There isn’t much more to say about Johnny Cash. When he died in 2003 he’d enjoyed a second, much unexpected period of success recording a crop of songs, often covers, with in-vogue producer Rick Rubin, for his label American Recordings. In 2005, the film Walk the Line introduced younger audiences to his incredible run of LPs in the ‘50s, 60s and ‘70s, and to the concept of Johnny Cash as a cultural icon. Coupled with the brilliant albums he recorded with Rubin, the film – which underpinned the story of Cash’s early life and career by book-ending the tale with the build up to his live set at Folsom Prison – did much to promote the brilliant side of an artist whose prisons concerts and his work at Sun Records, as well as the first decade at Columbia Records and the American Recordings series, go some way to disguise, in part, the fact that Cash became something of a laughable figure in the 1980s. Just think of the song, now infamous, called ‘Chicken in Black’.

But all that is forgotten now, with Cash’s positive legacy assured. Still, his popularity rests, perhaps, on the Folsom Prison and San Quentin performances (and their accompanying live LP releases) and on the American Recordings series; because Cash’s work with Rick Rubin strayed from the country genre, and because his powerful live persona and almost punk-like aggression in live performance is so enticing, his early, famous songs seem very dated on record, seeming fusty, even impotent.

Bootleg 3: Live Around the World helps spruce them up. Spanning two discs, it offers a series of rare live performances, and further underpins Cash’s penchant for circumstantially important-feeling gigs. Here, there are songs from his 1972 performance at the Osteraker Prison in Sweden, from Newport Folk Festival in 1964 and from 1962, at the New River Ranch country hoe-down in Maryland. What’s more, there’s three different performances of ‘I Walk the Line’ and two of ‘Big River’, as well as a peppering of Cash staples like ‘Ring of Fire’, ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, ‘Hey Porter’, ‘Get Rhythm’ and ‘Daddy Sang Bass’. And as with most Cash live recordings, the intensity of the performance, Cash’s thrashing at his acoustic guitar, and his deep and beautiful growl, mark Live Around the World as a collection of real emotional strength.

It’s also an album for collectors and archivists. The most interesting aspect in that regard is the thirteen tracks performed at The White House in 1970, at Richard Nixon’s invitation. A glamorous set in itself, the recordings are fascinating for two reasons: first, they open with a lengthy introduction from Nixon himself, and second, the set ditches a number of Cash’s most celebrated songs for some of his religious numbers. Adding ‘A Boy Named Sue’ for good measure (and laughs), there’s less of the Cash subversion, made famous in the prison gigs, than there could be. Opting instead for a selection that includes ‘Jesus Was a Carpenter’, ‘There’ll be Peace in the Valley (For Me)’ and ‘He Turned the Water into Wine’, Live Around the World makes you wonder whether Cash was a protester or just a man who understood the nature of his audience. Indeed, while the timing of the performance (in terms of Cash’s live sets from that time) might say something about his choices, it’s still interesting to see what sort of set somebody chooses to perform for a President. Cash, when he could have been controversial, played it pretty safe.

But Bootleg 3: Live Around the World doesn’t tell you anything new about Johnny Cash.