Of course Johnny Cash's newest album, Unchained, falls short
of my expectiations. Following American Recordings is a huge
undertaking and any followup was destined to be a letdown. When compared to
Don't get me wrong -- Unchained is a good album. With styles
ranging from rock to honky-tonk, from prayerful to rebelious, Johnny
showcases the many facets of his unique voice and talent. Joining him in
the studio is Tom Petty with backup provided by the Heartbreakers.
Although there appears to be no unifying theme tying this album's songs
together as a whole, the album works for me. Because there is no real
theme, I've decided to go through the album song by song, with some final
A mellow song, harking on a lost love. This song has a spiritual
feel to it. There's a line in it that always gets me whenever I listen
She dug a hole in the bottom of my soul
She is all and everything else is small
- Sea of Heartbreak
I listen to this song, and I think of Dylan. I can't help it. Tom
Petty pipes in with backup vocals. Although it's about lost love again,
it's a pretty fun song
- Rusty Cage
This is the Soundgarden cover. For those of you who don't know (I
didn't), Soundgarden is a popular band in the genre of alternative music.
My brother listens to that kind of music and has reported hearing this
single played on alternative radio stations. It's an OK song -- kinda
edgy. It rambles on, though.
- The One Rose
This is a smooth song, with Johnny doing more singing than the normal
"sing-talking" style he uses. It's a waltz -- a plus in my book, and also
sounds more traditional than most of the other songs on the album.
- Country Boy
Classic Cash. Fast-paced rockabilly. Nothing more to say.
- Memories Are Made of This
This one could have easily been left off of the album. It's kinda
This song starts out as a pleading cry from a man who has done wrong
all his life and ends up as a triumphant statement from the same man realizing
he's got time to attempt to make ammends. The arpeggiated guitar provides
a haunting background for the entire song. When it starts, this song is just
a kinda "blah" song, but by the end, you're really drawn into it. I don't
know why. I like this one a lot.
- Kneeling Drunkard's Plea
This is an almost festive song about a drunk. Tom Petty's backup provides
an appropriate "twang" to this song that really works. It's a fun song.
- Southern Accents
There's a southern accent where I come from
The young-uns call it country, the Yankees call it dumb.
I've got my own way of talking, but everything is done
with a southern accent where I come from.
This song simply describes a simple lifestlye that is quickly
becoming a thing of the past. Hard working, simple, honest, good,
religious. The song is distinctly unapologetic. And deservedly so.
Quite possibly, this is my favorite cut from the album.
We have our own way of living, and everything is done
with a southern accent where I come from.
- Mean Eyed Cat
OK, if I'm just out for a fun song, this is my favorite cut from
the album. It's straight honkey-tonk and has all the elements: a woman
leaving her man, a train, overally, tobacco spittin', poverty, and
truckers. Instead of a dog, though, it's the mean eyed cat.
- Meet Me in Heaven
This song is almost a lulaby. Johnny spotlights the deep baritone
voice for which he is famous.
- I Never Picked Cotton
This song is kinda the other side of the coin of "Southern Accents."
This is a spiritual, confessing prayer set to music:
Oh, I am week.
Oh, I know I am vain.
Take this weight from me,
let my spirit be
- I've Been Everywhere
This is another fun, truckin', hitchhikin', upbeat, honky-tonkin',
ramblin' song. It's a great ender for the album.
When I heard that Johnny was going to release a new album, I was hoping
for a theme album: gospel songs recorded during the sessions for "American
Recordings." Perhaps there's still hope that such an album will be
produced. Instead, we are treated to "Unchained." I'll keep it near the top
of my CD collection -- but I'm sure before too long I'll retire it in favor
of "American Recordings" again.
With a busy tour schedule still ahead of him, Johnny Cash shows no signs
of slowing down soon. This fact brings hope to me -- both hope to see him
in concert again soon and hope that plans for a new album are already in
Rating: 8.2 out of 10
Of course, other folks have opinions about Unchained. Here's
From: Bill Donahue
Subject: unchained (WWW generated email)
I am the biggest jc fan , been so since 11 yrs old,met him many
times,have everything he's ever recorded since it was new and am very, very
disappointed in his latest release. the material and especially the backup
just doesn't work and is reminiscent of the overly produced recordings of
his in the '80's. after the last c.d. it's quite a let down.