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The Legend [Columbia] [Bonus CD & DVD]

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Johnny Cash 8/16/2005

Review

There have been in the neighborhood of ten CD box sets devoted to Johnny Cash, released on Columbia, Bear Family, and Collectables (this does not count overseas releases by Sony, or budget-line repackagings of three albums into one box set). Since 2000 there have been roughly 15 new major-label compilations, and that number balloons to nearly 90 comps if various and sundry two-fers, budget-line releases, and imports are factored into the equation. Add to that number the three major reissue campaigns -- Columbia/Legacy's expanded reissues of proper '60s and '70s records, Varese's series of Sun LP re-releases, and Mercury's revival of his largely overlooked '80s albums for the label -- plus the CDs released in the '80s and '90s that are still in print -- and there's not only an enormous amount of Johnny Cash music on the market, but every phase of his career is extraordinarily well-documented and easily available. With this in mind, it's initially hard to see the purpose of Columbia/Legacy's 2005 four-disc box set, The Legend. Sure, it's the first set to run the entire length of his career, from 1955 to 2002, but that statement in itself is a little misleading, suggesting that there's a significant sampling from his Rick Rubin-produced comeback recordings for American Records in the '90s, but that's not the case. In fact, there's nothing from those records, although there is a cut from the 1994 Red Hot + Country album and a smattering of other tracks he recorded in the last decade of his life included among the seven previously unreleased tracks on this 104-track box. So, this winds up being yet another repackaging of Cash's Columbia recordings, buttressed by several Sun standards ("Hey Porter," "Cry, Cry, Cry," "Luther Played the Boogie," "Get Rhythm," etc.). While this is familiar, this is by no means bad, since the music is not only good, but it's presented in an interesting manner, with each disc following a theme that's a little looser than Columbia's previous box, Love, God, Murder. Here, the first disc is called "Win, Place and Show -- The Hits," the second is "Old Favorites and New," the third is "The Great American Songbook," and the fourth is "Family and Friends." Although it's unclear what exactly separates the "hits" from the "favorites" -- if "Cry, Cry, Cry," "Get Rhythm," "Big River," and "I Got Stripes," all Top 15 country singles but all on the second disc, weren't hits, then what constitutes a hit? -- it seems that the former tends to favor funnier, poppier singles like "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," "A Boy Named Sue," and "The One on the Right Is on the Left," while the latter leans toward grittier numbers and standards that never charted (but even that isn't quite right, since the dark humor of "25 Minutes to Go" is on the second disc). In any case, both of the first two discs are good listens, filled with many of Cash's biggest hits and best songs. The third disc is similarly strong, featuring several of Cash's best readings of such standards -- recorded anywhere from 1955 to 1980, with most dating from the late '50s and '60s -- as "The Wreck of the Old 97," "Rock Island Line," "Delia's Gone," "In the Jailhouse Now," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," and "Time Changes Everything." However, despite a few good moments, such as his duet with Bob Dylan on "Girl from the North Country" from Nashville Skyline, the fourth disc isn't quite so compelling, largely because Johnny Cash is such an overpowering presence on record that he never made for a good duet partner. But even with the fourth disc being kind of weak, the other three are strong, which means this rivals Columbia's previous box set, 1992's The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 as the best multi-disc retrospective of Cash's weighty career. That doesn't mean it's perfect -- that fourth disc won't be played much, some may gripe that it doesn't contain much from the '80s or '90s, and some big songs like "Five Feet High and Rising" and "The Rebel Johnny Yuma" are MIA -- but Cash recorded so much and so much of it was not only good, but popular, that it's hard to whittle it down to one set, even if it does stretch out over four discs. The Legend does a very good job presenting the biggest and best of the prime of Johnny Cash's career -- enough to make it a good comprehensive introduction for the curious who want more than what the many, many very good single- or double-disc sets have to offer, enough to make it a nice overview for the casual fan who wants one set with much of his best in one place. But if you already have one or two Johnny Cash comps in your collection, think long and hard before picking this up, and if you have five, ten, or 20 Cash discs, you don't even need to consider adding this to your collection: you have almost all of this already and the packaging, while nice, isn't enough to make this necessary. [The Legend was also released in a deluxe edition, packaged as a large, hardcover book and containing a bonus CD and DVD.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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  1. # Track Artist Length
  2. 1 I Walk the Line Johnny Cash 2:44
  3. 2 There You Go Johnny Cash 2:17
  4. 3 Home of the Blues Johnny Cash 2:38
  5. 4 Ballad of a Teenage Queen Johnny Cash 2:10
  6. 5 Guess Things Happen That Way Johnny Cash 1:49
  7. 6 The Ways of a Woman in Love Johnny Cash 2:15
  8. 7 Don't Take Your Guns to Town Johnny Cash 3:2
  9. 8 Ring of Fire Johnny Cash 2:36
  10. 9 The Matador Johnny Cash 2:44
  11. 10 Understand Your Man Johnny Cash 2:42
  12. 11 The Ballad of Ira Hayes Johnny Cash 4:8
  13. 12 Orange Blossom Special Johnny Cash 3:6
  14. 13 The One on the Right Is on the Left Johnny Cash 2:47
  15. 14 Rosanna's Going Wild Johnny Cash 1:58
  16. 15 Folsom Prison Blues Johnny Cash 2:43
  17. 16 Daddy Sang Bass Johnny Cash 2:20
  18. 17 A Boy Named Sue Johnny Cash 3:45
  19. 18 What Is Truth Johnny Cash 2:38
  20. 19 Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down Johnny Cash 4:7
  21. 20 Flesh and Blood Johnny Cash 2:36
  22. 21 Man in Black Johnny Cash 2:52
  23. 22 A Thing Called Love Johnny Cash 2:33
  24. 23 Kate Johnny Cash 2:17
  25. 24 Oney [Single Version] Johnny Cash 3:5
  26. 25 Any Old Wind That Blows Johnny Cash 2:47
  27. 26 One Piece at a Time Johnny Cash 4:0
  28. 27 (Ghost) Riders in the Sky Johnny Cash 3:46
  29. 1 Hey Porter Johnny Cash 2:13
  30. 2 Cry! Cry! Cry! Johnny Cash 2:23
  31. 3 Luther Played the Boogie Johnny Cash 2:3
  32. 4 Get Rhythm Johnny Cash 2:13
  33. 5 Give My Love to Rose Johnny Cash 2:44
  34. 6 I Was There When It Happened Johnny Cash 2:15
  35. 7 Big River Johnny Cash 2:30
  36. 8 I Still Miss Someone Johnny Cash 2:36
  37. 9 Pickin' Time Johnny Cash 1:57
  38. 10 The Man on the Hill Johnny Cash 2:7
  39. 11 Five Feet High and Rising Johnny Cash 1:45
  40. 12 Tennessee Flat-Top Box Johnny Cash 2:58
  41. 13 I Got Stripes Johnny Cash 2:3
  42. 14 Troublesome Waters Johnny Cash 3:49
  43. 15 The Long Black Veil Johnny Cash 3:5
  44. 16 Dark as a Dungeon Johnny Cash 2:27
  45. 17 The Wall Johnny Cash 2:9
  46. 18 25 Minutes to Go Johnny Cash 3:12
  47. 19 Cocaine Blues Johnny Cash 2:50
  48. 20 Doin' My Time Johnny Cash 4:13
  49. 21 I Will Rock and Roll With You Johnny Cash 2:51
  50. 22 Without Love Johnny Cash 2:29
  51. 23 The Big Light Johnny Cash 2:40
  52. 24 Highway Patrolman Johnny Cash 5:20
  53. 25 I'm Never Gonna Roam Again Johnny Cash 2:34
  54. 26 When I'm Gray Johnny Cash 3:32
  55. 27 Forever Young Johnny Cash 6:16
  56. 1 The Wreck of the Old 97 Johnny Cash 1:45
  57. 2 Rock Island Line Johnny Cash 2:9
  58. 3 Goodnight Irene Johnny Cash 2:39
  59. 4 Goodbye, Little Darlin' Johnny Cash 2:13
  60. 5 Born to Lose Johnny Cash 2:9
  61. 6 Walking the Blues Johnny Cash 2:12
  62. 7 Frankie's Man, Johnny Johnny Cash 2:16
  63. 8 Delia's Gone [Alternate Take] Johnny Cash 3:0
  64. 9 In the Jailhouse Now Johnny Cash 2:21
  65. 10 Waiting for a Train Johnny Cash 2:8
  66. 11 Casey Jones Johnny Cash 3:3
  67. 12 The Legend of John Henry's Hammer Johnny Cash 8:25
  68. 13 I've Been Working on the Railroad [Demo] Johnny Cash 3:26
  69. 14 Sweet Betsy from Pike Johnny Cash 3:18
  70. 15 The Streets of Laredo Johnny Cash 3:39
  71. 16 Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie Johnny Cash 2:27
  72. 17 Down in the Valley [Demo] Johnny Cash 3:10
  73. 18 Wabash Cannonball Johnny Cash 2:40
  74. 19 The Great Speckle Bird Johnny Cash 2:7
  75. 20 Wildwood Flower Johnny Cash 2:10
  76. 21 Cotton Fields Johnny Cash 2:33
  77. 22 Pick a Bale O' Cotton Johnny Cash 1:57
  78. 23 Old Shep Johnny Cash 2:23
  79. 24 I'll Be All Smiles Tonight Johnny Cash 2:47
  80. 25 I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry Johnny Cash 2:39
  81. 26 Time Changes Everything Johnny Cash 1:49
  82. 1 Keep on the Sunny Side Johnny Cash 2:16
  83. 2 Diamonds in the Rough Johnny Cash 3:10
  84. 3 (There'll Be) Peace in the Valley Johnny Cash 2:48
  85. 4 Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord) Johnny Cash 3:55
  86. 5 Another Man Done Gone Johnny Cash 2:36
  87. 6 Pick the Wildwood Flower Johnny Cash 2:58
  88. 7 Jackson Johnny Cash 2:45
  89. 8 If I Were a Carpenter Johnny Cash 3:0
  90. 9 Girl from the North Country Johnny Cash 3:39
  91. 10 One More Ride Johnny Cash 3:26
  92. 11 You Can't Beat Jesus Christ Johnny Cash 3:39
  93. 12 There Ain't No Good Chain Gang Johnny Cash 3:17
  94. 13 We Oughta Be Ashamed Johnny Cash 2:45
  95. 14 Crazy Old Soldier Johnny Cash 3:34
  96. 15 Silver Haired Daddy of Mine Johnny Cash 2:48
  97. 16 Who's Gene Autry? Johnny Cash 3:51
  98. 17 The Night Hank Williams Came to Town Johnny Cash 3:23
  99. 18 I Walk the Line (Revisited) Johnny Cash 3:51
  100. 19 Highwayman Waylon Jennings 3:3
  101. 20 The Wanderer U2 4:43
  102. 21 September When It Comes Johnny Cash 3:39
  103. 22 Tears in the Holston River Johnny Cash 3:41
  104. 23 Far Side Banks of Jordan Johnny Cash 2:42
  105. 24 It Takes One to Know Me Johnny Cash 3:36
  106. 1 Kwem Announcements and Advertisements Johnny Cash 0:47
  107. 2 Johnny Cash Show Intro and Theme Johnny Cash 1:38
  108. 3 Wide Open Road Johnny Cash 2:28
  109. 4 Home Equipment Company Advertisement Johnny Cash 1:17
  110. 5 One More Ride Johnny Cash 2:20
  111. 6 Home Equipment Company Advertisement/Luther Perkins Intro Johnny Cash 1:51
  112. 7 Luther's Boogie Johnny Cash 0:45
  113. 8 Belshazzar Intro Johnny Cash 0:43
  114. 9 Belshazzar Johnny Cash 2:19
  115. 10 Closing Comments and Theme Johnny Cash 1:26
  116. 11 Overton Park Shell "Country Music Jamboree" Advertisement by ... Johnny Cash 1:1
  117. 1 The Man in Black [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  118. 2 Hey Porter [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  119. 3 Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  120. 4 You're a Part of Me [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  121. 5 Pick the Wildwood Flower [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  122. 6 Folsom Prison Blues [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  123. 7 There Ain't No Good Chain Gang [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  124. 8 Ragged Old Flag [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  125. 9 A Boy Named Sue [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  126. 10 We Got Paid by Cash [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  127. 11 Blue Suede Shoes [DVD] Carl Perkins null:null
  128. 12 I Walk the Line/Ring of Fire [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null
  129. 13 Will the Circle Be Unbroken [DVD] Johnny Cash null:null

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