The abridged Koncert v Praze (In Prague – Live) ranks as the most egregious profiteering on Johnny Cash's name to date.
Since his death in 2003, the mining and repackaging of releases from Johnny Cash has been slow but steady. Beginning with Unearthed, a collection of unreleased material from the first four American Recordings albums Cash began with producer Rick Rubin in 1994, songs recorded during sessions in the months leading up to Cash's death were released in 2006 as American V: A Hundred Highways and again in 2010 under the title American VI: Ain't No Grave. 2014 saw the release of Out Among the Stars, an album of shelved songs recorded with Billy Sherrill in the early 1980s.
Not to be left out of the mix are live recordings. Released in 2005, Live from Austin, TX featured songs recorded during Cash's 1987 performance on Austin City Limits. A 1990 show recorded in Asbury Park, New Jersey, was released in 2007 as The Great Lost Performance. 2015 brought about Man in Black: Live in Denmark 1971, a televised performance of Cash with the Carter Family, Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers recorded during a Scandinavian tour. Previously released on DVD in 2006, Man in Black: Live in Denmark 1971 was first issued on vinyl as a Record Store Day Black Friday 2015 exclusive, with CD and digital releases following a week later.
Musical output aside, the honors bestowed upon Cash in recent years have occurred with similar frequency. Given his own postage stamp in 2013, the 2.5-mile Johnny Cash Trail and Overpass near California's Folsom Prison was named in his memory in 2014. Inducted into Nashville's Music City Walk of Fame in 2015, the first tribute of 2016 is less obvious: Aphonopelma johnnycashi, a new species of tarantula discovered near Folsom Prison, where, in 2018, a 40-foot tall statue of the Man in Black will be erected on his namesake trail.
Returning to the music, 2016 also brings forth the CD release of Koncert v Praze (In Prague – Live), a 1978 recording previously available as a vinyl-only pressing in Czechoslovakia circa 1983. Koncert v Praze (In Prague – Live) celebrates Cash's first Eastern European shows, occurring twenty-three years into a career that would last another quarter-century. Alongside his Tennessee Three and the Carter Family, Cash entertained some 40,000 Eastern Europeans during a four-show run in April 1978. Performing at the request of the Czech government, the global fame of Cash was such that the Prague dates sold out in two days, making Cash one of the first American artists to part the Iron Curtain.
Featuring a set that includes staples "Ring of Fire", "Folsom Prison Blues", "I Walk the Line" and Kris Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Comin' Down", Koncert v Praze (In Prague – Live) is most notable for its multiple medleys. Falling in the middle of the set, Cash combines the traditional "I Ride an Old Paint" with cowboy ballad "Streets of Laredo" for the first of two; the second a tetrad of railroad songs, beginning with "Hey Porter", Cash's first single, and including traditionals "Wreck of the Old '97" and "Casey Jones", before concluding with E.T. Rouse's "Orange Blossom Special".
With exceptional playing by the five members of the Tennessee Three as on the animated rockabilly of "Big River" and "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", Floyd Cramer's "Last Date" — presented for the first time on a Cash live album — serves as a showcase for pianist Earl Ball. With knowing audience applause, there is nothing to denote the momentous occasion captured on Koncert v Praze (In Prague – Live). Missing the poignant acknowledgement of June Carter Cash, the set could have just as well been recorded in any American town. Rife with audible edits, a missing instrumental opening by the Tennessee Three and performed songs such as "Reason to Believe", "Jackson" and "If I Were a Carpenter" notably absent, promised "great Carter Family classics" are glossed over, leaving only "Wabash Cannonball" as the act's lone contribution.
As archival box sets continue to command top dollar, labels are now parceling out and repurposing that material to appeal to casual fans and maximize profits. Already included in the expansive 2012 box set, The Complete Columbia Album Collection, Koncert v Praze (In Prague – Live), like Man in Black: Live in Denmark 1971, was first repackaged as a Record Store Day limited edition vinyl release. Now made available on CD and digital formats, the abridged Koncert v Praze (In Prague – Live) ranks as the most egregious profiteering on Johnny Cash's name to date.