Best of the Best [1989]

Country and rock 'n' roll legend Johnny Cash hosted his own variety television series from the summer of 1969 to spring 1971, and by all accounts the weekly program was destination TV. The Johnny Cash Show: The Best of Johnny Cash 1969-1971 is an 83-minute summary of everything Cash tried to do in his hourlong format, from presenting an eclectic and even-handed overview of popular music to promoting a humanitarian perspective on issues that mattered most to him: drug use, poverty, reliance on faith, compassion for criminals. This DVD documentary is largely comprised of musical performances by Cash and some of the many guests who appeared on his show. But there are also snippets of interviews with behind-the-camera talent involved with the program as well as such old friends as Kris Kristofferson and Hank Williams Jr. Everyone speaks highly of Cash's warm, on-camera persona, and selected footage proves them right: Cash is ever the gentleman with an expansive spirit and down-to-earth grit. Musical highlights include Cash's own "I Walk the Line" and "Man In Black," Bob Dylan's straightforward "I Threw It All Away," Loretta Lynn's "I Know How," and a delightful George Jones medley. Ray Charles takes a bluesy spin on "Ring of Fire," Cash's fellow Sun Records artists Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison take turns in the spotlight, Neil Young brings the crowd to its feet with an amazing "The Needle and the Damage Done," and Eric Clapton (fronting Derek and the Dominos) turns in a passionate "It's Too Late." --Tom Keogh

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