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265 of 272 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "early "essential Johnny Cash and a fitting tribute
This double-CD version of "The Essential Johnny Cash," not to be confused with a three-CD set with the same title that came out a decade earlier, was issued to commemorate Cash's 70th birthday. Consequently, it has ended up serving as a fitting tribute album to remember the Man in Black who died this month. It provides a more than adequate look at his career...
Published on September 18, 2003 by Lawrance M. Bernabo

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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Get Love God & Murder Instead
Much of Cash's music was great so in that respect this is a good compilation. It's just hard to go too wrong even if you just picked random songs and threw them on a couple of CDs.

But -- I have to say that if you are going to get a Best Of or a Greatest Hits or anything other type of compilation as opposed to just buying most of his records, I would highly...
Published on December 1, 2005 by 3-006


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265 of 272 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "early "essential Johnny Cash and a fitting tribute, September 18, 2003
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This review is from: The Essential Johnny Cash (Audio CD)
This double-CD version of "The Essential Johnny Cash," not to be confused with a three-CD set with the same title that came out a decade earlier, was issued to commemorate Cash's 70th birthday. Consequently, it has ended up serving as a fitting tribute album to remember the Man in Black who died this month. It provides a more than adequate look at his career from 1955-1993, which, unfortunately, does mean it stops before his brilliant 1994 recording "American Recordings." However, this is a minor point because that is an essential Johnny Cash album in its own right, along with the Sixties albums "At Folsom Prison" and "At San Quentin." However, for someone who discovers that they do not have a Johnny Cash album in their music library, this is certainly a good place to start.
This version of "The Essential Johnny Cash" focuses on the early years, with the vast majority of tracks coming from the 1950s and 1960s. Actually, there is only one track after 1986, which would be "The Wanderer," recorded with U2 in 1993. However, it is hard to argue with covering the first two major peaks in Cash's career like this and to leave the single album assessment of the final renaissance he enjoyed in recent years, exemplified by his cover of Nine Inch Nail's "Hurt," for down the road. The main thing is that you get his signature tunes, "I Walk the Line," Man in Black," and the live version of "A Boy Named Sue" that officially marked his crossover from country to the popular consciousness of American music, as well as his celebrated covers of "If I Were a Carpenter" and his duets with his wife, June Carter Cash, such as "Jackson." There are also a few choice gospel songs as well along with a surprisingly good duet of "Girl from the North Country" with Bob Dylan.
Several American icons have died this year and unlike what happened with Bob Hope, where the current younger generation was rather clueless as to why this old guy had been so popular for so long, the MTV generation understood Johnny Cash. The music video for "Hurt" received a lot of acclaim, even earning a nomination for video of the year at the MTV Video Music Awards. I am not particularly surprised by this, since Cash's music career began at the same time as the birth of rock `n' roll and his rebellious attitude made him at least a kindred spirit. He might not have sounded like a rocker, but he was never what Nashville would have considered to be country either. Johnny Cash was unique, with his deep, resonant baritone and spare, percussive guitar, which is why his death deserved the cover of "Time" magazine. You can quibble over whether or not these are truly THE essential three dozen tracks from the Man in Black's music career, but there is no doubt about Johnny Cash's place in the musical pantheon.
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116 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Retrospective, September 16, 2003
This review is from: The Essential Johnny Cash (Audio CD)
Johnny Cash was an American music icon known to the world as the "Man in Black." His booming deep bass voice is surely one of the most recognizable in country music history. While his vocal range was fairly limited, it was incredibly effective at conveying the plight of the common man. As befits a legend, there are several Cash collections available. This double disc is my favorite because it captures nearly all of the highlights of Cash's recording career between 1955 and 1993 (since then he put out four excellent albums on American Records as well).
This chronological collection begins with eights hits from his tenure at Sun Records (1955-1958). Each of these great recordings, such as his double-sided hit debut "Cry, Cry, Cry"/"Hey Porter," "I Guess Things Happen That Way," "I Walk The Line," and his biggest chart hit "Ballad Of A Teenage Queen" (ten weeks at number one!) features a "boom-chicka-boom" rhythm and sparse instrumental backing by Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant (also known as the Tennessee Two). If you are looking for more music from this period, I suggest Varese's double-disc, forty track Complete Sun Singles.
Cash left Sun in late 1958 and signed with Columbia in hopes of occasionally recording his first love, gospel music, which Sun owner Sam Phillips would not allow. Cash's productive Columbia tenure (which ended in 1986) makes up 26 of the remaining 28 recordings. The remainder of disc one takes us through 1965 and shows Cash branching out far beyond rockabilly, with the old west cautionary tale "Don't Take Your Guns To Town," the yearn-filled ballad "I Still Miss Someone," the mariachi-flavored "Ring Of Fire" (June Carter's composition detailing her then turbulent relationship with Cash), the folky "Ballad Of Ira Hayes," the bluegrass toetapper "Orange Blossom Special," and fittingly, a stark, religious number for the closer, "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)."
The first half of disc two highlights Cash's work in the mid-to-late '60s, leading off with hit collaborations with wife to be June Carter ("It Ain't Me Babe," "Jackson," "If I Were A Carpenter") as well as megahits from his successful live prison albums ("Folsom Prison Blues," "A Boy Named Sue"). Interspersed is the less known acoustic "Girl From The North Country" duet with Bob Dylan (not a hit, but a superfine recording by two legendary artists) as well as the gospel-oriented "Daddy Sang Bass" which prominently features June Carter and the Statler Brothers (both members of Cash's late '60s/early '70s stage show, which was one of the best of its time).
As the '70s began, Cash was still making a strong impact with the weary Kristofferson ode "Sunday Morning Coming Down," the matter of fact "Flesh And Blood," and the biographical ditty "Man In Black." As the decade wore on, though, big hits became harder to come by, limited to humorous chart-topper "One Piece At A Time" and haunting chestnut "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky" (both found here) as well as "There Ain't No Good Chain Gang" (unfortunately omitted). This Essential collection concludes with four diverse collaborations: "Song Of The Patriot" with Marty Robbins (1980), "Highwayman" with Kristofferson, Nelson, and Jennings (1985 - Cash's last number one single), the reflective "Night Hank Williams Came To Town" with Jennings (1987, from his otherwise unmemorable two-album Mercury Records stint), and "The Wanderer" with U2 (1993, from U2's Zooropa album, a hint of the adventurous material Cash would explore on his American Records albums, such as his recent reworking of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt").
For more material, you can go with the three-disc box set (confusingly, also titled Essential Johnny Cash), but track for track, this set is the more enjoyable listen.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Complete History, But Still a Winner, October 17, 2002
This review is from: The Essential Johnny Cash (Audio CD)
This collection was released in conjunction with Cash's 70th birthday, and the CD booklet is filled with testaments to the Man in Black from the likes of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard to Paul McCartney, Bono, Chrissie Hynde, Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Ray Davies and Kirk Hammett. Anyone who can be an influence on such diverse artists as these has been doing something right since first stepping into Sam Phillips' Sun Studios in 1955.
The set leans awfull heavy on Cash's Fifties and Sixties material. Tracks 1-8 are from his tenure at Sun. The rest of disc one and the first seven tracks of disc two take us through the end of the Sixties. The only track from the past fifteen years is "The Wanderer," taken from U2's 1993 Zooropa album. What's missing is any of Cash's Nineties work with Rick Rubin.
But if you're looking for an inexpensive overview (with an emphasis on the hits) of one of country music's most influential artists, you can't go wrong here. (I would have given this five stars, but disc one is only 46 minutes and disc 2 is only 59 minutes.) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 2-CD best-of revisits familiar territory, March 15, 2002
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This review is from: The Essential Johnny Cash (Audio CD)
Though there have been several anthologies summarizing the better known material from Cash's nearly fifty-year recording career, the bulk of his work has been unavailable on domestic CD. Columbia's year-long reissue program, celebrating Cash's seventieth birthday, kicks off with this double-disc, thirty-six track overview that abbreviates 1992's seventy-five song, triple-disc box, "The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983," and adds a few choice alternate selections.
Like its big-brother, the new set spans Cash's late '50s recordings for Sun and his '60s-70s work for Columbia, and also adds a few tracks from his time at Mercury. Alternate picks from the box set include duets with Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, and June Carter Cash, the mid-60s novelty, "The One on the Right is on the Left," a pair of patriotic tunes ("Ragged Old Flag" and "Song of the Patriot"), and a 1993 collaboration with U2. Missing (and certainly more essential than the U2 cut) are tracks from Cash's late-90s work with producer Rick Ruben.
What's here is certainly essential, and its scope fills a niche between single-disc greatest hits and the more expansive 1992 box. It trods compilation ground that's been well mapped on earlier releases, yet serves nicely as both a value-priced entry to Cash's work, and a primer to the on-going reissue campaign.
4-1/2 stars, if Amazon allowed fractional ratings.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars legend!, July 27, 2004
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This review is from: The Essential Johnny Cash (Audio CD)
I'm not fan of country music, but Johnny Cash isn't your average country singer. . . he incorporates everything music should be.

As a total metal fan, I never in a million years expected myself to buy country albums. But there I was in HMV one day and I Walk The Line came over the speakers. I know instantly that is was Johnny's singing because my mum was a fan. I abandoned the metal section and picked up the CD which I am now reviewing. It's interesting the amount of metal icons who cite Mr Cash as their inspiration and idol. Metallica's James Hatfield and Slipknot's Shawn Crahan are two mentioned on the inside cover of the CD booklet. I can see why they love him.

Johnny's voice is cool and calm. He is the only singer I listen to who can be tough yet gentle at the same time. Here is a man that judging only by the sound of his voice you'd know not to mess with, yet his lyrics show a man with a genuine heart. This album had classics like I Walk The Line, Don't Take Your Guns To Town, Ring Of Fire, One Piece At A Time and Man In Black.

The songs are so simple yet genius. In 50 years time people will still be listening to Johnny's music and it will still sound as fresh as it does now. That's more than cane be said about bands these days who poke fun at country music yet can't write their own songs.

Respect, Johnny, you're a legend. Folks, buy this album. If there was ever money well spent it's on this CD.
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Get Love God & Murder Instead, December 1, 2005
This review is from: The Essential Johnny Cash (Audio CD)
Much of Cash's music was great so in that respect this is a good compilation. It's just hard to go too wrong even if you just picked random songs and threw them on a couple of CDs.

But -- I have to say that if you are going to get a Best Of or a Greatest Hits or anything other type of compilation as opposed to just buying most of his records, I would highly suggest acquiring the three disc set that featured handpicked songs by Johnny himself. This is called Love God and Murder and each of the CD's has Johnny's favorite songs dealing with that subject matter.

I initially bought Murder as I am very much attracted to murder ballads, but was so impressed with the great thoughtful selections by Cash that I bought the rest (you can by separately or all three together).

Johnny Cash was one of the best American musicians and he has loads of great songs, but I believe his well-meaning friends and family tried a bit too hard to pick an eclectic mix and therefore failed as much as that is possible when compiling a bunch of Johnny Cash songs.

Love God and Murder is a brilliant thoughtful collection from the master himself and I highly suggest picking that up either along with this or, in my opinion, without it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must have, February 28, 2006
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This review is from: The Essential Johnny Cash (Audio CD)
I'll admit, I jumped on the Johnny Cash bandwagon after seeing the movie "Walk the Line" Mr. Cash's music had always been a favorite of mine I just never purchased any until I saw the movie. This Cd is one of my best purchases from this site to date. I have been playing it non-stop since I popped it in my disc player. I find-comfort- I would say, in many of his lyrics, not pretentious, or over sang just simply Johnny Cash.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remastered CASH, September 17, 2003
By 
Mike (Ajax, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Essential Johnny Cash (Audio CD)
After 40 years or so of listening to John, this is a wonderful compilation of some of his best works from early days to more recent cuts, all presented in the order of the release date.
The sound quality of songs such as "Guess Things Happen that Way" are quite amazing, showing how much information was really being recorded in those early days, far surpassing the playback equipment of the day.
From the rousing "Five feet high and Rising", "Johnny Yuma" with the incredible imaging of the individual voices of the Carter Family on the side, the Trumpets (and again the Carter Family) on a very clean "Ring of Fire" through the haunting and gritty "Ballad of Ira Hayes".
John's guitar work on "The One on the Right..." is truly amazing and crisp and genuinely shows his imense talent!
When listening to "Flesh and Blood", "Man in Black" and the auditorium sound of "Ragged Old Flag" you feel as if big John's right there with you!
"The Wanderer" with U2 was a pleasant surprize, as I'd never heard this before. This album is also a favourite of our daughter, who learned to count with "Five feet High and Rising" and who has enjoyed the "Folsom Prison" and "San Quentin" albums for the last year. This shows the incredibly wide audience John has been playing to!
He will be sorely missed!!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Daunting Task!, July 10, 2003
This review is from: The Essential Johnny Cash (Audio CD)
To find the most essential tunes of Johnny Cash. This task is almost too monumental to undertake! Every Cash song I have listented to has touched me in some way.
But, the compilers of this two disc set have done a very good job of highlighting the career of Cash on Columbia and Sun records.
What I like best about this essential collection is that it spans the entire career of Cash (excluding his most recent and wonderful American recordings). We get to see Johnny in all his incarnations, in all his vast styles and at his country, rock, folk best.
I love Johnny Cash! I admire his honest approach to singing and songwriting. Johnny pulls no punches and tells it just like it is. The songs on these two discs will make you smile... make you laugh... make you wince... make you tear up and cry... and give you goose bumps and chills. Johnny hits all the right buttons and evokes a definite response in his listeners.
All the great hits are here... I walk the line... Ring of Fire... (My Favorite) Folsom Prison Blues... and too many others to mention.
Johnny's earliest hits such as Hey Porter and Get Rhythm are also a treat to listen to.
Heck, it's all great buy it you'll love it! :-)
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remember the 'Man in Black', December 20, 2004
This review is from: The Essential Johnny Cash (Audio CD)
To comprehensively represent such a towering icon of American music in only two discs is always going to be a difficult task, but this `Essential' compilation has succeeded as best as it can in doing this. It is a suitable choice for those who do not desire such an extensive compilation, (such as the Unearthed boxset) but then also want something a little more in-depth than just one disc. The first half of the first disc covers Cash's early recordings with Sun records, the most famous of which is `I walk the line'.

The second half of disc 1 and most of disc 2 then selects the highlights from the late 50s through to the early 70s. This is the strongest part of the collection and forms the main bulk of it, the most memorable tunes among this section being `Ring of fire', `Ballad of Ira Hayes', `Sunday morning coming down' and `Ragged old flag'. Not to be forgotten are the two live hits both recorded at Californian prisons - `Folsom prison blues' and the hilarious `A boy named Sue'. The closing songs of the collection are duets, the best of which is `The night Hank Williams came to town'; the lyrics evoke 1950s America like no other song. `The Wanderer', recorded with U2, is completely different from any other song on the album but still good listening.

All in all, the `Essential Johnny Cash' is a fine way to remember a legend of country music.
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The Essential Johnny Cash by Johnny Cash (Audio CD - 2002)
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