We’ve spent the month of January playing catch-up on some 2006 releases which caught the ears and eyes of this cat, but circumstances did not permit a timely review. This week wraps things up with a look at a mix of reissues and historical collections that saw release late in 2006. Let’s dig in.
At San Quentin (Legacy Edition)
While he never was confined to prison, Johnny Cash spent some significant time behind the walls of some of the most notorious lock-ups in this land. Several of those visits were captured live on record with the end results some of the Man In Black’s most legendary recordings. Cash’s visit with his road show band to the notorious San Quentin in February of 1969 yielded arguably his most famous live recording and chart-wise his most successful album. Released as an LP that same year and the follow-up to the 1968 release At Folsom Prison, At San Quentin went to number one on the album charts while also yielding the hit single “A Boy Named Sue”. As part of its American Masters CD reissue series, the folks at the Legacy division of Sony Music released a deluxe version of At San Quentin in 2000 that added eight bonus tracks to the original. Late in 2006 the Legacy folks did one better on the 2000 reissue with the release of the Legacy Edition of At San Quentin. This ultra-deluxe reissue is three-disc collection packaged as a display book set. It features the uncut version of the 1969 concert at San Quentin in its entirety spread over the first two discs. It adds up to some 31 tracks in all with performances by Cash with both his Tennessee Three band and wife June Carter Cash, Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers, and the Carter Family. The biggest draw of this latest reissue of At San Quentin may just be the inclusion of a DVD of a one hour documentary by the U.K.-based Granada TV that mixes performance and backstage footage with frank interviews with both prison guards and inmates. Add to all that a 40-page full color booklet of liner notes and interviews and the sum total is a beautifully packaged Cash artifact. (Legacy Recordings, 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022, or www.legacyrecordings.com)
Nashville Rebel (DVD)
Late summer of 2006 brought the superb four-CD retrospective Nashville Rebel chronicling the career of Country Music Hall of Fame member Waylon Jennings. Just a couple of months later came the separately released DVD companion to that collection, also titled Nashville Rebel. Featuring 18 different performances over a 14-year period spanning 1970 -1984, it’s a mixed bag of footage that includes appearances on the TV shows of both Johnny Cash and Cowboy Jack Clement, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, live appearances at Opryland U.S.A., music videos, and even a couple of commercials. While by no means essential goods, if you’re a Jennings fan you’ll find much to like about the Nashville Rebel DVD.
A Fine Time! The South Side of Soul Street
Big John Hamilton
How Much Can A Man Take
The folks at Sundazed Music can always be counted on for quality products when it comes to reissues of blast-from-the-past music. Soul and R&B has been well represented in the label’s weighty catalogue and two recent collections continue the string of good stuff. A Fine Time! The South Side of Soul Street gathers Deep Soul recordings, many of them collector’s items until gathered here on CD, made for the Florida-based Minaret record label. Whereas commercial success for the most part eluded the label, what it may have suffered in quantity as far as sales were concerned it did not suffer at all when it came to talent. Founded by a fellow named Finley Duncan whose Playground Recording Studio in Valparaiso, Florida was home to the label, it was Nashville-based entrepreneur Shelby S. Singleton, he the owner already of a number of soul and R&B imprints, not to mention Sun Records, who helped bankroll and keep Minaret alive during its relatively short existence. Featuring 18 tracks spanning the 1967-70 time period, A Fine Time! The South Side of Soul Street is a fine representation of what Minaret had to offer. Artist wise, the cornerstone of the label were performers like Johnny Dynamite, Doris Allen, Genie Brooks, and Big John Hamilton. As a trivia side note, soul diva Candi Staton was even involved with the label in her early days recording a song called “The Judgement” as one half of the duo Candy & Billy. While collectors for years claimed the Candy to be Ms. Staton, it wasn’t until an interview years later that she came clean that it was in fact her. A forgotten gem when it comes to independent labels on the Southern soul scene, the Sundazed folks do the Minaret legacy proud with the overdue collection A Fine Time! The South Side of Soul Street.
Staying on a Minaret roll, also new from Sundazed is the collection How Much Can a Man Take which chronicles the best of soul man Big John Hamilton. An obscurity in the grand scheme of Southern soul, as this overview so clearly proves there was little Hamilton and his potent pipes couldn’t handle. Gathering 18 tracks recorded between 1967 and 1971 for both Minaret and Singleton’s SSS International labels, How Much Can a Man Take finds Hamilton working his vocal magic on everything from gut-bucket R&B to righteous funk to ballads dripping with country soul. It may just have you wondering where this cat has been all your life. (Sundazed Music, P.O. Box 85, Coxsackie, NY 12051, or www.sundazed.com)
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)