Judge Cynthia Boris is thankful Britney Spears never did a TV Christmas special.
"Celebrate Christmas with the 'Man in Black' and some of the biggest stars of the '70s!"
In the '70s, Christmas (you could still say Christmas back then without worrying about being politically correct) specials were all the rage. Most were cutesy affairs with much joyous caroling, silly sketches, and fake snow falling on overheated celebrities dressed in perky holiday sweaters.
That's not the case with this Christmas special, and that's a good thing.
Johnny Cash Christmas 1977 was Cash's second special, and it features some truly classic performances. Carl Perkins sings "Blue Suede Shoes," Roy Orbison does "Pretty Woman," and Jerry Lee Lewis performs "Whole Lot of Shaking Going On." From that, you can tell that this isn't your ordinary Christmas special. Not just from the guests but from the choice of songs. There are plenty of Christmas tunes, though; you'll hear "Blue Christmas" with Cash and the Statler Brothers, "Silent Night" by Cash and his family, and a rousing version of "This Train is Bound for Glory." There's also an appearance by Roy Clark and duets with Cash's wife, June.
The special was filmed on stage in front of a live audience. For much of the show, it's simply the singers and a microphone doing what they do best. The special is loosely tied together by Cash taking us through three eras of his life, accompanied by a visual aid and a song from each time. But except for a World War II GI barracks set for "Blue Christmas," the staging is pretty simple. Best of all, you won't see Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison dressed as elves in a comedic sketch about the North Pole. Thank heaven for that.
Considering that this was a taped special for TV, the presentation is clean and crisp. There is a home movie segment of Cash's trip to the Holy Land which is loaded with pops and scratches but that's likely original and not a remnant of years gone by. As for the sound, I kept wishing for something richer and fuller. I tried running it through the stereo and playing with the controls, but with no luck. There's no audio information on the DVD, but I imagine it's a mono track and that's a shame. These really are classic performances and it would be nice to hear them with a little more depth. Again, I suppose this isn't the fault of the DVD but the original source material.
DVD is amazing, isn't it? In 1977, this special was just another hour of television. But now, we can look back and really appreciate these artists and what they brought to the music industry. So here's a shout out to Shout! Factory for preserving these classic country performances.
Johnny Cash Christmas 1977 is part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Archive Series.
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Studio: Shout! Factory
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