Cash – Man in Black: Live in Denmark (1971)

by | Jul 11, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Cash – Man in Black: Live in Denmark (1971)
Performers: Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Tennessee Three, Carl Perkins, Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Family,  Statler Brothers
Studio: Sony Legacy: Legacy (EMI) DVD 82876856629
Video: 4:3 full screen, color
Audio: PCM stereo
Length: 60 minutes
Rating: ****

I’ve always had a soft spot for Johnny Cash, ever since I listened to a record of his excoriating San Quentin song — performed live at San Quentin. It’s a great song and it took guts to sing it there. Now we have an excellent–albeit short–DVD of a TV show that aired in Denmark (in what appears to be a converted gymnasium), comprised of all previously unreleased material. Not only do we hear Johnny perform standards like A Boy Named Sue, Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, and I Walk the Line, we also get other greats of country music. Carl Perkins sings Blue Suede Shoes and Matchbox, both well and with spirit. The Statler Brothers sing their amusing hit Flowers on the Wall (1966) and the less-well-known but musically superior Bed of Roses (1970). And Mother Maybelle Carter plays an unidentified instrumental (sounds like Walk the Line) on autoharp that showcases her skill with nimble-fingered harmonies.

Amusing moments occur when June thinks they’re in Sweden and Johnny courageously stumbles through a prepared speech in phonetic Danish! Best of all, are the Cash tunes. Man in Black always gives me the chills, partly because it cracked through the wall of political conservatism had build around itself, but mostly because it’s a heartfelt melody with such quotable lyrics: “But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back/’Til things are brighter, I’m the man in black.” He sings three duets with wife June and the chemistry between them is palpable and well-staged. Three spiritual tunes end this DVD–yes, Johnny had that dimension too, for better or for worse. Only the last one – Children, Go Where I Send Thee – is lively enough to equal the other cuts on this disc.

— Peter Bates


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