Artist: Johnny Cash
Title: American Recordings IV - The Man Comes Around
Format: Double LP
Year of Release: 2002
A1 The Man Comes Around (4:26)
A2 Hurt (3:38)
A3 Give My Love To Rose (3:28)
A4 Bridge Over Troubled Water (3:55)
B1 I Hung My Head (3:53)
B2 First Time I Ever Saw Your Face (3:52)
B3 Personal Jesus (3:20)
B4 In My Life (2:57)
C1 Sam Hall (2:40)
C2 Danny Boy (3:19)
C3 Desperado (3:13)
C4 I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (3:03)
C5 Streets Of Laredo (3:33)
D1 Wichita Lineman (3:01)
D2 Big Iron (3:53)
D3 Tear Stained Letter (3:41)
D4 We'll Meet Again (2:58)
Released only two years after American III, this was the last record to be issued in Johnny Cash's lifetime. That fact imbues a lot of the songs with a sense of tragedy, listening back. Hurt, along with its excellent video, is taken as the definitive statement of Cash on his life and legacy. We'll Meet Again, personally one of my least favourites on this record, is an obvious choice for a man of Cash's years, but well-rendered.
This maudlin feel does not take over the whole album though, and certainly not the energetic opening number. With lyrics inspired by the Book of Revelation Cash comes across as a wild preacher, and as one of the last songs he ever wrote certainly showed there was no dimming of his songwriting faculties in his later years. This feeling is strengthened by the great rendition of Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus, which, along with Trent Reznor's Hurt show the American project of covering contemporary artists at its best.
It's a shame then that some of the other cover versions are poor. He does nothing with The Beatles' In My Life, nor First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. The less said about Danny Boy the better. I skip it when it comes on.
He makes a Sting song sound good, which is some feat. I think because I Hung My Head fits so well into the Country tradition you wouldn't know it was a Sting song were no one to point it out. Desperado, Big Iron, Give My Love to Rose, Sam Hall, Streets of Laredo and Wichita Lineman - none of these songs strangers to Cash - all come from the same tradition, and are well served by another recording of them here. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry is a duet with Nick Cave, and whilst good, doesn't better Hank Williams' original.
In his sleevenotes for this release Johnny writes about the opening song, then states, "The fifteen songs that follow in this album take fifteen different directions, I hope you enjoy each one of them". Except that there are 16 more tracks on the vinyl, and 14 more on the CD. The CD release does not have Big Iron or Wichita Lineman on, but it does have the following photos that the vinyl release finds no room for: