Johnny Cash – The Legend [Sony/BMG, 2005]

Johnny Cash - The LegendJohnny Cash’s career was neatly bookended by stints at the legendary Sun label and Rick Rubin’s American recordings. While the former is represented by The Man In Black’s first single, Hey Porter, whose 50th anniversary is the flimsy basis for this set, it must really gall the chaps at Sony/BMG that they don’t have access to the latter. Especially since his critical renaissance was propelled by those volumes of recordings issued before his death.

In between Sun and American came a very fruitful time at CBS (Columbia in the States). This varied in success between his concept albums and the genre-defining prison sessions. Eventually, the label tired of Cash’s commercial ups and downs and unceremoniously dumped him. He then had short spells at other labels – Mercury, Sugar Hill, Island, Capitol – without anyone really noticing. The Rubin discs and a Glastonbury appearance changed all that!

This four-themed-CD collection (there is also a “Deluxe” extras-packed version available) is notable for its variety, including seven unreleased tracks. The classics are all present, natch, but so are some interesting oddities. The country Hall of Fame is well represented on the Family And Friends disc and even U2 make an appearance. Exactly whose credibility was enhanced by whom, though, is debatable.

Obviously the quality of the music is unimpeachable. However, any compilation which doesn’t include Hurt, for example, is devalued by such an omission.

Mark Walker

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