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Johnny Cash THE GREATEST NUMBER ONES Columbia/Legacy 88691919802 HHHHH THE GREATEST DUETS Columbia/Legacy 88691903362 HHHHI THE GREATEST COUNTRY CLASSICS Columbia/Legacy 88691903342 HHHI THE GREATEST GOSPEL SONGS Columbia/Legacy 88691903352 HHHHI Johnny Cash was one of those few artists who can without exaggeration be termed an American legend ‘Hi, I’m Johnny Cash’ was all it took to

send the inmates at Folsom Prison into a frenzy when he played that seminal performance. The very name and image of The Man In Black has inspired awe in his fans and critics alike for more than fifty years. Johnny Cash was quite simply a music icon. An artist of unparalleled integrity, he achieved international and crossover success very much on his own terms, never once compromising his music or ideals for commercial aspirations. With his deep, resonant baritone and spare, percussive guitar, Johnny Cash had a basic, distinctive sound. One of the most imposing and influential figures in country music, he didn’t sound like Nashville, nor did he sound like honky-tonk or rock’n’roll. He created his own subgenre, falling halfway between the blunt emotional honesty of folk, the rebelliousness of rock’n’roll, and the world-weariness of country. Over the years Johnny Cash’s work transcended traditional boundaries. Whole albums had been themes and concepts: religion, gospel, America, the Old West and live prison recordings. While there are innumerable

compilations available—a plethora of them have surfaced since his death in 2003—none can really do justice to his prodigious output. This latest set is just

98 Maverick

what it says on the label, but these are no hastily put together budget releases, they’ve been carefully compiled and come with well-written sleeve notes and full details of recording dates. Most know the Cash story inside out. From abject Depression-era poverty he became one of the most imposing and influential figures in 20th century country music. His wasn’t the best voice around, but it was honest, authoritative and convincing. His songs didn’t always possess the most memorable melodies, but they stuck in the minds of all those that heard them. He crossed over to the pop charts with

ease without ever diluting his country roots, performing honest, straightforward music without ego trips, without schmaltz, without over production. THE NUMBER ONE HITS takes the listener from his 1950s Sun Recordings through to the Folsom Prison concert hits that took his music to the rock and pop masses and on to his collaborations with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson as the Highwaymen in the 1980s. They’re all here—I Walk The Line, Don’t Take Your Guns To Town, Ring Of Fire, Folsom Prison Blues, A Boy Named Sue, Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, One Piece At A Time and (Ghost) Riders In The Sky—but it may come as something of surprise that the legend that is Johnny Cash achieved just 19 number ones. Well- loved songs like It Ain’t Me Babe, Jackson, A Thing Called Love and I Got Stripes all missed that coveted top spot. The Deluxe Edition includes a DVD with ten previously unissued performances from the Johnny Cash Show of the early 1970s that makes this an essential release. THE GREATEST DUETS naturally enough

features the hits he recorded with June Carter Cash—Jackson, If I Were A Carpenter and Long-Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man—but there are also a few surprises. The opening I’ve Been Everywhere is a fun duet with Lynn Anderson taken from a live performance of the Johnny Cash TV Show in April 1970. I Got Stripes pairs Cash with George Jones on a 1979 recording that remained unreleased until the 2002 reissue of SILVER. Another Man Done Gone features the underrated Anita Carter and was originally released on the 1963 BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS album. Other pairings include Bob Dylan (Girl From The North Country), Ray Charles (Crazy Old Soldier), Waylon Jennings (The Greatest Cowboy Of Them All) and Billy Joe Shaver (You Can’t Beat Jesus Christ).


little disappointing. At times the Cash voice doesn’t suit the songs and the stripped back Tennessee Three accompaniment is just a little too basic. This was very much the case with the renditions of Gene Autry’s Goodbye Little Darlin’, Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, and the folk favourite Delia’s Gone. Much better are fine versions of Don Schlitz’s The Gambler, the dramatic (Ghost) Riders In The Sky and the traditional I’m Ragged But I’m Right with a slighter fuller sound that adds much colour to the musical arrangement. Cash’s rich and full tones were the ideal

vehicle of communication for GOSPEL SONGS. He is joined by the Carter Family on a rousing Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord), whilst That’s Enough bore testimony to Cash’s faith. Also included are several standard southern gospel songs like Suppertime and Peace In The Valley alongside self-penned tunes like He Turned The Water Into Wine and The Masterpiece and the uplifting swinging traditional The Old Account with the call-and-response approach typical of southern gospel. The commanding aura and tone of Cash’s untrained baritone remains timeless on this essential collection. Alan Cackett

Johnny Cash THE SOUL OF TRUTH Columbia Bootleg Series

HHHHH Volume four—a superb all-gospel collection from the Columbia Bootleg Series I must confess that I’m suspicious of

many Bootleg releases. Too many have been put out to the chagrin of the artist or if deceased to the anger of relatives who didn’t want sub-standard recordings to be issued that may undermine the standing of the artist concerned. Even worse are studio outtakes which have been put out containing some very inappropriate language, thus upsetting loyal fans. So it gives me immense pleasure to say at the outset that none of that applies here. I must admit to being a huge Johnny

Cash fan, and disc 1 of this 2-CD set gives us the complete tracks from a double album recorded for the small Cachet label in 1979: A BELIEVER SINGS THE TRUTH, which I can only assume happened because Columbia

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