When 'lost' material like Johnny Cash's forgotten album 'Out Among The Stars' finally gets a release, the listener is often forced to come up with a scenario to accompany the record's place among the artist's catalogue. In Cash's cash, this is an interesting dilemma. The record was recorded during a particularly tumultuous period during his life in the early 1980's. The drugs had taken hold of his life, his relationship with record label Columbia was deteriorating at an alarming rate and, for the first time in his career, Cash was beginning to look out of touch.
The man with the booming voice would later see career resurgence under the stewardship of producer Rick Rubin when 1994's American Recordings was released and their partnership over the course of the next six records would largely define Cash's place in music folklore and went a long way to erasing bad memories of some of the Man In Black's less memorable material from the 1980's.
On the other side of the coin, history has dictated that Cash was one of the most important musicians of his time so surely every glimpse into his craft is a worthwhile listen? 'Out Among The Stars' is very much an 80's Johnny Cash album, an example of when he was trying bend and mould his country sound to fit the tastes of an increasingly pop-oriented audience. For this reason, 'Out Among The Stars' isn't a classic Johnny Cash album, though it does contain some of the bullet points through which Cash made his name.
'Baby Ride Easy', which features the vocals of June Carter Cash, is an upbeat number but still bears the hallmarks of the period, namely it's incredibly over-produced. Waylon Jennings guests on Hank Snow's 'I'm Moving On', possibly the best song on the collection, and June's other appearance on 'Don't You Think It's Come Our Time' pleases the ear but ultimately makes you want to listen to some of the duo's better known collaborations.
'Out Among The Stars' is very much an 80's Johnny Cash record and should be appraised as such. If this were a collection of lost Rick Rubin produced tracks, or something from the mid to late 1960's, it would be a different story. As it stands though, it's difficult to feel anything other than nostalgia for Cash's better work when spinning 'Out Among The Stars'. One for completists only.
Review by John Balfe | TWO POINT FIVE STARS