Various Artists

Best of the Johnny Cash Show [DVD]

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Though Johnny Cash was a country music superstar, it's often not realized that his network TV variety show of the late '60s and early '70s often featured rock music. This bootleg DVD may be unauthorized, but the concept is excellent: a compilation of almost two hours of clips of guest spots on The Johnny Cash Show by rock stars (though somehow a segment with Roy Clark slips into the running order). And the roster is a real good one, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Derek and the Dominos, the Monkees (minus Peter Tork), the Guess Who, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, José Feliciano, Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Wonder, Joe South, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Certainly some of these are obviously lip-synced, or sung to a prerecorded backing track. But it's of major historical interest at the very least, and some of the performances are indeed very good, with Derek and the Dominos and Mitchell coming off best. The Dylan clips are famous as being among his few filmed appearances of the time, though his actual performances (some with Cash) are only adequate. The segments with Mitchell are surprisingly numerous, including several original songs (among them "Both Sides Now"), apparently filmed at various different times, as well as surprising Mitchell-Cash duets on "Long Black Veil," "I Still Miss Someone," and Dylan's "Girl from the North Country." In fact, there are a number of odd, you'll-never-believe-this-actually-happened combinations of Cash and various guests, whether it's Johnny in a duet with Orbison on "Pretty Woman," Feliciano jamming with Perkins and Merle Travis, or Cash and Perkins taking the stage with Eric Clapton (then fronting Derek and the Dominos). Cash himself is not featured on solo spots, though he's often present as an MC or a duet partner, as well as sparring with Wonder in a bizarre sequence where Johnny sings/cues shots demonstrating Stevie's versatility on keyboards, harmonica, and drums. The image quality (all in color) is very good, and though perhaps it might have been a bit better if this had been a legitimate release, by bootleg DVD standards it's exceptional.