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Music Review: Johnny Cash - The Complete Columbia Album Collection


Johnny Cash
The Complete Columbia Album Collection
Available on Sony/Legacy (Dec. 4, 2012)

Many a jukebox was packed full of Johnny Cash’s Columbia albums throughout the latter half of the last century. Sony/Legacy has now compiled nearly 60 percent of the Man In Black’s work, covering more than 30 years and 60 discs worth of Cash’s music and fit it into a significantly more compact box.

Johnny Cash: The Complete Columbia Album Collection gathers 63 discs of Cash albums, concerts, songs and soundtracks. From his debut with the label The Fabulous Johnny Cash in 1958 to Highwayman 2 with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson in 1990, everything Cash released on Columbia is included here. If that’s not enough for the Cash completist, there’s several discs never released in the U.S. until now.

While the box set isn’t a definitive career collection-his Sun Records and American Recordings albums are not included-it’s as close as one could hope to get. Several Sun singles are found within, and live albums recorded in a Swedish prison, Prague, London, and New York are presented for the first time.

All of the classics and standards can be found here, including  At Folsom Prison, the excellent Ride This Train concept album, as well as all of chart topping singles. But the real gems are those you don’t hear on the radio and would have a hard time finding in record bins.  Hearing cash speak Swedish between songs is as big a treat as his familiar baritone on “I Walk the Line.” While there is bound to be chaff among the wheat in a career as prolific as Johnny Cash’s, the often overlooked works more than make up for the plentiful nostalgia pieces he produced in the ‘80s. And one can track a career that ventured from country to Americana, gospel to rock and roll, Christmas tunes to children’s songs, comedy to uplifting spirituals.

The box set preserves the original album art and liner notes, formatted to fit a CD. There’s also a 200 page booklet to accompany the decades’ worth of music.