Johnny Cash – At The Carousel Ballroom 1968
The first thing I noticed about this historical musical document by Johnny Cash – is that the CD’s manufactured in the Czech Republic. Ironic that one of America’s beloved rockabilly/country forefathers of rock in the 50s has a 1968 live show released on CDs made in a country with Prague as its capital. How far from Arkansas can you get? But Johnny Cash is international, no doubt. I love it.
The pristine package with 28 cuts produced by Owsley Stanley at the Carousel Ballroom, April 24, 1968, is performed with gusto by The Tennessee Three (Luther Perkins – electric guitar, Marshall Grant – bass, W.S. Holland – drums) who join Johnny (guitar/vocals) & June Carter Cash (guitar/vocals).
At The Carousel Ballroom 1968 (Drops Oct. 29 – BMG/Renew/Owsley Stanley Foundation) is a Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco ballroom show that was captured by Owsley & not previously issued.
On a good system, Cash is heard in the right channel while the Tennessee Three dominate the left. It’s not as strange for me as some younger writers because that’s essentially how late 60s stereo was captured. Many early stereo-hi-fi LPs had excellent separation. The well-made CD has a 28-page color booklet. All cuts on one CD.
Cash was in San Francisco — a bold move, it wasn’t San Quentin. But was Cash & Carter “hip” enough? At only a third of the capacity of 3,000 in the ballroom, the applause in these hands clapped louder than 3,000. I believe Cash renewed interest in country music. After all, during this era, Gram Parsons began to write & play with The Flying Burrito Brothers. Commentary by The Dead’s Bob Weir, John Carter Cash, Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools is included.
Cash sings about outsiders, in-laws, outlaws. It’s one of the best live Johnny Cash shows I’ve heard. If you consider the year before (1967) tumultuous for Cash he obviously turned his showcase around. “Jackson,” with June Carter (the consummate performer) is exhilarating. Cash opens with “Cocaine Blues,” “Long Black Veil,” & “Orange Blossom Special” & the show itself is a greatest hits package.
Some new tunes are thrown in when he does Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice,” & an excellent “One Too Many Mornings.” I think young people in the audience began to pick up on the new Cash & scratched their chins.
Of course, Elvis (“Tomorrow Is a Long Time,” – 1966) realized Dylan’s importance as well. Both Cash & Presley recorded Dylan songs prior to 1968. But many rock fans probably didn’t know. With the live intro & performance of “Rock Island Line,” Cash & his band ignite like The Grateful Dead with locomotive jamming. Impeccably reproduced, “The Green, Green Grass of Home,” — a song that sounds like a studio take. No wonder the audience approved.
Surprisingly, Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot’s in the audience & introduced. Too bad Cash & Lightfoot didn’t sing together.
I could say this is for completists & aficionados but no. Anyone who enjoyed Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash would embrace the music on this 1 hour & 4-minute CD.
B&W image courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images. Available @ https://www.johnnycash.com/music/at-the-carousel-ballroom-april-24-1968/