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Various - All Aboard: A Tribute to Johnny Cash (Cover Artwork)

Various

Various: All Aboard: A Tribute to Johnny CashAll Aboard: A Tribute to Johnny Cash (2008)
Anchorless Records

Reviewer Rating: 3
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Contributed by: JeloneJelone
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Has there ever been a perfect tribute album? It seems like it would be impossible; how do you make a compilation that honors a band yet betters them at every turn? It's a paradox. Yet every year sees more and more cover albums issued. All Aboard: A Tribute to Johnny Cash is one such release, and whi.
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Has there ever been a perfect tribute album? It seems like it would be impossible; how do you make a compilation that honors a band yet betters them at every turn? It's a paradox. Yet every year sees more and more cover albums issued. All Aboard: A Tribute to Johnny Cash is one such release, and while it never beats the former "man in black," it sure does give him glory. The liner notes contain blurbs from each of the bands involved, and some of the participants, like the Bouncing Souls and Smoke or Fire's Joe McMahon, are up front about the feeling that they can't make these songs any better.

I know art is supposed to be subjective, but scientifically speaking, Johnny Cash is one of the greatest American musicians ever. It's fact. To try to cover his material faithfully, as many of the bands here do, is an exercise in futility. All Aboard marks the first time I've ever listened to Chuck Ragan ("Wreck of the Old 97," with Jon Gaunt) and thought, "You know, I think he could be gruffer." That's not to say that Ragan's cover fails -- it's actually pretty good. But he makes me want to listen to more Johnny Cash instead, which might be the highest compliment I can give All Aboard.

Of course, I'd hate to imply All Aboard is in any way a bad compilation, partially because its proceeds benefit The Syrentha Savio Endowment, which in turn kicks the shit out of cancer, but mostly because the CD is actually kind of good. The Souls open the disc with "Man in Black," and they somehow maintain a lot of the song's rhythm while adding their trademark Jersey punk style. Indeed, the best covers here try to accentuate certain elements. Depending on one's perspective, MxPx either gives "Hey Porter" the standard pop-punk cover treatment or they update the song's catchy leanings. "Hey Porter" was released in 1955; this is what commercial radio used to sound like. To that end, it's surprising how effortlessly MxPx converts the tune. The Gaslight Anthem pushes "God's Gonna Cut You Down" to its deepest, darkest peak. It doesn't even sound like a TGA song -- that's how far the band goes to honor Cash's haunting songwriting. The Dresden Dolls and Franz Nicolay, of the Hold Steadu and World/Inferno Friendship Society, deliver an incredible take on the Jack Clement-written "Ballad of a Teenage Queen." The trio converts the song to their cabaret leanings while maintaining the barbershop harmonies. Nicolay adds accordion, saw and castanets to the mix, which is awesome and spooky. Overall, the Dolls deliver the best cover of the mix, if only because they're the only ones who seem to break free from the source material and forge something new.

Overall, the album is reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen's We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. There's lots of bluegrass and twangin' a-foot. That works well enough too, I suppose, but it's the songs mentioned above that really transcend. Being an album of songs Cash either wrote or had a hand in, the lyrics remain brilliant. What I miss, though, is Cash's gritty baritone. If anyone could express yearning, addiction, strength, humor and love in one breath, it was him.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Clash - London CallingThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!Chuck Ragan - Gold CountryThe Gaslight Anthem - American SlangThe Flatliners - CavalcadeThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl RoseAgainst Me! - White CrossesBouncing Souls - Maniacal Laughter

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
slymer (December 3, 2008)

I thought this was pretty good for a tribute album. Pretty much what i'd expect. I don't get why hopes were so high for this record. I like the Casey Prestwood song the best.

preston (December 2, 2008)

I don't think I've ever liked a tribute album. In most cases there is a couple good songs and that's it. Same case here. Loved Ones killed one of my favorite songs. And I don't think I've listened to MXPX since high school, but their cover is awesome (it reminds of Social D circa 1992). I think I was surprised 'cause everyone said it sucks. They may suck now, but that cover does not.

ManlightAnthem (December 1, 2008)

I disagree with the trying too hard with the gruff/gravily vocals...The Sainte Catherines, Lucero(Nichols), Fallen From the Sky, None More Black/OnGuard(Shevchuk), smoke or fire(McMahon), and Only Crime/GR(Rankin), all have that type of vocal style when they sing in their respective bands, nothing new or different. I think that if these tracks were split up and put on the bands next record, lots of you folks would dig them more.

spazner (December 1, 2008)

Hugely disappointing album, especially as a fan of many of the original songs and the bands included here.

The big problem: the vocals from almost every band come off as contrived attempts at being gravelly or gruff, and end up sounding painfully forced. Ragan is the only exception, since that sound comes so naturally for him. Other than his song, I don't forsee myself listening to this album much, if at all.

kellenmacklin (December 1, 2008)

Flatliners cover rules.
Some of this is great, and some is boring.

Deadpan (December 1, 2008)

I'd like to add, before there's any confusion, that I'm not implying that Bob Geldof is involved with this album. Just that Bob Geldof sucks in general.

Deadpan (December 1, 2008)

Yeah, I'm against charity. I need that money to buy alcohol and pairs of novelty boxer shorts that I only wear once because they're ridiculous. That, and I like to roll money up and smoke it like a cigarette.

As an aside, just because something's for a worthy cause doesn't mean it's worthy musically. Especially in cases where Bob Geldof's involved somehow.

blanktapesemptybottles (November 30, 2008)

I'm not sure if the outlash is from Cash fans disappointed in the covers or punk fans disappointed in Cash, but either way you get can get fucked, this is a great cause first of all and so many great bands covering a legend, and a lot of them make the song their own, seriously people lighten up and enjoy it for what it is, tribute records are a great idea but never come out that great, this one is totally worth more than one listen though with all the amazing bands, and are you really against charity?

bryne (November 30, 2008)

I really like the covers by Joe McMahon and Casey James Prestwood. There's some other solid ones (and a lot of mediocre ones, too) but those are the two that stood out to me.

Deadpan (November 29, 2008)

Of the tracks I heard off of this, none seemed impressive. Chuck Ragan's was pretty cool, but nothing stuck with me. I was really disappointed by the Bouncing Souls and Gaslight Anthem contributions - they both could have done much better.

crackpotdemagogue (November 29, 2008)

can't believe you never mentioned ben nichols contribution... it's totally outstanding!

exspectator (November 29, 2008)

that loved ones cover of "cocaine blues" is probably one of the worst covers i've ever heard. hause sounds like he's been blowing lines for three straight days without sleep. the piano part is pretty bad, too.

ManlightAnthem (November 29, 2008)

As a huge Cash fan, and fan of most of these bands, this is a great record. Sure not all the songs are amazing, but I don't skip any tracks and enjoy it as a whole. Good review, the Gaslight track grew on me, and now love that track as well. Ben Nichols and Joe's tracks are the best though.

TEF (November 29, 2008)

I still think "Let The Train Whistle Blow" is the best song on this album.

Bipedcasserole (November 29, 2008)

mxpx was always good at covering old '50s and '60s songs.

i probably won't get this. i'd rather just listen to Cash himself.

dadudebob (November 29, 2008)

good set, seems like theyre the bands that have some influence from cash

suburbanxcore (November 29, 2008)

It's a bummer because Cash rules, some of these bands rule, and it's a benefit release, but this is horrible. The Gaslight Anthem and The Loved Ones should be embarrassed. I wanted to like this, but only a few songs are even listenable.

telegraphrocks (November 29, 2008)

Dead-on score.

The Flatliners did the best cover.... it's so good.

essenceoftong (November 29, 2008)

i agree with the comment about Let the Whistle Blow. best cover on the cd

SloaneDaley (November 29, 2008)

I was going to review it with a score of 6 as well.

MN_punkmaster-skaman (November 29, 2008)

Except for two tracks (namely MxPx) pretty solid tribute record.

fuzzy (November 29, 2008)

@the_other_Scott-
I had ordered this before the stream was up. I don't really get many free releases (not to say I don't get any). I took myself off most physical distribution lists because the waste of sending me a CD when digital will work better is just ridiculous.

That said - who wants a barely played copy of this record?

the_other_scott (November 28, 2008)

@ fuzzy

i kind of assumed you got it for free as an editor. also, you could've streamed it at this site called punknews before you bought it, then you would've known if you liked it or not.

mattramone (November 28, 2008)

This pretty much sucks. Major bummer.

american_666_jesus (November 28, 2008)

Smoke or Fire's Let the Whistle Blow is an amazing tribute.

fuzzy (November 28, 2008)

Oh, and influences, schminfluences. I don't care who's influenced by the guy - I care about how the record I bought sounds and how much enjoyment it's giving me. That level is definitely not enough to have warranted buying the vinyl.

Of course, opinions are like internet posters. ;)

fuzzy (November 28, 2008)

Honestly, how is that fucked up? I see no reason to keep an object that I'm never going to use again, in my life.

the_other_scott (November 28, 2008)

the souls covered cash on manical laughter. a lot of the other artists are directly influenced by the man in black.

you should keep the record, it seems kind of fucked to re-sell something that would be going to charity if it was purchased new.

fuzzy (November 28, 2008)

I think there'll be a lot of kids going "OMG SOULS AND LOVED ONES COVER CASH" and in the end they won't even get that this is a very sub-par offering. I got this on vinyl and am selling it ASAP. It's definitely a digital buy-only with very limited re-play value.

I think this will succeed though - most people like to "claim" things like listening to Johnny Cash. But in reality? Most people in the punk rock world don't. I know that this will be followed by scores of post decrying me as a loser and a liar but it's the truth. I definitely was one of the scores of Cash-claimers when I was younger - I have settled into a healthy love of his music but can see where even my favorite bands and artists go astray on this compilation.

A definite pass.

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