Johnny Cash

Columbia Records 1958-1986

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Released in 1987, Columbia Records 1958-1986 is an excellent summary of his two and a half decades at the label, even if it is not perfect. First of all, the title is slightly misleading, because this compilation stops roughly around 1986 and the one new track, the opener "Oh, What a Dream," is really an outtake from the early '60s. Appropriately, the set favors music made in the late '50s and '60s, since that was Cash's artistic and commercial peak; out of the 20 songs, only four are from the '70s and only three date from the '80s. This isn't really lopsided, since this is his most popular music released on Columbia and, even though he made interesting records throughout his time there, it's also his best. There are some notable omissions -- "Daddy Sang Bass" isn't here, along with "The Rebel -- Johnny Yuma" and "Understand Your Man," not to mention a number of smaller hits -- but it hits most of the big songs ("I Still Miss Someone," "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," "Ring of Fire," "Boy Named Sue," "Sunday Morning Coming Down"), and overall provides a good, concise overview of his greatest hits for Columbia. This collection has since gone out of print, and while it hasn't been replaced by an equivalent Columbia-only collection, nearly all the tracks here are on the 1992 box set The Essential Johnny Cash.

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