Back In Black

This is a great record. In fact, as Johnny Cash prison albums go, it's right up there in the top two.

But the new liner notes and photos contained in this re-release almost overshadow the music.

To start with, there are the striking photos of Cash and his band — which included Carl Perkins on guitar and June Carter Cash on vocals — on the little San Quentin State Prison stage, standing in front of a hand-lettered welcome sign. There's also the classic picture of Cash giving "the bird" (the photo was taken onstage during this concert), and Cash's explanation of why he gave the camera the middle finger. In addition to Marty Stuart's superb liner notes, Stuart interviews Merle Haggard, who first saw Cash as an inmate at San Quentin. Finally, June Carter Cash recounts her memories of the show.

The music itself is quite good. When this album was first released in 1969, it contained only nine songs. Now, the 18-song concert is presented in its entirety, including Cash's salty comments and interchanges with the prisoners. Their response is unwaveringly enthusiastic, overwhelmingly so on "Folsom Prison Blues" (RealAudio excerpt), which was added to this re-issue. Two more of Cash's signature songs, "Ring Of Fire" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Daddy Sang Bass" (RealAudio excerpt) are also included here.

Cash's monologue about his visit to Israel — which introduces the added gospel song "The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago" (RealAudio excerpt) — finds the raucous prison throng surprisingly reverent. But, then, Johnny Cash can handle any crowd.