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Johnny Cash|The Legend

The Legend

Johnny Cash

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There have been in the neighborhood of ten CD box sets devoted to Johnny Cash, released on Columbia, Bear Family, and Collectables (this does not count overseas releases by Sony, or budget-line repackagings of three albums into one box set). Since 2000 there have been roughly 15 new major-label compilations, and that number balloons to nearly 90 comps if various and sundry two-fers, budget-line releases, and imports are factored into the equation. Add to that number the three major reissue campaigns -- Columbia/Legacy's expanded reissues of proper '60s and '70s records, Varese's series of Sun LP re-releases, and Mercury's revival of his largely overlooked '80s albums for the label -- plus the CDs released in the '80s and '90s that are still in print -- and there's not only an enormous amount of Johnny Cash music on the market, but every phase of his career is extraordinarily well-documented and easily available. With this in mind, it's initially hard to see the purpose of Columbia/Legacy's 2005 four-disc box set, The Legend. Sure, it's the first set to run the entire length of his career, from 1955 to 2002, but that statement in itself is a little misleading, suggesting that there's a significant sampling from his Rick Rubin-produced comeback recordings for American Records in the '90s, but that's not the case. In fact, there's nothing from those records, although there is a cut from the 1994 Red Hot + Country album and a smattering of other tracks he recorded in the last decade of his life included among the seven previously unreleased tracks on this 104-track box. So, this winds up being yet another repackaging of Cash's Columbia recordings, buttressed by several Sun standards ("Hey Porter," "Cry, Cry, Cry," "Luther Played the Boogie," "Get Rhythm," etc.). While this is familiar, this is by no means bad, since the music is not only good, but it's presented in an interesting manner, with each disc following a theme that's a little looser than Columbia's previous box, Love, God, Murder. Here, the first disc is called "Win, Place and Show -- The Hits," the second is "Old Favorites and New," the third is "The Great American Songbook," and the fourth is "Family and Friends." Although it's unclear what exactly separates the "hits" from the "favorites" -- if "Cry, Cry, Cry," "Get Rhythm," "Big River," and "I Got Stripes," all Top 15 country singles but all on the second disc, weren't hits, then what constitutes a hit? -- it seems that the former tends to favor funnier, poppier singles like "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," "A Boy Named Sue," and "The One on the Right Is on the Left," while the latter leans toward grittier numbers and standards that never charted (but even that isn't quite right, since the dark humor of "25 Minutes to Go" is on the second disc). In any case, both of the first two discs are good listens, filled with many of Cash's biggest hits and best songs. The third disc is similarly strong, featuring several of Cash's best readings of such standards -- recorded anywhere from 1955 to 1980, with most dating from the late '50s and '60s -- as "The Wreck of the Old 97," "Rock Island Line," "Delia's Gone," "In the Jailhouse Now," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," and "Time Changes Everything." However, despite a few good moments, such as his duet with Bob Dylan on "Girl from the North Country" from Nashville Skyline, the fourth disc isn't quite so compelling, largely because Johnny Cash is such an overpowering presence on record that he never made for a good duet partner. But even with the fourth disc being kind of weak, the other three are strong, which means this rivals Columbia's previous box set, 1992's The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 as the best multi-disc retrospective of Cash's weighty career. That doesn't mean it's perfect -- that fourth disc won't be played much, some may gripe that it doesn't contain much from the '80s or '90s, and some big songs like "The Rebel Johnny Yuma" are MIA -- but Cash recorded so much and so much of it was not only good, but popular, that it's hard to whittle it down to one set, even if it does stretch out over four discs. The Legend does a very good job presenting the biggest and best of the prime of Johnny Cash's career -- enough to make it a good comprehensive introduction for the curious who want more than what the many, many very good single- or double-disc sets have to offer, enough to make it a nice overview for the casual fan who wants one set with much of his best in one place. But if you already have one or two Johnny Cash comps in your collection, think long and hard before picking this up, and if you have five, ten, or 20 Cash discs, you don't even need to consider adding this to your collection: you have almost all of this already and the packaging, while nice, isn't enough to make this necessary. [The Legend was also released in a deluxe edition, packaged as a large, hardcover book and containing a bonus CD and DVD.]
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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The Legend

Johnny Cash

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1
I Walk the Line
00:02:44

The Tennessee Two, Associated Performer, Composer, Lyricist, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Composer, Lyricist - Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Composer, Lyricist, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Composer, Lyricist - Johnny Cash & the Tennessee Two, Associated Performer, Composer, Lyricist - Sam Phillips, Producer

Originally released 1956. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

2
There You Go
00:02:16

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - John R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist

Originally released 1956. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

3
Home of the Blues
00:02:38

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - John R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Lillie C. McAlpin, Composer, Lyricist - Douglas Glenn Tubb, Composer, Lyricist

Originally released 1957. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

4
Ballad of a Teenage Queen
00:02:10

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - Jack H. Clement, Composer, Lyricist

Originally released 1957. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

5
Guess Things Happen That Way
00:01:49

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - Jack H. Clement, Composer, Lyricist

Originally released 1958. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

6
The Ways of a Woman in Love
00:02:14

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - B. JUSTIS, Composer, Lyricist - C. Rich, Composer, Lyricist - The Confederates - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Billy Lee Riley, Electric Guitar - J.M. Van Eaton, Drums - Jimmy Wilson, Piano - Grant Marshall, Bass - Jack Clement, Producer

Originally released 1958. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

7
Don't Take Your Guns to Town
00:03:02

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Composer, Lyricist, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Composer, Lyricist - Don Law, Producer

(P) Originally Released 1958 Sony Music Entertainment

8
Ring of Fire (Single Version)
00:02:35

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - June Carter, Composer, Lyricist - Merle Kilgore, Composer, Lyricist - The Carter Family - Jack Clement, Guitar - Luther Perkins, Guitar - W. S. Holland, Drums - Bill Pursell, Piano - Grant Marshall, Bass - Bill McElhiney, Trumpet - Karl Garvin, Trumpet - Don Law, Producer - Frank Jones, Producer

Originally released 1963. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment

9
The Matador
00:02:44

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Don Law, Producer - June Carter Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Frank Jones, Producer - The Carter Family - John R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Jack Clement, Guitar - Don Helms, Steel Guitar - Floyd Cramer, Piano - Grant Marshall, Bass - Karl Garvin, Trumpet - Bill McElhiney, Trumpet

Originally released 1963. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment

10
Understand Your Man
00:02:42

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Don Law, Producer - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Frank Jones, Producer - The Carter Family - Luther Perkins, Guitar - Bob Johnson, Guitar - Norman Blake, Dobro - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass - Bill McElhiney, Trumpet - Karl Garvin, Trumpet

(P) Originally Recorded Prior To 1972 All Rights Reserved By Sony Music Entertainment

11
The Ballad of Ira Hayes
00:04:08

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Don Law, Producer - PETER LAFARGE, Composer, Lyricist - Frank Jones, Producer - The Carter Family - Luther Perkins, Guitar - Norman Blake, Guitar - Bob Johnson, Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass - Rufus Long, Flute

(P) Originally Recorded Prior To 1972 All Rights Reserved By Sony Music Entertainment

12
Orange Blossom Special
00:03:05

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Don Law, Producer - E.T. Rouse, Composer, Lyricist - Frank Jones, Producer - Ray Edenton, Guitar - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Mashall Grant, Bass - Charlie McCoy, Harmonica

Originally Released 1965 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

13
The One On The Right Is On The Left (Album Version)
00:02:46

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Don Law, Producer - J. Clement, Composer, Lyricist - Frank Jones, Producer - The Carter Family - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally Released 1966 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

14
Rosanna's Going Wild
00:01:57

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Bob Johnston, Producer - June Carter, Composer, Lyricist - The Carter Family - Helen Carter, Composer, Lyricist - Anita Carter, Composer, Lyricist - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally released 1967. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment

15
Folsom Prison Blues (Live Version)
00:02:43

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Bob Johnston, Producer - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Carl Perkins, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally Released 1968 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

16
Daddy Sang Bass
00:02:19

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Bob Johnston, Producer - C. Perkins, Composer, Lyricist - The Carter Family - Jan Howard - The Statler Brothers - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Carl Perkins, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally Released 1968 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

17
A Boy Named Sue (Live Version)
00:03:44

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Sheldon Silverstein, Composer, Lyricist - Bob Wootton, Electric Guitar - Carl Perkins, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass - Bob Johnston, Producer

Originally Released 1969 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

18
What Is Truth
00:02:37

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Bob Johnston, Producer - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Bob Wootton, Electric Guitar - Norman Blake, Dobro - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally Released 1970 Sony Music Entertainment

19
Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down (Live)
00:04:06

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - K. Kristofferson, Composer, Lyricist - B. JOHNSTON, Producer - Bob Wootton, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally released 1970. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment

20
Flesh And Blood (Album Version)
00:02:35

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Bob Johnston, Producer - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - The Carter Family - Bob Wootton, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally Released 1970 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

21
Man in Black
00:02:52

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Producer, Associated Performer, Guitar, Producer - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Charlie Bragg, Engineer - Bob Wootton, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally released 1971. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment

22
A Thing Called Love
00:02:32

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - J.R. Hubbard, Composer, Lyricist - Larry Butler, Producer

(P) 1972 Sony Music Entertainment

23
Kate
00:02:17

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - M.Robbins, Composer, Lyricist - Larry Butler, Keyboards, Producer - Billy Sanford, Guitar - Bob Wootton, Electric Guitar - Carl Perkins, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Bill Pursell, Piano - Grant Marshall, Bass

(P) 1972 Sony Music Entertianment

24
Oney (Single Version)
00:03:05

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Larry Butler, Keyboards, Producer - J. Chesnut, Composer, Lyricist - Red Lane, Guitar - Bob Wootton, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Chuck Cochran, Piano - Grant Marshall, Bass

(P) 1972 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

25
Any Old Wind That Blows
00:02:46

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - D. Feller, Composer, Lyricist - Ray Edenton, Guitar - Red Lane, Guitar - BOBBY THOMPSON, Banjo - W.S. Holland, Drums - Kenny Malone, Drums - Larry Butler, Keyboards, Producer - Grant Marshall, Bass

(P) 1972 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

26
One Piece At A Time (Single Version)
00:04:00

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Charlie Bragg, Producer - W. Kemp, Composer, Lyricist - Don Davis, Producer - Jerry Hensley, Guitar - Jack Routh, Guitar - Larry McCoy, Piano - Bob Wootton, Bass - Grant Marshall, Bass

(P) 1976 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

27
(Ghost) Riders in the Sky
00:03:46

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Brian Ahern, Producer - S.Jones, Composer, Lyricist - Jack Clement, Guitar - Jerry Hensley, Guitar - Jack Routh, Guitar - Bob Johnson, Lute - Bob Wootton, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Earl Poole Ball, Piano - Grant Marshall, Bass - Jack Hall, French Horn, Trumpet - Bob Lewin, French Horn, Trumpet

(P) 1979 Sony Music Entertainment

DISC 2

1
Hey Porter
00:02:12

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - John R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist

Originally released 1955. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

2
Cry, Cry, Cry
00:02:23

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - John R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist

Originally released 1955. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

3
Luther Played the Boogie
00:02:02

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - GREGG GELLER, Producer - John R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist

Originally released 1959. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

4
Get Rhythm
00:02:13

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - John R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist

Originally released 1956. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

5
Give My Love to Rose
00:02:43

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Jack Clement, Producer - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally released 1957. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

6
I Was There When It Happened
00:02:15

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Jack Clement, Producer - J. Davis, Composer, Lyricist - Grant Marshall, Bass - R.D. Jones, Composer, Lyricist - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar

Originally released 1957. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

7
Big River
00:02:30

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Main Artist, Associated Performer - John R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist

Originally released 1957. All rights reserved by Sun Entertainment Corporation

8
I Still Miss Someone
00:02:36

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Don Law, Producer - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - The Jordanaires - R. Cash Jr., Composer, Lyricist - Luther Perkins, Guitar - Buddy Harmon, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally Released 1959 Sony Music Entertainment

9
Pickin' Time
00:01:56

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Buddy Harman, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass - Don Law, Producer

Originally Released 1959 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

10
The Man on the Hill
00:02:07

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Don Law, Producer - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Murray Harmon Jr., Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally released 1959. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment

11
Five Feet High and Rising
00:01:45

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Buddy Harman, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass - Don Law, Producer

Originally Released 1959 Sony Music Entertainment

12
Tennessee Flat-Top Box
00:02:58

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Don Law, Producer - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Frank Jones, Producer - Luther Perkins, Guitar - Roy Nichols, Guitar - Johnny Western, Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally released 1961. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment

13
I Got Stripes
00:02:03

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Don Law, Producer - John R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - Charles Williams, Composer, Lyricist - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Murray Harmon Jr., Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally released 1959. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment

14
Troublesome Waters (Stereo Version)
00:03:49

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - M. Carter, Composer, Lyricist - E.J. Carter, Composer, Lyricist - D. Deen, Composer, Lyricist - The Carter Family - Bob Johnson, Guitar - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Norman Blake, Dobro - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass - Rufus Long, Flute - Don Law, Producer - Frank Jones, Producer

Originally released 1964. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment

15
The Long Black Veil
00:03:05

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Marijohn Wilkin, Composer, Lyricist - Danny Dill, Composer, Lyricist - The Carter Family - Luther Perkins, Guitar - Ray Edenton, Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Bill Pursell, Piano - Grant Marshall, Bass - Charlie McCoy, Harmonica - Don Law, Producer - Frank Jones, Producer

Originally released 1965 Sony Music Entertainment

16
Dark As A Dungeon (Album Version)
00:02:27

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Don Law, Producer - M. Travis, Composer, Lyricist - Frank Jones, Producer - The Carter Family - Luther Perkins, Guitar - Bob Johnson, Guitar - Norman Blake, Dobro - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass - Bill McElhiney, Trumpet - Karl Garvin, Trumpet

Originally released 1964 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

17
The Wall (Album Version)
00:02:09

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - H. Howard, Composer, Lyricist - Don Law, Producer - Frank Jones, Producer - The Carter Family - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Bill Pursell, Piano - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally released 1965 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

18
25 Minutes to Go (Album Version)
00:03:11

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Sheldon Silverstein, Composer, Lyricist - Don Law, Producer - Frank Jones, Producer - The Statler Brothers - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally released 1965 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

19
Cocaine Blues (Live Version)
00:02:49

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Bob Johnston, Producer - T.J. Arnall, Composer, Lyricist - Luther Perkins, Electric Guitar - Carl Perkins, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Grant Marshall, Bass

Originally released 1968 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

20
Doin' My Time (Album Version)
00:04:13

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Jack Clement, Producer - J. Skinner, Composer, Lyricist - Marty Stuart, Guitar - Jerry Hensley, Guitar - Bob Wootton, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Earl Poole Ball, Piano - Joe Allen, Bass

(P) 2005 John R. Cash Revocable Trust

21
I Will Rock And Roll With You (Album Version)
00:02:51

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - J.R. Cash, Composer, Lyricist - The Carter Family - Jan Howard - Jerry Hensley, Guitar - Bob Wootton, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums - Earl Poole Ball, Piano - Grant Marshall, Bass - Larry Butler, Producer

(P) 1978 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

22
Without Love (Album Version)
00:02:29

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Nick Lowe, Bass, Producer - N. LOWE, Composer, Lyricist - Bob Wootton, Guitar - Dave Edmunds, Guitar - Martin Belmont, Guitar - Peter Thomas, Drums - Earl Poole Ball, Piano

(P) 1980 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

23
The Big Light (Album Version)
00:02:39

Johnny Cash, Associated Performer, Guitar, Main Artist, Associated Performer, Guitar - Jack Clement, Producer - Elvis Costello, Composer, Lyricist - Waylon Jennings - CHARLIE WILLIAMS, Speaker - Robert C. Wootton, Electric Guitar - W.S. Holland, Drums

(P) 1987 Mercury Records, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc.

Album Description

There have been in the neighborhood of ten CD box sets devoted to Johnny Cash, released on Columbia, Bear Family, and Collectables (this does not count overseas releases by Sony, or budget-line repackagings of three albums into one box set). Since 2000 there have been roughly 15 new major-label compilations, and that number balloons to nearly 90 comps if various and sundry two-fers, budget-line releases, and imports are factored into the equation. Add to that number the three major reissue campaigns -- Columbia/Legacy's expanded reissues of proper '60s and '70s records, Varese's series of Sun LP re-releases, and Mercury's revival of his largely overlooked '80s albums for the label -- plus the CDs released in the '80s and '90s that are still in print -- and there's not only an enormous amount of Johnny Cash music on the market, but every phase of his career is extraordinarily well-documented and easily available. With this in mind, it's initially hard to see the purpose of Columbia/Legacy's 2005 four-disc box set, The Legend. Sure, it's the first set to run the entire length of his career, from 1955 to 2002, but that statement in itself is a little misleading, suggesting that there's a significant sampling from his Rick Rubin-produced comeback recordings for American Records in the '90s, but that's not the case. In fact, there's nothing from those records, although there is a cut from the 1994 Red Hot + Country album and a smattering of other tracks he recorded in the last decade of his life included among the seven previously unreleased tracks on this 104-track box. So, this winds up being yet another repackaging of Cash's Columbia recordings, buttressed by several Sun standards ("Hey Porter," "Cry, Cry, Cry," "Luther Played the Boogie," "Get Rhythm," etc.). While this is familiar, this is by no means bad, since the music is not only good, but it's presented in an interesting manner, with each disc following a theme that's a little looser than Columbia's previous box, Love, God, Murder. Here, the first disc is called "Win, Place and Show -- The Hits," the second is "Old Favorites and New," the third is "The Great American Songbook," and the fourth is "Family and Friends." Although it's unclear what exactly separates the "hits" from the "favorites" -- if "Cry, Cry, Cry," "Get Rhythm," "Big River," and "I Got Stripes," all Top 15 country singles but all on the second disc, weren't hits, then what constitutes a hit? -- it seems that the former tends to favor funnier, poppier singles like "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," "A Boy Named Sue," and "The One on the Right Is on the Left," while the latter leans toward grittier numbers and standards that never charted (but even that isn't quite right, since the dark humor of "25 Minutes to Go" is on the second disc). In any case, both of the first two discs are good listens, filled with many of Cash's biggest hits and best songs. The third disc is similarly strong, featuring several of Cash's best readings of such standards -- recorded anywhere from 1955 to 1980, with most dating from the late '50s and '60s -- as "The Wreck of the Old 97," "Rock Island Line," "Delia's Gone," "In the Jailhouse Now," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," and "Time Changes Everything." However, despite a few good moments, such as his duet with Bob Dylan on "Girl from the North Country" from Nashville Skyline, the fourth disc isn't quite so compelling, largely because Johnny Cash is such an overpowering presence on record that he never made for a good duet partner. But even with the fourth disc being kind of weak, the other three are strong, which means this rivals Columbia's previous box set, 1992's The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 as the best multi-disc retrospective of Cash's weighty career. That doesn't mean it's perfect -- that fourth disc won't be played much, some may gripe that it doesn't contain much from the '80s or '90s, and some big songs like "The Rebel Johnny Yuma" are MIA -- but Cash recorded so much and so much of it was not only good, but popular, that it's hard to whittle it down to one set, even if it does stretch out over four discs. The Legend does a very good job presenting the biggest and best of the prime of Johnny Cash's career -- enough to make it a good comprehensive introduction for the curious who want more than what the many, many very good single- or double-disc sets have to offer, enough to make it a nice overview for the casual fan who wants one set with much of his best in one place. But if you already have one or two Johnny Cash comps in your collection, think long and hard before picking this up, and if you have five, ten, or 20 Cash discs, you don't even need to consider adding this to your collection: you have almost all of this already and the packaging, while nice, isn't enough to make this necessary. [The Legend was also released in a deluxe edition, packaged as a large, hardcover book and containing a bonus CD and DVD.]
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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For over a century, blues is still nourishing pop music of all kinds and producing great records. It's time to take a look back at the classics with ten historic blues musicians.

Outlaw Country: Nashville Uprising

In the early 1970’s, a group of musicians from Nashville radically challenged the city’s musical tradition, its codes, its smooth productions and its clichés. With Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and a few other long-haired rebels who were deeply influenced by rock and roll, this new trend defied country music’s conservatism.

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