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Country - Released May 1, 1968 | Columbia - Legacy

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Country - Released January 1, 1994 | American Recordings

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Stereophile: Record To Die For
Johnny Cash was in the unenviable position of being a living legend who was beloved by fans of classic country music without being able to interest anyone in his most recent work when he was signed to Rick Rubin's American Recordings label in 1994. Rubin, best known for his work with edgy rockers and hip-hop acts, opted to produce Cash's first album for American, and as he tried to brainstorm an approach that would introduce Cash to a new audience, he struck upon a brilliant idea -- doing nothing. For American Recordings, Rubin simply set up some recording equipment in Cash's Tennessee cabin and recorded him singing a set of songs accompanied only by his acoustic guitar. The result is an album that captured the glorious details of Johnny Cash's voice and allowed him to demonstrate just how emotionally powerful an instrument he possessed. While Rubin clearly brought some material to Cash for these sessions -- it's hard to imagine he would have recorded tunes by Glenn Danzig or Tom Waits without a bit of prodding -- Cash manages to put his stamp on every tune on this set, and he also brought some excellent new songs to the table, including the Vietnam veteran's memoir "Drive On," the powerful testimony of faith "Redemption," and a sly but moving recollection of his wild younger days, "Like a Soldier." American Recordings became a critical sensation and a commercial success, though it was overrated in some quarters simply because it reminded audiences that one of America's greatest musical talents was still capable of making compelling music, something he had never stopped doing even if no one bothered to listen. Still, American Recordings did something very important -- it gave Cash a chance to show how much he could do with a set of great songs and no creative interference, and it afforded him the respect he'd been denied for so long, and the result is a powerful and intimate album that brought the Man in Black back to the spotlight, where he belonged. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released November 3, 1958 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

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Country - Released October 1, 1964 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

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Country - Released January 1, 2002 | American Recordings

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Produced by Rick Rubin, Johnny Cash’s legendary American recordings are not only among his major musical statements, but also its moving final will. Released in November 2002, American IV – The Man Comes Around is the last volume of the collection that was released while Cash was still alive (He passed away 10 months after its release). Using the famous “cover” recipe, Johnny Cash managed in this record to turn other musicians’ compositions, sometimes recent work, into his own unique style. Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, and Sting are all covered, and when listening to Cash’s rendition of their songs it is sometimes difficult to recall their original versions. As usual, Rubin’s work on the soundboard is devoted to Johnny Cash’s voice. Caught it its last whispers, the voice is haunting, yet never morose.Indeed, the voice is key in “American IV”.  The material can bring chills (the video clip of Hurt is deeply moving and, after listening to the track, Trent Reznor proclaimed “It’s like I have lost my girlfriend. This song doesn’t belong to me anymore…”), Give My Love To Rose evokes a sadness that is a strike at the heart, and I Hung My Head expresses an innocence that is profoundly tender. Even when he deals with the classic repertoire of country music, many that he recorded in the past (Sam Hall, Give My Love To Rose, I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, Streets of Laredo, Danny Boy) the Man in Black brings to his interpretation the sorrow and sensitivity of his dying condition, always with grace and dignity. A sad yet festive funeral, the record includes many featured guest artists: Fiona Apple and Nick Cave sing, John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Marty Stuart strum their guitars, old partner Cowboy Jack Clement pulls out his dobro, Joey Waronker abandons Beck and Air to join in the rhythm section, and Benmont Tench brings in an array of keyboards including an organ, harmonium, Mellotron, vibraphone and even a Wurlitzer. Music lovers from all over the world recognized what a masterpiece American IV – The Man Comes Around had been created, and its reception led it to be a gold record, which was Johnny Cash’s first in thirty years. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Country - Released June 4, 1969 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

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In 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon and Johnny Cash discovered the stage of the San Quentin State Prison. The Man In Black, the man who wore only black for the prisoners, the poor, the needy, the elderly and the sick. He who always rubbed shoulders with people living in misery, he − the rebel of Nashville, the pioneer of outlaws − always brought together very disparate audiences. In 1968, the legend married June Carter of the famous Carter Family. It was a genuine and sincere love that led her to follow her husband on their honeymoon, which consisted of extensive tours and a series of concerts in prisons. This idea came to Cash in California with the song At Folsom Prison, and a year later he played the legendary show at San Quentin. He was just 37 years old at the time, but his face already looked tired by the time of this 31st album, something which was not helped by his various addictions and other vices. Regardless, this is no doubt one of the major works of Country music and comes with a unique archive of images captured by the British channel Granada. Cash was king in the land of the madmen. All listened ceremoniously, respected him, and a striking bond was developed. The Man in Black was in his element. Accompanied by Carl Perkins on the guitar, even June joined him on Darlin’ Companion, slightly intimidated by the situation. Symbolically opening with Wanted Man, the track selection spoke to the inmates. Wild applause, shouts of joy, or conversely complete silence, Johnny Cash’s charm was inscrutable. Provocative and gifted with a great sense of humour, he was at times censored with “beeps” and didn’t shy away from playing a risky new song specially composed for the occasion: San Quentin. “San Quentin, you've been livin' hell to me… San Quentin, I hate every inch of you.” This was followed by a chilling Shel Silverstein composition titled A Boy Named Sue, which Cash sang for the very first time, the lyrics absolutely delighting the crowd. It was a bloody and dark style of Country music reminiscent of Eddie Noack’s Psycho or the Louvin Brothers’ Knoxville Girl. During this concert Cash talked almost as much as he sang, connecting with the inmates, and closing the magical event with the wild vibrations of Folsom Prison Blues. © Clara Bismuth/Qobuz
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Country - Released January 1, 2003 | American Recordings

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Unearthed is, before anything else, a monolith. It's a whopping five CDs of material, four of which are previously unreleased. The first three are outtakes from the four American Recordings albums Johnny Cash recorded with producer Rick Rubin. Disc four is an entirely new album of gospel songs Cash recorded from his mother's hymnal around the time of American III: Solitary Man. The final disc is a compilation drawn from the released albums. It was planned as a tenth anniversary celebration of the Cash and Rubin collaboration that began in 1992, while they were working on a fifth album. It is, effectively, the last will and testament from country music's grandest and most towering and enduring figure, Hank Williams not withstanding. The box was finished and the final mixes were sent to Cash, though he died before they arrived. During Cash's tenure with American Recordings that began in 1992, he and Rubin would cut anywhere between 40 and 80 songs for each record; for the first one they recorded over 100. Disc one, entitled "Who's Gonna Cry," features Cash singing unaccompanied as he did on American Recordings, his debut for the label. Discs two and three -- entitled "Trouble in Mind" and "Redemption Songs," respectively -- come from the material recorded for the other three and are collaborations with singers such as Nick Cave, Glen Campbell, Fiona Apple, Tom Petty, Joe Strummer, and Carl Perkins, as well as other musicians who include Norman Blake, the Heartbreakers, the rhythm section for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smokey Hormel, the Red Devils, John Carter Cash, as well as Laura and Rosanne and Cowboy Jack Clement. There are also alternate takes of some material used on the recordings with different accompaniment, including a voice and acoustic guitar read of "When the Man Comes Around." Between-track banter is abundant, as is the humor. While the majority of this material is terrific, and arguably some of it could have been used interchangeably with what was released, there are tracks that were experiments that don't quite measure up, though they remain examples of the Man in Black at his most inspired. The reading of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is a case in point. It is a classic country song that was defined by George Jones. Cash's reading, though honest, taught, and fierce, lacks the pathos and harrowing depth of the Jones version. Likewise, the duet with Fiona Apple on Cat Stevens' "Father and Son" just out and out falters. "Gentle on My Mind," with Glen Campbell, is obviously fraught with genuine admiration on the part of both singers, but it's obvious that the definitive version had already been done and this one misses. Likewise, some of the material from Solitary Man and Unchained is well-intentioned and passionately wrought, but it is obvious why these songs didn't make the cut. But there are genuine revelations, too, such as the solo acoustic treatment of "Long Black Veil." It leaves its previous 1966 incarnation in the dust. On this one, the song is from the heart of the lonesome, love-torn ghost, looking upon the woman who wanders the graveyard and weeps at his headstone. To say it is chilling is one thing; the fact that it opens the entire collection is nearly devastating. Cash's covers of Billy Joe Shaver's "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal" and Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" define the term Americana, and add great depth and dimension to the original versions. While a solo version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" was issued on Joe Strummer's posthumous Streetcore, it is this duet with Cash that is the most moving and clear -- and Cash refused to change the Jamaican patois in Marley's language. Likewise, the two versions of Dolly Parton's "I'm a Drifter" are both visionary, as is a sage read of Neil Young's "Pocahontas" and the shattering take of Stephen Foster's "Hard Times (Come Again No More)." Cash's retelling of Steve Earle's "Devil's Right Hand" gives the song an entirely different meaning. On the canonical material, evidenced by "Trouble in Mind," "Salty Dog," Jean Ritchie's "The L & N Don't Stop Here Anymore," Marty Robbins' "Big Iron," Rodgers & Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone," and Jimmie Davis' "You Are My Sunshine," Cash sings with the authority of a singer who has inherited the legacy tradition he carries in the grain of his voice. But it is the fourth disc, consisting of old country gospel songs, that steals the entire show here. Most of these songs Cash carried with him most of his life. Many come from a battered and tattered book of his mother's; Cash offers a completely unadorned devotional reading of spirituals from the annals of his Southern gothic gospel experience. While some of these are closely associated with the African-American gospel tradition of Thomas Dorsey, Cash points out in the liner notes that these songs existed simultaneously in the white church. In these 14 songs, from the rounds of "I'll Fly Away" and "Do Lord" to the expansive "Where the Soul of a Man Never Dies" and "In the Sweet By and By" to the modern gospel classic "I Am a Pilgrim" by Merle Travis, Cash's conviction and complexity are everywhere evident. These are simple songs with complex emotions, and in his readings of them they carry the paradoxes of his life, from drug addiction to grace to social justice stances to reverence, humility, and the willingness to live the gospel. They are towering because of their vulnerability and their need to communicate directly -- with searing yet human intensity -- the revelation of the singer's held truth. Unearthed is a true best-of set: a collection of the finest tracks from the remarkable symbiotic collaboration between Cash and Rubin. The five CDs are accompanied by a stellar package that includes a 100-page booklet with brilliant and deeply moving liner notes by Sylvie Simmons. Her written portraiture of Cash in his wheelchair talking about the music here and his future plans is realistic, humble, and respectfully empathetic. In addition, each track on the set is annotated in the book by directly attributed quotes she gathered from Cash, and also from Rubin and the many principals involved in the sessions. One hopes that this is the last box of the recordings from American, because it is so fine, so brilliantly woven, and so soulfully presented with an ear to quality and vision that anything other than the assemblage of American V from the recordings already completed would seem superfluous, blunting the impact of this grand and necessary document. Here is the depth of the vision and commitment of Johnny Cash to song, presented elegantly and magnificently, a mirror image of the man and his myth. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Country - Released February 15, 1965 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

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Country - Released May 26, 1971 | Legacy Recordings

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Country - Released March 25, 2014 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

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Country - Released September 1, 1983 | Columbia Nashville

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Country - Released January 1, 1960 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

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Country - Released November 14, 1963 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

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Country - Released September 1, 1959 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

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Country - Released September 1, 1965 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Country - Released September 1, 1960 | Columbia Nashville Legacy

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Country - Released June 26, 2020 | Mercury Nashville

It's widely acknowledged that Johnny Cash's time at Mercury didn't find the Man in Black at either his commercial or creative peak. Cash moved to the label in 1986, just after he departed his longtime home of Columbia, and he stayed there through 1991, a half-decade stint that resulted in only one Country Top 40 hit (1988's "That Old Wheel," which charted thanks to the momentum of Cash's duet partner, Hank Williams, Jr.) and has subsequently been framed as the wilderness years before he righted himself on Rick Rubin's American Recordings. The 2020 box set The Complete Mercury Albums 1986-1991 is the first opportunity to challenge this conventional wisdom, a place where it's possible to concentrate on the relative merits of the handful of LPs he recorded for the label. The box expands upon the original five records for Mercury by adding a bunch of bonus tracks, plus a full album's worth of alternate mixes of the 1988 covers collection Classic Cash: Hall of Fame Series and the 1986 collaborative set Class of 55, where he was joined by fellow Sun Records survivors Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison for a set of new songs written in the style of the oldies. Class of 55 opens this chronological set on a shaky note, thanks to freeze-dried Chips Moman production that steers each of these greats toward their worst instincts. It's one of the worst LPs credited to any of the four, and having it open the set suggests that Cash's Mercury stint is as bad as its rep, but 1987's Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town is a better yardstick to gauge this era by. Produced by Jack Clements, Coming to Town opens with a careening version of Elvis Costello's "The Big Light" and then proceeds to run through covers, cornball novelties, sincere ballads, and story songs. It's a dynamic, entertaining record and Cash returned to its formula often on Mercury to admittedly varied but often entertaining results. Clement also helmed 1988's Water from the Wells of Home, a record that gets weighed down by its cameos, but the guests can also conjure some unexpected delights, such as Paul McCartney's appearance on "New Moon Over Jamaica." Producer Bob Moore kept 1990's Boom Chicka Boom tight and focused. The 1991 set The Mystery of Life comprised cobbled-together leftovers from Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town and sessions for a new album that didn't quite come to fruition; it's uneven but has more than its share of moments, including a new version of Bob Dylan's "Wanted Man." Listened to collectively, these records sound much better than their reputation suggests. Even Classic Cash: Hall of Fame Series, a collection of re-recordings of his old hits, is livelier than its description suggests, benefitting from Cash sounding spry and invested in the material. That none of these LPs generated hit singles at the time can be chalked up to a matter of age. Cash was on the other side of 50 when he made this music and he'd been a hitmaker for 30 years. He was a known property who couldn't fit into the sound of modern country radio, which happened to be running away from veterans like Cash in the first place. All these personal and cultural changes doomed Cash's Mercury records to commercial failure, and while the albums still have a distinct gloss endemic to the '80s, each of them has its share of moments, and Comes to Town and Boom Chicka Boom are strong records in their own right. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2010 | American Recordings

Released for the occasion of Johnny Cash's 78th birthday, American VI: Ain't No Grave is the final installment in the collaboration between Cash and Rick Rubin that began with 1994’s American Recordings. These ten songs were cut during the same sessions for American V: A Hundred Highways. Guitarists Mike Campbell, Matt Sweeney, Smokey Hormel, and Benmont Tench on keyboards were present, as were other musicians. June Carter Cash died during routine surgery during these sessions. Cash, though grief stricken and with full knowledge that he too was dying due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, worked as often as his health would allow. He died three months after these songs were recorded. Ain't No Grave is an elegiac and deeply spiritual album, a formal goodbye without regret from a man and an artist of almost mythic stature. The song selection is rooted in the Americana, folk, country, and gospel traditions. There is an excellent reading of Tom Paxton's “Wonder Where I’m Bound” that doesn’t feel as lost as the original, but more a statement after reflecting on a life fully lived. Likewise his version of Sheryl Crow's “Redemption Day” sums up Cash’s own long commitment to social justice, and the need for individual accountability; its statement of hope is underscored here not as a dream, but as a conviction. Kris Kristofferson's “For the Good Times” begins with the words: “Don’t look so sad, I know it’s over/But life goes on/And this ole world will keep on turning.” It offers a portrait of the dignity and grace Cash performed with all his life. “I Corinthian’s 15:55” is his last self-penned song, a sweet, country-gospel melody that echoes far beyond the margins of contemporary music to an earlier time, and looks at the future with unshakable faith. The title track is a country-gospel-blues by Brother Claude Ely -- it’s a fierce showdown with the Reaper, with the singer winning it hands down. There are excellent covers of Bob Nolan's “Cool Water,” a song Cash often sang live that expresses empathy for the downtrodden, and “Satisfied Mind,” written by Jack Rhodes and Red Hayes, played on a lone acoustic guitar, which dispenses the truth of earthly life into two-minutes-and-forty-eight seconds. Ed McCurdy's “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” is a true anti-war song that serves as a testimonial. The album’s final cut is Queen Liliuokalani's traditional Hawaiian ballad “Aloha Oe,” one of the sweetest, most affectionate leaving songs ever written. And Cash’s version? It’s devastatingly beautiful; to the point of tears. If there were any justice, Ain't No Grave would be the last album released under Cash’s name. It is not only a compelling contribution to his legacy, but an offering that closes the historic American Recordings series with the same stamp of quality that began it. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Country - Released February 12, 2002 | Columbia - Legacy

Issued in commemoration of Cash's 70th birthday, this double CD is a good survey of 1955-1993 career highlights (and a different release than the similarly titled three-CD The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983). Is it a good place to start? That depends on what you have or don't have already, considering that so many greatest-hits compilations containing some or much of this material appeared prior to this, yet another repackage. All of his very biggest hits are here, and it leans very heavily on his first 15 years of recordings, with just eight of the 36 tracks postdating 1970 (and only one of them, his 1993 U2 collaboration "The Wanderer," postdating 1986). For that reason some may complain that it doesn't give some phases of his career proper weight, and certainly not evenly distributed weight. But let's be cold about this: Cash's best records were between 1955 and 1970, and focusing on his early work, as this compilation does, means higher overall quality. It's too bad nothing is included from his acclaimed, unadorned 1994 album, American Recordings, but otherwise this will serve as a quite satisfactory best-of for those who want both the familiar hits and a few good, not-so-overplayed ones, like his versions of "It Ain't Me Babe," "Jackson," and "If I Were a Carpenter." © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 1998 | American Recordings Catalog P&D

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Johnny Cash in the magazine
  • Cash Behind Bars
    Cash Behind Bars In 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon and Johnny Cash discovered the stage of the San Quentin State Prison.
  • Bitter Tears
    Bitter Tears Fifty years ago, the Man in Black sang the story of the American Indian nation...
  • The Qobuz Minute #1
    The Qobuz Minute #1 The first edition of The Qobuz Minute in English - 5 unmissable releases and as much music news as we can fit into 5 minutes.