The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Assembling a comprehensive multi-disc Johnny Cash collection is a difficult task for a variety of reasons, not the least of it being the sheer number of records Cash put out in the '60s and '70s. Counting duets, he had over 130 charting singles, which is far too much for the average box set, plus those singles don't necessarily tell the full story of Cash the recording artist, since he was a prolific album artist, as well. Then, there's the sheer variety of what he recorded -- rockabilly, folk tunes, tales of gunslingers and Indians, scores of novelty numbers, gospel, Americana kitsch, train songs, pop, and straight-ahead country, he tried it all, giving it all ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Assembling a comprehensive multi-disc Johnny Cash collection is a difficult task for a variety of reasons, not the least of it being the sheer number of records Cash put out in the '60s and '70s. Counting duets, he had over 130 charting singles, which is far too much for the average box set, plus those singles don't necessarily tell the full story of Cash the recording artist, since he was a prolific album artist, as well. Then, there's the sheer variety of what he recorded -- rockabilly, folk tunes, tales of gunslingers and Indians, scores of novelty numbers, gospel, Americana kitsch, train songs, pop, and straight-ahead country, he tried it all, giving it all his own unique stamp, distinguished by his booming voice and the distinctive two-step muted rhythm picked out by his guitarist, Luther Perkins. In other words, there is a lot of material to choose from, and while it all sounds similar -- in that it all sounds like Johnny Cash music -- there are so many themes and styles, it's difficult to distill it down to the essentials, as Columbia/Legacy's 1992 triple-disc box set The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 attempts to do. Spanning 75 tracks, this takes in nearly three decades of Cash's career, starting at Sun and ending when Cash left the label in the mid-'80s. It hits all the big, iconic hits -- "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line," "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," "Guess Things Happen That Way," "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," "I Got Stripes," "Ring of Fire," "Daddy Sang Bass," "A Boy Named Sue" -- but makes no pretense of containing all the hits, and in fact leaves many other hit singles behind, not to mention album tracks. There really isn't anything big missing -- after all, all but one song from the 1967 Columbia Greatest Hits is here -- but what makes a box set great is the quality of the songs that aren't the hits, and here Essential is a bit wobbly. It's hurt by the compilers' desire to touch upon every style Cash performed, sometimes to the detriment of overall listenability -- and that listenability is also hurt by the sequencing, which is just slightly non-chronological "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," his first Columbia single, is saved for the second disc opener, long after we're already in Columbia territory; on the second disc, 1965's "Orange Blossom Special" is followed by 1963's "Ring of Fire", which hampers the momentum in subtle, but noticeable ways. Then, there's the song selection. While there's nothing bad here although the novelty numbers or topical songs may wear on some listener's nerves, apart from the aforementioned big hits -- along with other iconic songs like "The Rebel -- Johnny Yuma," "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," and "Cocaine Blues" -- it's hard not to feel that for every merely good song here, there's something better that could have been included instead, particularly because there are indeed many great tracks left behind. These are the things that prevent this box from being one of the great country box sets -- compare it to Merle Haggard's Down Every Road, for instance, a set that captures a complex figure in all of his glory -- and keep it from being as definitive as it seems. As a basic library piece, it's pretty good -- after all, it has all the basics from Sun and Columbia in one place -- but given its idiosyncrasies, it's not an ideal introduction, and it also shouldn't be seen as a one-stop summary of everything worthy Johnny Cash did at Sun and Columbia. It is a good sampler of what he did at those two labels, but once you know the lay of the land, other compilations and proper albums are easier to listen to and more enjoyable.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/23/1998
  • Label: Sony
  • UPC: 074646555729
  • Catalog Number: 65557

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Hey Porter (2:11)
  2. 2 Cry Cry Cry (2:23)
  3. 3 Folsom Prison Blues (2:48)
  4. 4 Luther Played the Boogie (2:01)
  5. 5 Get Rhythm (2:12)
  6. 6 I Walk the Line (2:42)
  7. 7 Home of the Blues (2:38)
  8. 8 Give My Love to Rose (2:43)
  9. 9 Rock Island Line (2:08)
  10. 10 Doin' My Time (2:37)
  11. 11 Big River (2:30)
  12. 12 Ballad of a Teenage Queen (2:10)
  13. 13 Guess Things Happen That Way (1:48)
  14. 14 The Ways of a Woman in Love (2:14)
  15. 15 Thanks a Lot (2:36)
  16. 16 Oh, What a Dream (2:03)
  17. 17 What Do I Care (2:07)
  18. 18 All over Again (2:05)
  19. 19 I Still Miss Someone (2:34)
  20. 20 I'd Just Be Fool Enough (To Fall) (2:08)
  21. 21 Walking the Blues (2:08)
  22. 22 Frankie's Man Johnny (2:14)
  23. 23 Tennessee Flat Top Box (2:58)
  24. 24 Sing It Pretty, Sue (1:57)
  25. 25 Pickin' Time (1:57)
  26. 26 Five Feet High and Rising (1:46)
  27. 27 The Old Account (2:18)
  28. 28 Peace in the Valley (2:45)
  29. 29 Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? (3:53)
Disc 2
  1. 1 Don't Take Your Guns to Town (3:01)
  2. 2 The Ballad of Boot Hill (2:34)
  3. 3 The Rebel - Johnny Yuma (1:51)
  4. 4 The Big Battle (4:02)
  5. 5 When the Roses Bloom Again (2:34)
  6. 6 The Ballad of Ira Hayes (4:07)
  7. 7 The Legend of John Henry's Hammer (8:24)
  8. 8 Dark as a Dungeon (2:27)
  9. 9 Long Black Veil (3:06)
  10. 10 I Got Stripes (2:02)
  11. 11 25 Minutes to Go (3:11)
  12. 12 The Wall (2:08)
  13. 13 Busted (2:15)
  14. 14 Bad News (2:56)
  15. 15 Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog (2:06)
  16. 16 Orange Blossom Special (3:05)
  17. 17 Ring of Fire (2:36)
  18. 18 Understand Your Man (2:42)
  19. 19 Jackson (2:44)
  20. 20 Blistered (2:20)
  21. 21 See Ruby Fall (2:50)
  22. 22 Cisco Clifton's Fillin' Station (2:40)
  23. 23 Daddy Sang Bass (2:19)
Disc 3
  1. 1 Folsom Prison Blues (2:41)
  2. 2 Cocaine Blues (2:44)
  3. 3 San Quentin (2:32)
  4. 4 A Boy Named Sue (3:46)
  5. 5 Wanted Man (2:50)
  6. 6 Singing in Vietnam Talking Blues (2:54)
  7. 7 Man in Black (2:52)
  8. 8 What Is Truth? (2:37)
  9. 9 Flesh and Blood (2:35)
  10. 10 Sunday Morning Coming Down (4:06)
  11. 11 Oney (3:04)
  12. 12 One Piece at a Time (4:00)
  13. 13 Hit the Road and Go (2:41)
  14. 14 Rockabilly Blues (Texas 1955) (3:19)
  15. 15 I Will Rock and Roll With You (2:50)
  16. 16 No Expectations (3:10)
  17. 17 (Ghost) Riders in the Sky (3:46)
  18. 18 Bull Rider (3:08)
  19. 19 Highway Patrolman (5:20)
  20. 20 After the Ball (3:00)
  21. 21 Without Love (2:28)
  22. 22 The Last Time (3:14)
  23. 23 I'm Gonna Sit on the Porch and Pick on My Old Guitar (3:00)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Johnny Cash Primary Artist, Guitar, Vocals
Norman Blake Dobro, Guitar
Ricky Skaggs Banjo, Fiddle
Marty Stuart Guitar, Mandolin
Hoyt Axton Background Vocals
Ed Bruce Background Vocals
The Carter Family Vocals
Floyd Cramer Piano
Rodney Crowell Vocal Harmony
Jo-El Sonnier Harmonica, Accordion
Dave Edmunds Guitar
The Jordanaires Background Vocals
Tommy Allsup Guitar
Norton Buffalo Harmonica
James Burton Guitar
Bob Johnson Guitar, Lute, Mandocello
Jan Howard Background Vocals
Don Helms Steel Guitar
Bill Pursell Piano
Billy Strange Guitar
Gordon Terry Violin
Alisa Jones Hammered Dulcimer
Mother Maybelle Carter Autoharp
Johnny Western Guitar
Mark Morris Percussion
James Wilson Piano
Brian Ahern Guitar, Tambourine
Joseph Allen Electric Bass
The Anita Kerr Singers Background Vocals
Joe Babcock Banjo
Hal Blaine Drums
Earl Poole Ball Piano
Martin Belmont Guitar
Barbara Bennett Background Vocals
The Statler Brothers Background Vocals
Larry Butler Keyboards
Jimmy Capps Guitar
Jerry Carrigan Drums
Don Carter Background Vocals
Floyd Chance Bass
Jack Clement Guitar
Charles Cochran Piano
Donivan Cowart Background Vocals
Glen D. Hardin Keyboards
Nick DeCaro Accordion
Shane Keister Synthesizer
Ray Edenton Guitar
Tim Goodman Banjo, Guitar
Marshall Grant Bass
Jack Hale Trumpet, French Horn
Buddy Harman Drums
Jerry Hensley Guitar
Roy M. "Junior" Husky Bass
Dave Kirby Guitar
Irv Kluger Drums
Red Lane Guitar
Lynn Langham Background Vocals
Billy Ray Latham Banjo
Bob Lewin Trumpet, French Horn
Rufus Long Flute
Nick Lowe Bass
David Mansfield Mandocello
Bill McElhiney Trumpet
Terry McMillan Harmonica
Luther Perkins Guitar
Boots Randolph Saxophone
Jack Routh Guitar
Billy Sanford Guitar
Pete Thomas Drums
J.M. Van Eaton Drums
Pete Wade Guitar
Bob Wootton Guitar
Malcolm Yelvington Background Vocals
Hubert Anderson Vibes
W.S. Holland Drums
Marvin Hughes Piano
Sid Manker Guitar
Charlie McCoy Harmonica
Asa Wilkerson Background Vocals
Karl Garvin Trumpet
Morris Palmer Drums
Lee Holt Background Vocals
Cyd Mosteller Background Vocals
Jerry Sheff Bass
Bill Abbott Background Vocals
Sara Bruce Background Vocals
Jimmy Smith Piano
Nita Smith Background Vocals
Technical Credits
Lead Belly Composer
Johnny Cash Composer, Producer
Billy Edd Wheeler Composer
Brian Ahern Producer
Earl Poole Ball Producer
Charlie Bragg Producer
Larry Butler Producer
June Carter Cash Composer
Jack Clement Producer
Don Davis Producer
Bob Johnston Producer
Frank Jones Producer
Don Law Producer
Nick Lowe Producer
Jack Routh Producer
Arthur Levy Liner Notes
Sam Phillips Producer
Bill Flanagan Liner Notes
Robert Lunn Composer
Bill Johnson Art Direction
Gaby Rodgers Composer
Charlie Williams Composer
Traditional Composer
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