As great as Cash's Sun catalog was, it's been reissued on so many compilations that one wonders whether the world needs any more. This 25-track single disc, after all, appears just three years after The Complete Original Sun Singles, also on the Varese Sarabande label, which covers much of the same territory, albeit with greater depth as it contains two discs and 40 songs. Should your budget or patience extend just to one CD, though, The Essential Sun Singles is about as good as any single-disc Sun-period Cash compilation likely to be assembled. The major hits "Cry Cry Cry," "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line," "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," "Big River," "Guess Things Happen That Way," "Come in Stranger," "The Ways of a Woman in Love" -- they're all here. So are pretty good smaller hits like "Straight A's in Love" and "Next in Line," the odd non-charting B-side like "Get Rhythm," and one song (a cover of "Rock Island Line") that was actually an album track, not a 45. It's all classic country music with liberal dips of rockabilly, pop, and folk, with enough historical liner notes to give novices a decent grounding in Cash's early career.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger