Music Review: Johnny Cash – The Complete Columbia Album Collection

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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.

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