Johnny Cash

Love, God, Murder [3 CD]

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Each of the three CDs in this box set are comprised of 16 songs devoted to a single theme: love, God, and murder, of course. And each of the three CDs is available separately should you not have a yen for one or two of the discs. Certainly there is a lot of notable music on this box, as it was personally chosen by Cash himself from recordings spanning the mid-'50s to the mid-'90s, mostly heavily weighting the 1955-70 period. There are a few well-known classics here that virtually anyone considering buying this will already know (and probably have), like "I Walk the Line," "I Still Miss Someone," "Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues," and "The Long Black Veil." The emphasis, however, is on LP tracks, B-sides, and live recordings that probably won't be familiar to the moderate Cash fan; there are also three mid-'60s tracks previously unreleased in the U.S., though none of them are particularly outstanding. Some of those obscure songs are excellent ("Oh, What a Dream," the brutal hangman humor of "Joe Bean," "Mister Garfield") and almost all of them are worth hearing. And each of the CDs is decorated by liner notes from Cash and a celebrity (his wife June Carter for Love, Bono of U2 for God, and director Quentin Tarantino for Murder). The question still nags: who exactly will find this box wholly satisfying? Not the average Cash fan, who wants a smaller greatest-hits set with more familiar tunes. Not the rabid Cash fan, who probably already has much of this, and might want more well-balanced and thorough boxes, such as those issued on Bear Family of Cash's early material. It's for the in-betweeners, who certainly find the more conventional box retrospective The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 the essential first stop.

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