Johnnie Ray was an immediately recognizable vocal stylist whose histrionic sobbing and exaggerated "blue" notes won as many detractors as fans. But the sheer outrageousness of his performance style, which exhibited a dynamic physicality not seen again in a white singer until Elvis Presley came along, makes Ray a clear forerunner of rock & roll and an exciting entertainer who always seemed to be on the verge of losing control. Cry is a five-disc box set that compiles Ray's complete Columbia recordings from 1951-1956, including the major hits "Cry," "The Little White Cloud That Cried," and "Just Walking in the Rain." Those familiar with Ray's biography may be surprised at the number of gospel songs in his catalog, which display an outpouring of spiritual fervor as desperate in tenor as the dangerously unfettered sexuality of secular songs like "Such a Night." The fifth disc contains two complete live albums, the remarkable Live at the London Palladium (also available separately from Bear Family Records) and a later Las Vegas show. At the Palladium, Ray's lascivious oohs and ahhs on "Such a Night" drive the female audience members into a frenzy, and then, minutes later, he's singing "I'm Gonna Walk and Talk with My Lord." This tension between the sinful and the sacred is ever-present in Ray's music when heard in its entirety as presented on this box set, which makes for a fascinating listening experience comparable to the tortured oeuvre of Hank Williams. Unlike Williams, though, Ray also displays a strain of childlike innocence, as on "The Little White Cloud That Cried," that only adds to his inscrutably complex persona. The accompanying hardback book contains a lengthy essay by Ray biographer Johnny Whiteside and a generous selection of photos and memorabilia almost as riveting as the music itself. Bear Family subsequently released a second box set, Yes Tonight Josephine, which picks up where Cry leaves off.