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." This 19-track collection covers ground so obvious that it's a wonder there hasn't been a similar compilation before: it showcases Cash's chart-toppers. Strictly speaking, some of these singles did not reach number one -- 1958's "The Ways of a Woman in Love" and 1979's "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" peaked at two, while 1958's "What Do I Care" topped out at eight -- and a good case could be made that "Get Rhythm," the charting flip of "I Walk the Line," should have been here, but that's ultimately nitpicking as this provides a single-disc overview of Cash's charting years unlike any other compilation on the market. Usually, Cash compilations concentrate on his enduring standards, which aren't necessarily the same thing as his biggest hits. This means that there are some very big songs missing here -- "Hey Porter," "Cry Cry Cry," "I Still Miss Someone," "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," "Five Feet High and Rising," "Jackson," and "I Got Stripes" are all absent -- but in their place is a handful of comparatively overlooked hits like "What Do I Care," "The One on the Right Is on the Left," "Flesh and Blood," and "One Piece at a Time," songs that add chronological context to the staples on this set. And that's why even with the notable omissions this is still an excellent overview and introduction to Cash: it's a vivid snapshot of his peak.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: The Highwaymen