This album could serve very easily as an introduction to Johnny Cash, far better than the same year's cringe-inducing (and cringe-inducingly titled) The Legend Lives On or the myriad repackaged Sun recordings. Gathering songs from Sun, Columbia, American and Mercury on one compilation, this disc covers all bases.
However, the only real problem - which to be fair is a bit of a big one - with this disc is its length. At just over an hour, this single-disc collection is a woeful under-representation of the fifty-year career of this legendary country star.
Luckily, this serves as an advantage in that there is not a single ounce of fat on this record; every song is utterly brilliant, despite the odd omission of anything from the first American album (1994). You get a sample of all stages of his career; the peerless title track's mariachi horns indicate his relationship with June Carter; 'Folsom Prison Blues,' one of his defining songs, resplendent in its classic Sun-records production, laden with echo; 'Highwayman,' his supergroup with Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson; the curio 'The Wanderer' (amusingly, one of two U2-penned songs on this Cash compilation) from that band's Zooropa album; and, of course, some fantastic songs from the American recordings.
While by no means the definitive Johnny Cash, this is a perfect way in for any budding Johnny Cash fan.