Johnny Cash
American II: Unchained


5.0
classic

Review

by Badmoon USER (65 Reviews)
June 2nd, 2005 | 19 replies | 13,139 views


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist


4 of 4 thought this review was well written

The combination of Country legend Johnny Cash and hit producer Rick Rubin could not have been a bigger success during the release of Cash’s comeback album, American Recording. The duo managed to transform a selection of heart felt numbers into chilling broken down moments of genius. The album’s cross over appeal and simplistic structure put the Man in Black back into the American mainstream, which could not have been odder; a traditional Country artist appealing to fans of artists like Nirvana and Soundgarden? Strangely enough, those kinds of kids did buy and apparently enjoy Cash’s latest release, and the expectations for a follow up were high. A worthy follow up to an acclaimed masterpiece would most definitely be hard to make, but that very idea did not stop Cash and Rubin, of course. Together, Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash would create an album worthy of the highest rating and one that would even challenge his greatest achievements.

To begin with, the team would bring new ideas to the forefront, ditch recently used ideas, and revive old methods. The all acoustic Folk sound would not be used. Rubin would set Cash up with a whole band (The Heartbreakers), just like in his earlier days. Along with practically leaving the acoustic set up in the dust, Cash would nearly abandon original sound writing; covers were the name of the game now. Artists such as Soundgarden (“Rusty Cage“), Tom Petty (“Southern Accents") and Beck (“Rowboat") would make their way into the track list, and provide Cash with a basis to work off of. Although covers are predominating, Cash does manage to bless the album with four originals that are certainly fantastic to hear.

Though uniqueness and originality play a large role Unchained, it is of course Johnny Cash (his playing and his singing) that make the album. His enthusiasm, expression and attitude even in songs he did not write and believable and shine through the album more than anything else. Whether it’s the melancholy attitude present in the hard broken “Rowboat" or the cocky demeanor used in the fabulous “I’ve Been Everywhere", Cash’s assorted personalities are amusing and make each and every song; with out them, Unchained is pointless.

Throughout Unchained, Johnny Cash plays around with a variety of interesting and expressive topics, some that are very personal, and others that just make great songs. One way or another, no topic upsets or offends, if anything, some of the topics may bring a new liking to Cash. One being spirituality and religion. In the beautiful religious and spiritual tracks “Spiritual", “Unchained", “The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea" and “Meet Me in Heaven", Cash sings about a topic that seems to have been very important in the later years of his life - Christianity. He sings these songs with complete faith and love in the messiah and His great plan, even during a narrative song. Personally, these songs greatly interest me; I myself share the same faith as Mr. Cash.

Alongside religion and spirituality, Cash presents a variety of wonderful love songs; some regarding heart break, others regarding new found love. The heart break love songs and just negative concepts out number the fresh love songs with tracks like “Rowboat", “Rusty Cage", “Sea of Heartbreak" and “The One’s Rose", but of course, that sets the album back in no way. “Memories are Made of This" bring the listener to a more positive stand point; the pleasant pop tune really makes up for the lack of positive concepts rather nicely.

Finally, Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin include some fast upbeat tunes that really complete the album fantastically. The first, entitled “Country Boy", is just generally a fun song. With fast lyrics, a simple topic and some nice instrumental work it satisfies greatly. “Mean Eyed Cat" is quite similar; very upbeat with a distinctive attitude. The concept is simple, but I spot no flaws, and am certainly not unsatisfied with it. “I Never Picked Cotton" is also a tune that can fit the previous descriptions, but isn’t that similar. This twelfth track has a blues feel to it, and the melody is very infectious, as are the lyrics. The albums greatest highlight also does not fall in a love or depressive category. “I’ve Been Everywhere" closes the album amazingly good. With its rapidly sung lyrics and Johnny’s cocky attitude, it out does most Cash songs. The melody and instrumental combination is very catchy; much credit goes to the Heartbreakers.

Well, most would not say that Unchained is one of Johnny Cash’s and Rick Rubin’s best pieces of work. Hell, most critics didn’t even show a liking for it. None the less, from what I heard, Unchained can stand with the best of them (including At Folsom Prison) and is arguably, Johnny Cash’s greatest musical achievement ever. And that is certainly a big deal for such and amazing artist and person that Johnny Cash was.



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user ratings (99)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Badmoon
June 10th 2005



384 Comments


Anyone hear this album? Comments? Suggestion? Ect

br3ad_man
Emeritus
June 11th 2005



2125 Comments


Nice work Tom. Johnny Cash is excellent and his faith is inspiring.

BlackDeathMetalJazz or really ANYTHING else please-
June 11th 2005



200 Comments


Another great reveiw Moon. I really like Jonny Cash I'll put this on my wish list.

Meteora3255
August 21st 2005



194 Comments


Does anyone know where i can find the value of an original pressing of the Johnny Cash at Folson Prison, my grandmother has it in her collection.

Sexie
September 14th 2005



11 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Cash rocks! Ghost Riders in the sky was the first song I heard him sing. Great review!

Storm In A Teacup
November 19th 2005



12687 Comments


I've only heard Ring of Fire, I like it.

I want to see Walk the Line, but don't know when I'll be able to.This Message Edited On 11.19.05

Killtacular
November 19th 2005



1314 Comments


You've only heard one song, but you can still rate the album a 4?

Storm In A Teacup
November 19th 2005



12687 Comments


Sorry about that I knew someone would say something about that. I was messing around, at first I rated it a 1 just to see how much the average rating go down. Silly me. :p

br3ad_man
Emeritus
November 20th 2005



2125 Comments


I'm going to go see Walk the Line tommorow morning. I wish someone would review At Folsom Prison. I've been wanting to get that album for a long time, though I'm unsure about the material since I'm not very familiar with most of his work besides his 'classic' songs.


I will do that soon.

Med57
Moderator
November 20th 2005



1001 Comments


Has no-one reviewed it already? Weird. Good review/album, anyway. Not as good as American IV, but still a really good return to form for him.

south_of_heaven 11
February 28th 2006



5433 Comments


very nice review. i dont own this album, but johnny cash is just amazing. his mix of blues, rock, and country hasnt been matched by anybody i have ever heard.

Jimmy
April 25th 2006



717 Comments


I can't get enough of his cover of soundgarden's rusty cage.

STLMiguel
May 27th 2006



335 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Med, you are crazy. This is 1,000 times better than American IV. This is the best of the American albums.

Two-Headed Boy
July 26th 2006



4527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No, you're crazy. The first one is intense.

WhiteNoise
November 8th 2010



3043 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Rusty Cage and Spiritual absolutely blew me away.

Digging: Dot Hacker - How's Your Process? (Work)

PuddlesPuddles
December 21st 2010



4765 Comments


JOHNNY CASH INVENTED EVERY GENRE

HJF,

PuddlesPuddles
December 21st 2010



4765 Comments


JOHNNY CASH INVENTED EVERY GENRE

HJF,

PuddlesPuddles
December 21st 2010



4765 Comments


JOHNNY CASH INVENTED EVERY GENRE

HJF,

Decayingmajesty
September 18th 2013



5394 Comments


Great album



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