There aren't many performing artists who can be called "legendary" without smacking of hyperbole. Johnny Cash is one of the select few. His career has spanned almost fifty years, long enough that it is hard to separate the man from his mythological image. Love, God, and Murder offers us the opportunity to examine Johnny Cash's recording career without his legend getting in the way.
JC as always had a singular voice, but his personal style has been frequently smothered under trendy orchestrations that haven't weathered the passage of time as gracefully as he has. Even after only one listen to Love, God, and Murder this is painfully obvious. On Murder "Delia's Gone" is as fresh as if it were recorded yesterday, while "Going To Memphis" is so theatrically hokey that it is well past the point of even redeeming camp value. Johnny Cash sounded best when the musical arrangements were kept simple, something not all his producers had enough self-control to do.
Sound quality on this CD is excellent, not because everything sounds perfect, but because it all sounds very much like it did when it was originally released. Some songs have a tubby bass, others have way too much reverb. There is a noticeable tape hiss on many selections and the early recordings lack any real high frequency extension. Legacy's braintrust of co-producers Steve Berkowitz and Al Quaglieri, assisted by engineers Chris Athens and Mark Wilder chose not to clean up or "correct" the original tapes. Instead we get to hear the songs the way they were originally recorded.
As befits a legendary artist Love, God, and Murder gets the royal treatment with a nice thick booklets for each CD, complete with detailed information on every selection and commentaries by Johnny's wife, June Carter Cash, popstar Bono, and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. Only June Carter Cash has anything relevant to contribute, while the Bono and Tarantino comments lack any special insight. Do we really care what these two “artistes” think of Johnny Cash’s work? I doubt if Johnny does.
If you want one CD set that covers Johnny Cash's entire career Love, God, and Murder would make a fine choice. While not every selection is a gem, it's an honest well-documented compilation of a musical legend's checkered recording career.