Johnny Cash has that sweet and mean old preacher quality that I like. He's one of the greatest dudes that ever walked around.
see June Carter Cash
Suggested first purchase/best of: Man in Black--Greatest Hits
Suggested first album: At Folsom Prison
The Sun Years (1990) -- An important collection, like Elvis's Sun collection, and enjoyable until you realize that the trademark Johnny Cash rhythm is going to be present on almost every song, which wears after an album's worth. Shoot me. I still like it, and to my eyes this is one of the essential albums for people like me who really like Johnny Cash, but know they can't buy all 100+ albums so have to choose their collections carefully.
Sings the Ballads of the True West (1965) -- Some of the narration gets in the way (though, if you're in the mood, adds to the effect), but the songs here are pretty great: a collection of originals, contemporary songs, and traditionals all having to do with the Old West. The best songs are "Hardin Wouldn't Run," "Mr. Garfield," "Sam Hall," "25 Minutes To Go," and "Stampede." The songs are delivered with a reverence for the subject matter when appropriate, and delivered hilariously at other times. Only Johnny Cash could pull this off without seeming hokey. Overall, it makes you feel like you're in Frontierland at Disneyland, which is a good thing.
At Folsom Prison (1968) -- Any guy who puts on a concert at a prison and records it for his live album kicks so much ass that I can't begin to describe it here. The song selection is great for the prisoners, and the performance is great, and the 1999 uncut reissue only makes this classic album better.
At San Quentin (1969) -- Even better than At Folsom Prison simply because he's less boom-chicky and more rock and roll. Johnny's a real badass on this album, completely in control of the audience (including the record-listening audience). The 2000 reissue is uncut, making this a true must-have.
Man in Black: Greatest Hits (1999) -- The best general-purpose Cash collection I found. Combined with the Sun recordings, this ends up rounding out most of his hugest songs.
American Recordings (1994) -- The beginning of the new Johnny Cash, away from his country background and settling into the alternative music scene which is the only place he could really turn. My daddy don't like this album. The recording is pretty much just Cash and a guitar, thanks to Rick Ruben's production, and the simplicity works thanks to Johnny Cash's wonderful voice and delivery.
Unchained (1996) -- I like this even better than the previous album since this one employs a band (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) which give the album a full sound. Johnny Cash ups the hipness ante on this one, doing Beck and Soundgarden covers. Making other peoples' songs his own is one of his talents, and he does it great here. A pretty consistent record, with some of the standouts being "Spiritual" and "Southern Accents."
American Recordings III: Solitary Man (2000) -- This one is very much like Unchained, but where that one was more consistently good, this one has some real standouts which make the lesser numbers that much less. Those standouts include "One" and "I See a Darkness." This album has darker feel to it, which works well, and Cash's voice seems more in your own bedroom than ever.
American Recordings IV: When the Man Comes Around (2002) -- The title track is probably the best thing on the album (a Johnny Cash original, proving that he's not just limited to interesting covers). The other standouts are "Hurt," "I Hung My Head," and "We'll Meet Again." A "softer" version of the American Recordings, this one has a certain sweetness and calmness to it. When I heard it, I felt it would be the last album he'd ever do, since it had a feel of finality to it (especially the last song, "We'll Meet Again" with everyone joining in), and indeed, except for American V which was released posthumously, it was. We'll see you again though, Johnny. We love you.
A Heart of a Legend (2002) -- Even though all the songs are great and it contains many of the biggest hits, it's not the most comprehensive greatest hits collection--just another one.
Christmas with Johnny Cash (2002) -- They haven't put out a comprehensive Johnny Cash Christmas collection yet, so this (or any other you find) will do. If you want my recommendation for a single Christmas album, I'd go with 1980's Classic Christmas.
American V: A Hundred Highways (2006) -- Released after his death, this was the last Johnny Cash album ever. Even more than American IV, it's soft and death-y, giving it a consistency. Standouts include "God's Gonna Cut You Down," "On the Evening Train," and "I Came To Believe."
Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash: 16 Biggest Hits (2006) -- This is the first collection of Johnny and June's duets. It seems more or less definitive.
Copyright (c) Nov 2000 - Feb 2008 by Rusty Likes Music