Bootleg Volume III: Live Around the World is a two-disc set of concert material by Johnny Cash, recorded between 1956 and 1979. The majority of the performances (37 of 53 tracks) are previously unreleased. While most of this material doesn’t exactly sound great (including even the later material from the ‘70s), it’s still very listenable. It’s a little muffled-sounding for the most part, with some of it not unlike an AM radio broadcast. But as thin as the fidelity generally is, there are not really any serious problems with it.
Kicking off disc one is a trio of songs from a 1956 Dallas, Texas performance called Big “D” Jamboree that has been released before. Highlighting Cash’s sense of humor is a performance at New River Ranch in Rising Sun, Maryland recorded in 1962. During the performance, Cash’s casual between song patter is consistently amusing – he even turns in a tongue-in-cheek Elvis Presley impersonation at one point. The nine tracks from the 1964 Newport Folk Festival have been previously released, but they fit in nice on this collection. The highlight is Cash’s heartfelt rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” The 1969 performance in Vietnam at the Annex 14 NCO Club boasts a couple of spirited duets with June Carter Cash.
Disc two opens with a short speech by President Richard Nixon, who addresses the failed Apollo 13 mission to the moon. The damaged spacecraft had returned safely to Earth the very day Cash performed in Washington, D.C., April 17, 1970. Twelve tunes from the performance follow, all but one (“What is Truth”) previously unreleased. Besides that one track, only the three songs from an October 3, 1972 performance at Sweden’s Osteraker Prison have seen the light of day before this release. The last several performances on disc two are some of the least essential on the album, though a rambling 1979 take of “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” is fun to hear.
The CD booklet contains basic details for each performance as well as a new essay by music critic David Marsh. With such a generous selection of prime Johnny Cash live material, Bootleg Volume III: Live Around the World is a very worthy addition to the late legend’s discography.