Johnny Cash

The Greatest: Gospel Songs

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As part of Columbia/Legacy's ongoing celebration of Johnny Cash's 80th Birthday in 2012, the label assembled a series of compilations under the rubric "The Greatest." Gospel Songs rounds up 14 spiritual songs Cash recorded between 1957 and 1976, with most of the selections deriving either from the late '50s or early '60s. Surprisingly, there's very little overlap with his 1959 LP Hymns -- only "The Old Account" is shared -- as this cherry-picks gospel tunes that appeared on other LPs over the years. Sometimes the definition of "gospel" is expanded slightly, with a cover of Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions' "Amen" included along with the hit "Daddy Sang Bass" -- they're both spiritual in nature -- and the selections aren't strictly country-gospel, either, and that leads to a compilation that is livelier and musically more varied than other similar collections. And that also means it's better -- this doesn't rely on somber reverence, there's joy to be heard in these 14 songs.

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