." (Boston Phoenix).

    The American Recordings series, and being produced by Rick Rubin, jumpstarted Johnny Cash's career, late in his life. A comeback for him, more times than once. He has always been considered a legend, no matter what age he was in Country music. Unchained is an album worth listening to, with repeated listens. Every song is great. Cash was 71 when he passed away; his wife, June Carter Cash had passed 4 months prior. Johnny felt he was living for his music, as he was heartbroken after his wife's death. Cash's music has always been enjoyed, during his most popular years, and until his final years and final recordings. Johnny Cash will always be a true Country legend. His music will always live on, and inspire many future Country (and Rock) artists, during his lifetime, and many generations to come.

    © All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of American Recordings Records and is used for reference purposes only.

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    Dave Matthews Band--Stand Up
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    Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66--Fool On The Hool