Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: Legacy Edition (Columbia)
The expanded Folsom Prison pulls back the Man In Black's Oz-like curtain to reveal some genuine gray between its classic bright spots. Carl Perkins opens the show with a grinning "Blue Suede Shoes" on the first disc, while Cash's relatively tired second set (recorded after the more well-known first take as a production safety) shows Cash struggling to repeat himself just for the sake of the album. More revealing is the (not-a-concert) DVD, featuring interviews with inmates, musicians and family to explore why Cash identified so much with prison life, even though he never did serve time himself while doing little to dispel the myth that he did. What we get from this is a Cash capable of telescoping empathy that extends from the broad turbulence of the late '60s to Johnny championing Glen Sherley, a Folsom inmate whose song he covers.
Johnny Cash Remixed, by comparison, feels like a loose, all-star jam of Cash and hip-hop producers. Without isolated tracks to work from, beat-smiths basically put a sturdier frame on the originals. Snoop, Teddy Riley and DJ Quik's version of "I Walk The Line" adds nuanced R&B, while Pete Rock's "Folsom Prison Blues" is a mash-up stomper as obvious as it is effective. Kennedy and Alabama 3 hog the spotlight on their tracks, but it's these flaws that give Cash re-contextualized here a darker grin. Purists'll hate it; Johnny'd love it.