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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

At San Quentin

Johnny Cash

1969

Buy At Rough Trade
At San Quentin
Album Summary

Johnny Cash at San Quentin is the 31st overall album and second live album by American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, recorded live at San Quentin State Prison on February 24, 1969, and released on June 16 of that same year. The concert was filmed by Granada Television, produced and directed by Michael Darlow. The album was the second in Cash's conceptual series of live prison albums that also included At Folsom Prison (1968), På Österåker (1973), and A Concert Behind Prison Walls (1976). The album was certified gold on August 12, 1969, platinum and double platinum on November 21, 1986, and triple platinum on March 27, 2003, by the RIAA. The album was nominated for a number of Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and won Best Male Country Vocal Performance for "A Boy Named Sue." There have been several releases with different songs and set order. The album cover photo by Jim Marshall is considered to be an iconic image of Cash, with Marshall Grant's Epiphone Newport bass guitar famously silhouetted in the foreground.

Wikipedia

Rating

3.82

Votes

13916

Genres

  • Country

Reviews

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Tue Feb 02 2021
5

I mean, if the songs don’t do it for you then there’s still an entire comedy act in between them all.

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Thu Apr 22 2021
5

Well, that's just a damn good album. Cash can be hit and miss for me but this was 100% a hit. Every track perfect and powerful. Even more so knowing his audience for this one. Just damn good. His reputation is earned. Elvis be damned. Cash is King.

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Sat May 15 2021
5

I have a T- shirt from this concert - a shirt with the photo of him giving the finger to the filming crew during the show since they were blocking the audience's view.  I have ultimate respect for Johnny doing the series of concerts at jails. He was likely the only person of substance who gave respect to inmates who he didn't know. Before "Don't Know Where I'm Bound"  Johnny says that an inmate wrote that song and gave it to him the day before. Johnny  played the song and gave the inmate songwriting credit. Respect. Zeppelin and others could learn from him. San Quentin is a powerful song about the problems with the prison system. Of course the inmates loved it. Johnny was able to give the hard message about the prison system while being careful not to blame the particular prison or disrespecting the guards.    It's hilarious how Johnny mentions to the crowd that he might play "Boy Named Sue" and gets no reaction. I guess this concert is when he first recorded it so the audience had no clue. Great idea to release the live version of this single since the audience reaction hearing it the first time  adds a special dimension. Johnny would know that the prison audience would relate more to this song than other audiences since a substantially higher portion of  prisoners are raised without their fathers.  Many headline artists get musicians who have independent careers to play with them on tour. Most, however, don't let them sing their own songs. Johnny not only had Carl Perkins, Statler Brothers  and Carter Family sing their own songs, but also left the stage so as not to distract the audience. Johnny still did this with his bandmates  when I saw him in the early 90s. When I saw him he also brought his reverend on stage and said anyone who was having problems with life could talk with him afterwards. He also introduced his reverend at San Quentin after "Outside Looking In".  The medley to end the show is amazing. Johnny lets the others on stage sing the final songs. June singing the first verse of Folsom is the highlight.  As much as I complain about drum solos, I quite like the quick solo in the medley. The show ends with Johnny giving a shout out to the prisoners who, probably for safety or disciplinary reasons, couldn't leave their cells to watch the show.  I give the album a 4 based on the music but  +1 for the respect he shows everyone (well, perhaps not the filming crew but to everyone else.)

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Tue Feb 02 2021
5

On the face of it, the music is quite rudimentary. The atmosphere, though, is absolutely electric, and Cash sounds like he's having the time of his life. Incredible, we won't hear anything like this again

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Tue Oct 12 2021
5

Been way too long since I listened to this; I just love how loose and joyful it is. Interesting to listen now as I've been thinking more about prison abolition, decriminalization, etc. over the past few years. Johnny Cash was pretty damn radical and badass.

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Sat Nov 26 2022
4

There's no question that this album is powerful, and the fact that he played at a prison, and the interaction with the audience of prisoners is beyond remarkable. HOWEVER, Johnny Cash released 97 albums in his career, 3 of which are on this list. Did 2 of the 3 need to be live albums from prisons?

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Wed Nov 11 2020
5

Great albums transport you, this album transports you to a time and place like almost no other. Great tracks, great vibe, a true classic deserving of this list.

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Wed Jan 13 2021
5

Great album already liked Johnny Cash. I did not like the bleep sound they used. My distaste for censoring in songs aside, it's an awful sound

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Thu Apr 28 2022
5

The TV recording is off the scale brilliant. https://youtu.be/PSLsfwTbo4Q

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Tue Mar 09 2021
3

al principio me gustó, pero ya después me cansó

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Thu May 06 2021
5

so cool — the cheer after “San Quentin, I hate you through and through”, JC singing “Peace in the Valley” to violent criminals, and the introduction of “A Boy Named Sue”.

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Sun Nov 21 2021
5

Johnny Cash comes out swinging with a raucous album of outlaw country. Where ‘Live at Folsom Prison’ took a more contemplative tone, this album was high energy throughout. An absolutely exhilarating show

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Fri Dec 03 2021
2

77. At San Quentin - Johnny Cash 31 tracks. He might have needed a captive audience to listen all the way through this. I managed it, but only because it was on @1001_albums_gen It's just not for me. I generally don't like Country & especially don't like Johnny Cash. 2/5

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Wed Jan 12 2022
2

This Johnny Cash album was recorded live at the San Quentin State prison in California in February of 1969. This was his second album of a series of live albums recorded at prisons, and it was also his 31st album overall. This album has been certified triple platinum. At this live prison show, Johnny Cash performed 2 new songs - "San Quentin" (about the prison) and "A Boy Named Sue". The former song was performed twice as an encore and both appear on this album. The latter song became a staple of Johnny Cash's music, and it's amazing to learn he premiered it at a prison show. The original release of this album was alright, but the reissue with 9 extra tracks was much better. Johnny Cash was a great entertainer and it really shows on this live album, because the audience were all inmates that liked to heckle. If you're a fan of live albums then give this one a listen, but if you just want to listen to Johnny Cash's music then you may want to try a different album.

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Mon Mar 07 2022
2

I get why this album is included and it's significance, but the only thing worse than a live album is a live album from prison.

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Wed Mar 02 2022
1

Second live 60's Johnny Cash. I can't do this anymore. Please, let this be the last Johnny Cash.

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Sun Sep 11 2022
1

Country music in a prison is still country music. I knew some of the songs but I did not enjoy the songs. I have no need to revisit the album or really any of the songs again. It is better than some of the albums on the list. It is better than a one but not really a two. I will round down.

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Fri Feb 17 2023
1

i dont care for the US, like, at all

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Tue Nov 23 2021
5

The second album in Cash's "prison albums". This concert may be slightly overshadowed by the great "At Folsom Prison", but it's still great nonetheless. Cash is such a natural performer, his rapport with the audience makes you feel like he was a prisoner himself. Oh, wait, he was! They don't call it "outlaw country" for nothing, eh? He puts on a damn good show. You'll hear mention of Cash speaking of the cameras from the UK telling him what to do. Those very cameras would capture the famous image of Cash giving us the middle finger. You can tell, in that little bit of trivia, that Cash is a performer of the people. He doesn't care about the cameras, he cares about the people in front of him. It's a great measure of showmanship. There are natural highlights on the album: I Walk The Line and A Boy Name Sue are some of his best performances of all time. Even the lowlights are worth hearing too, especially the audience banter. This leads him to play the song "San Quentin" twice in a row, which is awesome. Yeah, this is an all-timer.

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Fri Dec 17 2021
5

What are the odds our group would get this album the day after we listened to Cash Live at Folsom Prison!? I'm trying not to let the fact we just heard Cash live from a prison affect my rating. It feels strange to have two live albums from Cash here, but I think they represent different things. Live at Folsom helped revitalize his career, and Live at San Quentin feels like a continuation of that success as his fame grew - British TV filming him, Cash still actin' gruff and wanting to perform for locked up men. Also where his famous middle finger photo was from! || I'd say both Cash live albums deserve to be on this list, as strange as it seems, because of how different they are! This one in particular is great to hear the crowdwork chat and some of the other acts.

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Sat Jan 15 2022
5

The Godfather Part II of live prison albums. The Man In Black sings a few too many slow, depressing tunes in front of his captive Folsom audience. This album is more of a party. Be sure to listen to the Legacy Edition, which includes many more songs, since Johnny not only brought June Carter to San Quentin, but the freaking Statler Brothers and Carl Perkins as well. Johnny must have liked the inmates at San Quentin more than the ones stuck in Folsom Prison.

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Fri Apr 07 2023
5

Overall, "At San Quentin" is a must-listen for fans of Johnny Cash and country music. It showcases Cash's talent as a performer and songwriter, and captures a moment in music history that is both powerful and moving.

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Wed Apr 12 2023
5

Yeah, this album is fantastic. I like it even better than Folsom. The Legacy Edition is the way to go, with all the great bonus songs and performances by the Statler Brothers, Carter Family, Carl Perkins, etc. Johnny Cash was amazing as always. Cool and empathetic. And his band is so tight here. There are so many moments where they have to pivot based on Johnny's ad-libbing or to wait for the audience to laugh or cheer. Not easy stuff to pull off. One of the great live albums.

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Wed May 01 2024
5

Such great energy in this performance. What makes it so special is how much care and consideration Cash put into catering to his audience to give them the best possible show they could hope for. The song choices tell a story that surely rang true to the people he was playing for and that positive energy was returned right back to the stage.

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Sun May 05 2024
5

You could say it's CRIMINAL that this album is so short!

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Thu Dec 03 2020
4

The man in his pomp! Not entirely sure why we needed live in San Quentin and live in Folsom in the same list though!

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Sun May 05 2024
4

while not as good as folsom prison, johnny cash noodling with prisoners between songs is always a good time

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Tue May 18 2021
3

Classic Johnny Cash. Not as good as Folsom Prison?

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Sat Jan 07 2023
3

Conceptually, I like the idea of this record. Musically, not as much. Not a Cash or country music fan. All of these songs sound the same to my ears. All I can picture when I hear these songs are those old time-y teeter-totter railroad car things. You know what I’m talking about? Two people stand on this small railroad “car” thing with a teeter totter bar and they take turns pushing the bar down to make the car move forward on the tracks…oompah, oompah, oompah…up and down, over and over. It can be quite maddening. If that’s your thing, more power to you…it ain’t for me. I’ll say this, though. Johnny Cash was pretty funny with his stage banter.

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Thu Nov 11 2021
2

Most of the songs sound the same. I enjoy the hits, but even then he seems super low energy or perhaps he was on day 3 of a bender. Not his best.

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Fri Jan 21 2022
2

the end couldn't have come sooner. his voice is v soothing but for some reason I don't like him. only liked 3 songs.

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Sat Jun 25 2022
2

BBC One- 8pm - Cash in the Attic. Johnny Cash hides in the attic of an unsuspecting celebrity, spying on their every move. This week Johnny observes Pat Sharp have an argument with a plumber and then maturbating furiously to a old polaroid photo of the Fun House twins.

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Sat Jun 25 2022
2

we've already had johnny cash doing a gig in a prison. i don't get how both of them are essential listening.

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Mon Jul 11 2022
2

I personally wasn't that impressed by his songs. They were boring. Other people may be like the album, but not me.

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Sun Jul 17 2022
2

Best Song: San Quentin. It was tough not to like it given how much the audience appreciated the song. Worst Song: Darlin' Companion. The song is just okay, and the prolonged talking goes on way too long. Overall: I understand times were different, but I cannot fathom why in 2022 I'm listening to hard, censored beeps over every bit of profanity. Were the originals lost? Regardless, the live setting here doesn't really help the overall presentation. It certainly feels like everyone at the show was having a great time, but the whole schtick of "they tried to tell Johnny Cash what to do but he don't listen to authority" just comes off as cheesy. The "casual" mentions to dope and song stealing also come off as pandering.

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Wed Sep 14 2022
2

Just another lame JC album. 1.5/5

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Tue Dec 13 2022
2

Straight up, this shouldn't be on this list, its more audio book than album, and the same song is played twice...

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Fri Dec 16 2022
2

Clearly quite a show, but the music is a bit too 'gee shucks I'm an outlaw' simple country for me

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Tue Jan 31 2023
2

not terrible, but also not my cup of tea.

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Mon Mar 13 2023
2

Johnny Cash is fine but for me he’s just kind of boring. I like his deep singing voice but there’s nothing about him musically that blows me away.

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Tue Feb 16 2021
1

Not my forte. Didn’t finish 😢

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Thu Sep 30 2021
1

Disliking the live version 1.5/5

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Fri May 06 2022
1

He has always been great country singer. Not a big C fan but he is an American Icon. Boy named Sue was fun for such a serious guy! Definitely knows how to rhythm his words.

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Tue Dec 13 2022
1

Country music or rock n roll aren’t really my thing

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Wed Jan 13 2021
5

love listening to Johnny Cash

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Tue Apr 20 2021
5

Pretty incredible to have this many talented folks playing in a prison. What a party!! I gotta give this a 10/5

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Fri Mar 12 2021
5

This album made a fan of me. It was such a crazy thing to hear live. Possibly the best live album I've ever heard.

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Fri Jan 29 2021
5

This live album shows how Cash connects with the people he performs for on their level. He was cool, funny, rebellious to authority figures and genuine. This was played at a penitentiary and the prisoners were clearly having such a good time.

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Fri Mar 12 2021
5

One of the best live albums ever made. Period.

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Fri Apr 02 2021
5

I dont normally like live albums and it took me a minute to get the right version of this one. I know all these songs and I think the live versions were the originals I heard. So I agree with this album being on the list.

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Thu May 06 2021
5

First time I listened to this all the way through - legendary

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Sun Feb 14 2021
5

I love this man. Instant classic. Superb soul.

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Sun Apr 18 2021
5

Really good, might even prefer it to fulsome prison!

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Thu Feb 18 2021
5

Really really good live album

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Mon Apr 19 2021
5

Cool Dude. Incredible "album" because of the context in itself, but songs obviously awesome too

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Mon Jun 14 2021
5

Man, give me an extra star here. Legend

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Sun Feb 14 2021
5

Couldn't stop smiling the whole way through. Fun, funny, and a worthy sequel to Folsom Prison.

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Tue Jun 01 2021
5

all you could want from a great country album!

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Mon May 10 2021
5

Wow! I can't imagine being in the room for this. Such an insight into JC and his performances. Nothing says fuck you louder than going to a prison and telling a building full of convicts "I'm here to do ... what I want to do..." Can you imagine what would've happened if he sang all the lyrics to Fulsome Prison Blues? Phenomenal album they must've rioted when they figured out he was only playing for 34 mins.

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Mon Oct 04 2021
5

All time classic a master at work

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Wed Nov 10 2021
5

Loved the country type vibe. Really refreshing. Hilarious commentary too.

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Wed Nov 10 2021
5

Second to only Fulsum Prison

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Fri Dec 17 2021
5

Another good Cash in Prison album. “A Boy Named Sue” was a childhood favorite.

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Sun Dec 19 2021
5

Look, it's not At Folsom Prison, but if this doesn't embody what it means or what it meant to be country (because country is a rotting corpse now), then I don't know what does. It's brilliant in its anti prison industrial complex premise. It's brilliant in its support of the working class. In Johnny's iconic simplicity. In his silver tongue. The crowd is happy and you're happy because there's nothing to complain about. A classic, through and through. Also features one of my first and favorite Cash songs of all time, a story of a drunken bar fight with your dead beat dad who named you "Sue".

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Thu Jan 20 2022
5

Johnny Cash and live recordings are two things I've never really listened to much before, but I think I might be changing that. An all-round great album. You can really feel the humanity of it.

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Fri Jan 21 2022
5

This album just oozes atmosphere, I usually hate 'live' albums but there's something special about this particular one that I can not only forgive it but revel in it. Only drawback is the censoring beeps.

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Wed Feb 16 2022
5

The better of the 2 prison albums

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Mon Feb 21 2022
5

Very enjoyable. Loved the performances and the commentary.

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Wed Feb 23 2022
5

The prison’s antennas quit after seeing the reception Cash gets from the inmates. Loved the interaction with the crowd and him stirring them and the guards up.

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Sat Mar 05 2022
5

A great showman, you can feel the great atmosphere. Love the funny little bits between songs I’ve heard hundreds of times.

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Mon Mar 14 2022
5

I'll admit I was surprised to see this over his album at Folsom Prison, but after listening to it for the first time, I get why it's included (though I hope they're both on this list somewhere). Incredible energy from Cash and the audience alike. Plus, Cash's laid back attitude with regards to people telling him what to do is hilarious. I have massive respect for Cash for his series of prison performances. Just an outstanding, fun album.

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Thu Mar 17 2022
5

I always just love Johnny with all my heart and he never fails. So great hearing him chat with the prisoners and just fuck around. San Quentin is solid and ofc a lil Folsom prison blues to close out. Wish I could’ve been alive to see him irl 😫

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Mon Mar 21 2022
5

Outra gravação ao vivo fundamental

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Fri Apr 22 2022
5

I knew this would be somewhere in the list. Not as absolutely 200% fucking classic as Folsom Prison, but compared to so many albums on here this still deserves full marks and then some. 5/5.

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Fri May 20 2022
5

Absolute classic album - and feels completely real.

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Mon Jun 06 2022
5

What a fantastic album. Johnny Cash sounds particularly motivated on this album and he really seems empathetic to the audience who of course feed off of his empathy and his energy. Johnny Cash at his absolute best 5 🌟

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Mon Jun 20 2022
5

Clássico e politicamente importante

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Fri Jun 24 2022
5

This really seems to by Johnny Cash in his element.

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Tue Jun 28 2022
5

IMO this is one of the best live albums of modern music. The dynamic with him bantering with the inmates is so uniquely strange, energetic, tense, and yet somehow he is comfortable (naive?) enough to invite his wife, June Carter on stage to sing with him for a song. I think the setlist is fantastic, the performance is fantastic, and I think this album is fantastic. It's not only fitting for this list but also is an easy 5/5 for me.

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Tue Jun 28 2022
5

As long as I can remember, Mr. Cash has been one of the few exceptions to my "I don't listen to country music on purpose" mantra. His voice is smooth, the stories are interesting, and his delivery is captivating. I'm familiar with most of the songs, but to hear them live like this brings new life to them. I am shocked he nearly incited a dang riot with the "San Quentin" song!

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