No Johnny Cash compilation can ever include everything but this collection contains all the essentials from the fifties and sixties, his most productive period that yielded classic songs such as Hey porter, I walk the line, Big river, Don't take your guns to town, Five feet high and rising, I still miss someone, Ring of fire, Understand your man, It ain't me babe (with June Carter Cash), Orange blossom special, Jackson (with June Carter Cash) and A boy named Sue. All these songs and many others are included here.
The fifties and sixties take up the whole of the first CD and almost half of the second CD so, inevitably, there isn't a lot of room for his later music. Even so, the omission of A thing called love (a top five pop hit in Britain and also a big hit in America) will surprise some people. Of the seventies songs included here, the best is One piece at a time, an amusing song about assembling a car from stolen car parts.
Another feature of this compilation is the number of guests including Bob Dylan (Girl from the north country), Marty Robbins (Song of the patriot), Waylon Jennings (The night Hank Williams came to town) and U2 (The wanderer). On Highwaymen, Johnny is joined by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, who recorded three albums together as the Highwaymen. This name was originally used by a sixties folk group (famous for Michael row the boat ashore) and sometimes causes confusion.
This compilation is based on another double CD (Essential) with four tracks added - So doggone lonesome, Daddy sang bass, Forty shades of green and Man in white.
Despite the omission of A thing called love, this is an excellent collection of Johnny's music.