Help me listen to Johnny Cash

iTunes has 16 Biggest Hits and the Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983. Are either of these worth starting out with or should I be getting individual albums?

well, im not too well up on this new-fangled i-tunes malarky, i just bought “Man in Black” one of his greatest hits albums. Put it on the car cd, and go for a looonng drive. Standout tracks are “sunday morning coming down” “folsom prison blues” and “Highwayman”. Oh, and “The Wanderer”.

Might I suggest a different approach, Chairman Pow?

I am a huge fan of Johnny Cash’s “comeback” albums produced by Rick Rubin. I usually recommend these albums before listening to the older stuff. In order of production, these albums are:

American Recordings
American III: Solitary Man
American IV: The Man Comes Around

While I love listening to Boy Named Sue and Ring of Fire, I think that the later stuff is absolutely amazing. Some of it’s haunting, some of it’s intense, all of it is good.

Try American IV. It has Hurt, Personal Jesus, I Hung My Head, We’ll Meet Again - hell the whole album is great.

On the other hand, if you’re hellbent to listen to older Cash NOW - then I would suggest buying the Johnny Cash iTunes essentials (the Basics) rather than the box set. I think it’s a fairly good introduction.

  • Peter Wiggen

I have the CD set “The Complete Sun Recordings”, which is, of course, the very oldest Johnny Cash available.

I prefer his older recordings, Home of the Blues, Mean Eyed Cat, Hey Porter, and so forth.
Diffrent strokes and alla that. Either way, it’s hard to go wrong with Johnny Cash.

The 16 Biggest Hits collection is fine for new listeners. It will give you a decent overall idea of his work, but his newer stuff is definitely worth a listen. One of my favorites is Unearthed IV: My Mother’s Hymn Book in which he sings his favorite childhood hymns. Just Johnny with his guitar, a very personal album.

But, my mainstay Cash albums are his live ones: At Folsom Prison and At San Quentin. They both give great insights into Cash’s character as well as being very entertaining listens.

There’s a terrific 3-disc box set called Love God Murder, which takes songs from the full range of his career (Sun Records to American Recordings) and organizes them by each of these 3 themes. They also include live tracks, so you’ll get a good balance, as well as see how incredibly varied his observations on these three topics could be–frightening, uplifting, tragic, extremely personal and touching.