Johnny Cash, 'The Complete Columbia Collection' (Columbia/Legacy, $255.99)

Cash spent the bulk of his legendary career on Columbia, and this box collects 63 CDs spanning 1958 to 1985. Cash kept the hits rolling through the '60s and most of the '70s, which enabled him to call many of his own shots. There were huge hits such as "At Folsom Prison" and its sequel, "At San Quentin," which gave him the license to craft concept albums such as "Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indians," the frontier travelogue "Ride This Train," the cinematic Wild West narrative "Sings the Ballads of the True West," and the workingman's tribute "Blood, Sweat and Tears." These are as essential to his legacy as a songwriter, social activist and voice of the outsider as anything he ever recorded. After the hits dried up, he continued to produce daring if unsung albums such as "Silver" (1979) and the gritty "Johnny 99" (1983). There were also a few duds and toss-offs, but they're in the minority. If you're going to go deep on any artist of the last century, this set makes an eloquent case for Cash.

( December 7, 2012 )

Cash spent the bulk of his legendary career on Columbia, and this box collects 63 CDs spanning 1958 to 1985. Cash kept the hits rolling through the '60s and most of the '70s, which enabled him to call many of his own shots. There were huge hits such as "At Folsom Prison" and its sequel, "At San Quentin," which gave him the license to craft concept albums such as "Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indians," the frontier travelogue "Ride This Train," the cinematic Wild West narrative "Sings the Ballads of the True West," and the workingman's tribute "Blood, Sweat and Tears." These are as essential to his legacy as a songwriter, social activist and voice of the outsider as anything he ever recorded. After the hits dried up, he continued to produce daring if unsung albums such as "Silver" (1979) and the gritty "Johnny 99" (1983). There were also a few duds and toss-offs, but they're in the minority. If you're going to go deep on any artist of the last century, this set makes an eloquent case for Cash.

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