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There aren’t many performing artists who can be called
“legendary” without smacking of hyperbole. Johnny Cash is one of the
select few. His career has spanned almost fifty years, long enough that it is
hard to separate the man from his mythological image. “Love, God, and
Murder” offers us the opportunity to examine Johnny Cash’s recording
career without his legend getting in the way.
JC as always had a singular voice, but his personal style has
been frequently smothered under trendy orchestrations that haven’t weathered
the passage of time as gracefully as he has. Even after only one listen to
“LG&M”, this is painfully obvious. On “Murder”
“Delia’s Gone” is as fresh as if it were recorded yesterday, while
“Going To Memphis” is so theatrically hokey that it is well past the
point of even redeeming camp value. Johnny Cash sounded best when the musical
arrangements were kept simple, something not all his producers had enough
self-control to do.
Sound quality on this CD is excellent, not because everything
sounds perfect, but because it all sounds very much like it did when it was
originally released. Some songs have a tubby bass, others have way too much
reverb. There is a noticeable tape hiss on many selections and the early
recordings lack any real high frequency extension. Legacy’s braintrust of
co-producers Steve Berkowitz and Al Quaglieri, assisted by engineers Chris
Athens and Mark Wilder chose not to clean up or “correct” the
original tapes. Instead we get to hear the songs the way they were originally
As befits a legendary artist “Love, God, and Murder”
gets the royal treatment with a nice thick booklets for each CD, complete with
detailed information on every selection and commentaries by Johnny’s wife, June
Carter Cash, popstar Bono, and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. Only June Carter
Cash has anything relevant to contribute, while the Bono and Tarantino comments
lack any special insight.
If you want one CD set that covers Johnny Cash’s entire career
“Love, God, and Murder” would make a fine choice. While not every
selection is a gem, it’s an honest well-documented compilation of a musical
legend’s checkered recording career.