The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) grades from the first note to last
- Big, rich, tubey and open, this is some of the better sound Columbia achieved for its country records in the '60s
- The vocal presence and freedom from coloration will put a very real sounding Johnny Cash front and center right in your very own listening room
- "What is interesting about this album, though, is that it doesn’t just remind us of the sound of Johnny’s past, instead it points the way forward to the future, even serving as a template for his ultimate Man in Black persona."
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The best pressings of Johnny Cash's albums -- the ones that sound like this one as a matter of fact -- give you proper tonal balance, presence and fullness to Johnny's voice, and enough Tubey Magic to combat the grit that was part of the Man In Black's "sound."
When you can hear it right, the album sounds the way you would expect a Johnny Cash album from 1962 to sound, and you really can't ask for any more than that. The sound is, more than anything else, authentic -- authentic to the time and place of the recording.
What the best sides of The Sound of Johnny Cash have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1962
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We Listen For on The Sound of Johnny Cash
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
- Lost On The Desert
- Accidentally On Purpose
- In The Jailhouse Now
- Mr. Lonesome
- You Won't Have Far To Go
- In Them Old Cottonfields Back Home
- Delia's Gone
- I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know
- You Remembered Me
- I'm Free From The Chain Gang Now
- Let Me Down Easy
- Sing It Pretty, Sue
One would expect an album entitled The Sound of Johnny Cash to, well, sound like Johnny Cash. Come 1962, however, it was increasingly difficult to define that sound. On Sun records in the late ‘50s, Johnny had a distinct sound. It was part country, part rockabilly, and all Cash. Guitarist Luther Perkins was no Chet Atkins or even Scotty Moore, and yet, despite technical limitations, built a distinctive rockabilly influenced-style. During the verses he would usually tick-tock back and forth between the root and the fifth, and in the breaks he would either play a simple chord-based chime in the upper register, or a twangy riff low down on the E and A strings (Rock Island Line and Folsom Prison Blues are both fabulous examples wherein he does both in one solo). On bass, Marshall Grant would generally underpin Luther’s tick-tock. Their producer, Sam Phillips, forbade drums, so Cash himself took an interesting approach to acoustic-based rhythm playing. Rather than using bluegrass or delta blues-style fingerpicking, he shoved a heavy piece of paper between the strings and the fretboard, further muted the strings with his left hand, and used his right hand to rake across the strings, giving a percussive clickety-clack. The result was a never-before-heard minimalist approach to country born of necessity: Boom-chicka-boom. The “booms” were Marshall and Luther, the “chicka” was Cash essentially playing drums on his guitar. Add to that Johnny’s lonesome, moaning baritone and you had absolute magic.
What is interesting about this album, though, is that it doesn’t just remind us of the sound of Johnny’s past, instead it points the way forward to the future, even serving as a template for his ultimate Man in Black persona. This is notable first in the three crime tales. The first, Jimmie Rodgers’ In the Jailhouse Now (later made famous in O Brother Where Art Thou?), is a cautionary tale of crime and gambling, which, with its upbeat tone and enthusiastic call and response vocals made for a great single. The second, Delia’s Gone, is a brutal, callous murder ballad, building on his infamous Folsom Prison line, “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die”:
"First time I shot her, shot her in the side Hard to let her suffer, but with the second shot she died."
The third, I’m Free from the Chain Gang Now, is a tale of an innocent man’s liberation, although whether it is literal, or only in his mind is never made clear. What made Johnny so relatable was that he was passionate about justice, and yet always showed an understanding of what it is that makes us do the wrong thing. In these songs, this dimension of his complex personality emerges. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Cash returned to Delia and Chain Gang to great effect in his American Recording years with Rick Rubin.
Raise My Glass to the B-Side blog