Johnny Cash

Orange Blossom Special

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Even if the best and most popular songs on this 1965 album are the ones most likely to show up on greatest-hits compilations ("The Long Black Veil, "Orange Blossom Special," "It Ain't Me Babe"), it certainly rates as one of Cash's finer non-greatest-hits releases. If nothing else, it would have historical importance for the inclusion of three Bob Dylan covers, at a time when Dylan was just starting to get heavily covered by pop musicians (and not often covered by country ones). "It Ain't Me Babe," with duet vocals by June Carter, was the most notable of them, although hearing it these days, some may be taken aback by the mariachi horns. Ditto for "Mama, You Been on My Mind" (which Dylan himself had not released when Cash recorded it), where it's startling to hear Boots Randolph's yakety sax come in for a bit. "The Long Black Veil," though, is an ageless classic, and the title cut one of his best train-oriented songs. The rest of the album is respectable and diverse, if not as outstanding, and includes the stark Cash original "You Wild Colorado," more duet vocals from Carter on the Johnny Horton cover "When It's Springtime in Alaska," a bouncy rendition of the Carter Family's "Wildwood Flower," the spiritual "Amen," and, less successfully, a sentimental reading of "Danny Boy." The 2002 CD reissue adds three bonus tracks that were previously unavailable in the United States (and had been included on the Bear Family box set The Man in Black: 1963-1969), among them an acoustic cover of A.P. Carter's "Engine 143" and a different version of "Mama, You Been on My Mind" (this time with mariachi horns!).

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