Reviewed by Dave Brassington
These four shows were shown this Christmas on Sky Arts 1. They are Johnny Cash's TV Christmas Specials which, as far as I know, were never shown in this country. My favourite of the four Specials is undoubtedly the first one from 1976. It is filmed in Johnny's home and although I am no great fan of his first guest Tony Orlando (remember "Tie A Yellow Ribbon") the show is a fascinating insight into Johnny's upbringing in Dyess, Arkansas and his home in Tennessee, surrounded by several of his really close friends and family. I particularly enjoyed the ending, set in Johnny's living room and featuring performances by his special guests, the Carter Family, the great Merle Travis, Barbara Mandrell, his brother Tommy and a moving epilogue from Billy Graham. The 1977 show is recorded in a theatre and features Roy Clark and his close friends from his days at Sun Records, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and pays homage to their original label mate Elvis Presley who had just recently died. The Statler Brothers perform a really good couple of songs and sketches, and the closing finale involving all these fine artists plus the Carter Family and Johnny's band is particularly outstanding. The 1978 show features a lot of comedy from Steve Martin which after a few viewings becomes a bit boring; Johnny's other main guests here are Kris Kristofferson and his wife at the time Rita Coolidge. Finally, the 1979 show again has a lot of comedy from Andy Kaufman redeemed by his amazing impersonation of Elvis Presley, proving what a good singer he actually was. Johnny's other main guests here were Anne Murray and Tom T Hall. The last couple of DVDs have some footage of Johnny and his family filmed in the Holy Land. There is a strong Christian "feel" running through much of this material which if you listen to them cannot fail to convey the true meaning of Christmas. For a hardcore Cash devotee this box set is unmissable.
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