Monday, November 30, 2020

Johnny Cash "A Night to Remember - May 5th, 1973 at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, CA.

 (Third Man, 2020) I am not 100% a fan of those comedy LPs that are just soundtracks to TV specials, and sometimes come packaged with the DVD. Other than the Richard Pryor concert films, which were next level brilliant (and in the case of the post freebase explosion Sunset LP, ultra-historic) I can't recall ever listening to a comedy record with the expectation that I would (or had already) watch(ed) a video of the same concert. That said, this is the best LP/DVD set I have ever experienced. The video is more incredible than the LP in some ways, because it visually recognizes the perfect minimalist brilliance and pure magnetism of early 1970s Cash. Doing this one off label showcase performance in Los Angeles in 1973, the event was shot on film and lit as starkly as possible, with just Johnny in a moody spotlight (when he tries to introduce Carl Perkins the techs struggle to locate the band members, as they are completely invisible in the stark darkness (were they wearing night vision googles to play?). The concert footage is just a few stoic cameras appreciating Johnny's monument of a head - perhaps the most expressive stone face in pop culture history - as he goes through some of the best songs ever written (by himself, Kristofferson, Steve Goodman, and others, including his cohorts for that night, Perkins and Larry Gatlin). He briefly talks about his family, his Biblical history project, and his life, and he musically travels back to his Sun days, and also back to American music from decades before his career. This is within a year of Cash's Columbo episode, so just think of the charisma he was yielding those days! The LP is not redundant only because these are timeless songs that should be listened to over and over, and the recording is resonant and lovely, memories of the spare visuals help you appreciate these beautiful interpretations on your 4th, and 7th, and 18th listen. While the Third Man packaging is, as expected, design forward, it is also (like Cash) spare, with tiny liner notes, and a DVD menu that looks like it's from before DVDs existed. This was available as a deluxe package with a nice single featuring the Lumineers and Ruston Kelly covering deeper Cash cuts than you'd expect, but any way you can hear or watch this will be worth it. The video ends with Cash getting his son's coat, and fishing for coins for a candy machine as he exits the arena, casually going about his business as if he hadn't just recorded one of the best concerts of his career, one that would be, absurdly, locked away for almost fifty years. 

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