Johnny Cash

Live at Town Hall Party 1959

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Recorded at the Town Hall Party television show in Los Angeles on August 8, 1959, this acts as a companion piece to Sundazed's other LP taken from a Town Hall Party broadcast, Live at Town Hall Party 1958 (recorded in November 1958). Like its predecessor, this is a good set of Cash accompanied by the Tennessee Two (Luther Perkins on guitar and Marshall Grant on bass), this time around adding drummer Mike Fury (then playing in Bob Luman's band). The set -- which is significantly different in song selection than the 1958 live LP, though there's some overlap -- includes some of his best 1950s hits, like "Guess Things Happen That Way," "The Ways of a Woman in Love," "Big River," "I Walk the Line," "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," and "Folsom Prison Blues." He likes doing his then-new single "I Got Stripes" so much, in fact, that he does it twice. Also played are some more obscure tunes, like the spiritual "I Was There When It Happened" and, most unexpectedly, a parodic cover of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel." These are good performances (interspersed with some lightly self-deprecating patter by Cash) and any live 1950s Cash counts as historically important to preserve. But as with Sundazed's album of the 1958 Town Hall Party set, there are a couple of considerations which keep this from being as valuable a piece of history as it could have been. First, the sound isn't that good, as it was taken from the television soundtrack; the voices and instruments are easily audible, but the depth and balance are mediocre. More importantly, you can both hear and see these exact same performances on Bear Family's Cash DVD At Town Hall Party, which also includes the 11 songs from the November 15, 1958 show on the Live at Town Hall Party 1958 LP. The lack of visuals is a particular handicap on "Heartbreak Hotel," where much of the comic impact resides in Cash's silly, but quite enthusiastic, visual impersonation of Elvis as well as his singing. So unless you're a vinyl purist or a DVD-less Luddite, the Bear Family DVD makes for by far the better alternative if you're interested in this material.