A tuxedo-clad Johnny Cash must have cut an imposing figure when he took the stage at New York's Madison Square Garden in December 1969, performing songs about prison, cocaine, and murder alongside gos

A tuxedo-clad Johnny Cash must have cut an imposing figure when he took the stage at New York's Madison Square Garden in December 1969, performing songs about prison, cocaine, and murder alongside gospel hymns and patriotic antiwar sentiments (as a self-proclaimed "dove with claws"). As this uncovered gem from Columbia/Legacy demonstrates, the MSG sellout crowd responded with enthusiasm and a bit of awe, from the opening twangs and the "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash" greeting through a monster 26-song classic set. Cash was already a major star at the time, with his personal demons largely in control and a major network TV series in full swing. He was also a commanding onstage presence despite the strain a heavy touring schedule put on his voice. It's an album of greatness, full of the familiar and the obscure, peppered with ad libs that tell much about the man and his unique world view. Featured performers Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers, June Carter and the Carter Family, along with the crack Tennessee Three, add much but—then and now—this is Cash's stage, and he owns it.—RW