Johnny Cash: The Legend

Retrospective of country giant comes close to fitting it all in

The idea behind this collection sounds almost like a pub argument rather than a serious proposition: can you produce a tracklisting for a single CD which can accurately and fairly sum up Johnny Cash’s five-decade career? No earlier Cash best-of has attempted such a feat, choosing instead to focus on the best known period of his life, but this collection tries harder – and nearly pulls it off. There’s ‘Cry Cry Cry’ from his early Sun Records days and a fair slice of his imperial ‘Ring Of Fire’ phase at Columbia, right up to ‘Hurt’, the Nine Inch Nails cover which conclusively proved the continuum between raw country and heavy rock. A couple of bum choices let things down – the woeful duet with U2, ‘The Wanderer’, is presumably here only to move a few extra copies and takes space that could have been put to better use showcasing, say, the work he did with his wife June Carter Cash. And the lack of ‘Five Feet High And Rising’ is a disappointment. But trying to condense 50 years into 70-odd minutes is no easy task, and mostly ‘The Legend’ does it well. It’s nowhere near all the Cash you need, but it’s a near-perfect overview.

Simon Hayes Budgen
9 / 10

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