Classic Cash, Nelson, Flatt & Scruggs Albums Return

Three landmark country albums get remastering treatment for May reissue.

NASHVILLE — Thirty-eight years ago, Flatt & Scruggs brought a Carnegie Hall audience to its feet with blistering live bluegrass. Thirty-one years ago, Johnny Cash recorded a live show for hard-core prisoners at San Quentin. Twenty-five years ago, Willie Nelson made a minimalist country album at a small studio in rural Texas and forced a reluctant Columbia Records to issue that vision of his music.

Those three historic projects are being reissued in May by Sony's Legacy Recordings in remastered CDs, which include added bonus tracks, new liner notes and extensive collections of photographs.

"I'm real pleased that it's coming out again," Willie Nelson said of his breakthrough 1975 release, the Red Headed Stranger album, which also yielded his first # 1 single, "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain." The reissue of Red Headed Stranger includes as added tracks a version of Bach 's "Minuet," Hank Williams ' "I Can't Help It," as well as the traditional "Maiden's Prayer" and "Bonaparte's Retreat," all outtakes from the album sessions.

Nelson said that the concept album — the idea for which came to him while driving nonstop from Colorado to his home in Austin, Texas — was originally intended as the sparsely accompanied record that it is. He had just signed to Columbia Records at the time, and he says the label was not sure just what it had, with him and with that record. "I had had that song, 'Red Headed Stranger,' for a number of years, and built a story around it," he said.

"The great thing," Nelson said with a chuckle, "is that I had artistic control with the label. They had to take whatever I gave them. When I gave them Red Headed Stranger, not everyone there thought it was a finished record. It's sort of held up pretty well, though, I'm happy to say."

It joins the classic reissues Flatt and Scruggs at Carnegie Hall and Johnny Cash at San Quentin, in which Cash reprised his classic "Folsom Prison Blues," (RealAudio excerpt), from his live album at Folsom Prison.

The Sony Legacy country series of recordings began in 1999, after Sony's pop and jazz line of reissues saw great success with remastered and reissued recordings such as Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue and Santana's Abraxas. Country reissues in 1999 included Nelson's Stardust, Marty Robbins' Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs, Merle Haggard's Big City, Johnny Cash's Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison and Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man.