The Original | Best Of

Johnny Cash

Madacy Entertainment/Sony Music, 2004

http://www.johnnycash.com

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/16/2004

We've seen it time and time again, and it's still a damned shame. Sometimes, a man has to die to get respect (not to mention airplay, but that's a rant for another day.)

I glumly admit that I'm one of the ones who discovered Johnny Cash very late in his career; all I remembered him for were those Standard commercials in the 70s, and by the time I knew everything as a teenager he was hopelessly hokey, as far as I was concerned. Well, as it turned out I didn't know everything I thought I knew, and here as I begin the long roller-coaster slide towards forty, damned if Johnny Cash isn't brilliant.

So here's the quandary; when I get sent a greatest hits collection of Cash, I know the music is going to be good. The question is, why another CD? Why repackage yet more music? In this case, the answer is "Because it's a fine selection of early Johnny Cash music." While it might be easy to ignore this CD collection because familiarity breeds contempt, there are some valid reasons to check out my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Original.

The first is the sound quality, which is excellent. The crowd laughter and ambient sounds on "A Boy Named Sue" really brings home that this is a damned funny track, and has aged well. In fact, The Original has a very good sound to it; full and detailed, despite being tracks from early Columbia/CBS releases.

The second is the track selection. Unlike the 1987 Columbia Records 1958-1986 greatest hits or the 2001 Man In Black: The Very Best Of Johnny Cash, The Original is a focused selection of tracks They range, roughly, from 1956 ("I Walk The Line") to 1976 ("One Piece At A Time"); the era where Cash was more or less dominating the country charts and making considerable inroads on the pop charts. Surprisingly enough, in about a half hour of looking online I couldn't find a greatest hits for Cash that covers this period exclusively, despite there being more Johnny Cash greatest hits CDs (including wonders by K-Tel and TeeVee) than there are Democratic presidential candidates. There are box sets -- especially the exhaustively complete The Man In Black series put out by Bear Family Records -- but this is your best bet for a definitive sampling of Cash's early work that won't require you to drop forty bucks or more. There are two brief caveats here -- one, none of Cash's groundbreaking singles for Sun Records (with the exception of "I Walk The Line") are on this CD; and two, the liner notes are extremely sparse and completely opinion. I would have liked some more concrete information to put the songs in context.

In the end, though, these are minor considerations; if you take this for what it is, a survey of Cash's golden years with Columbia/CBS, it's an excellent collection and a good value. Fans should snap up The Original immediately, and for the curious who are wondering what all the fuss is about it's a great place to start.

Rating: A-

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© 2004 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Madacy Entertainment/Sony Music, and is used for informational purposes only.