The Great Lost Performance
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/27/2007
Johnny Cash’s career spanned nearly 50 years. He began on the Sun label with luminaries like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Jail, alcohol, a hit TV show, June Carter and a distinctive and wonderful bass voice all melded together to make Cash an icon of county and American music.
The Great Lost Performance, recorded July 28, 1990 at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, New Jersey, presents a mature and seemingly happy Johnny Cash. Physical ailments would dog Cash for the last decade of his life, but here we find him still in fine form. His voice is not as strong as 10 years before but he had developed a mellowness and a control that more than made up for it.
A number of songs that are presented live here rarely appeared in his concerts. These gems, combined with some of his well-known material, provide the listener with an excellent insight into the man in black's musical legacy.
The first five songs on the album are what Johnny Cash is all about. The classic “Ring Of Fire” starts the concert off on a high note. Cash shows that his voice can still carry this tune 30-plus years after it was written. “Life’s Railway To Heaven’ and “A Wonderful Time Up There” feature a driving guitar boogie beat over a solid bass line. If only all gospel were like this.
“Folsom Prison Blues” follows and is presented as it was recorded a quarter of a century ago, while Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” shows why Cash was considered to be one of the better song interpreters of his generation. Here he takes a song that has been recorded hundreds of times and, with his unique vocal style, makes it his own.
There is a great biographical medley of songs later in the disc such as “Come Along and Ride This Train,” “Five Feet High and Rising,” “Pickin’ Time” and “A Beautiful Life.” Cash is one of the few artists that could pull this off. Other highlights include a great rendition of “Ghost Riders In The Sky,” a new original ballad entitled “What Is Man” and the rarely sung “Hey Porter,” the first song Cash ever wrote.
On the negative side, the two duets, “Jackson” and “The Wreck Of The Old ’97,” both with June Carter Cash, have been overdone. Likewise, the talking “Ragged Old Flag” brings the energy of the concert to a halt, while “Tennessee Flat Top Box” never really takes off.
Yet all in all, The Great Lost Performance is an excellent addition to the Johnny Cash legacy. It shows country music at its classic best and is a great introduction for newbies or a great reward for longtime fans.