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Personnel includes: Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Marty Robbins, The Carter Family, June Carter Cash, U2. Producers include: Sam Phillips, Jack Clement, Don Law, Frank Jones, Bob Johnston. Compilation producers: Nick Shaffran, Nedra Olds-Neal. Recorded between May 1955 and May 1993. All tracks have been digitally remastered. In the past, if you wanted a Johnny Cash compilation, you were basically confined by licensing issues, as Cash’s seminal Sun recordings weren’t generally available in the same place as his more eclectic Columbia output. THE ESSENTIAL JOHNNY CASH solves that problem, tying together the various eras of Cash’s career on a generous 35-track, two-disc set. Accordingly, this anthology is damn near definitive. From the raw, sparse rockabilly flavor of “Hey Porter” and “Get Rhythm” to the gospel roots of “Where You There (When They Crucified My Lord,” the first disc moves neatly through Cash’s early career. Disc two documents Cash’s expansion into ever more varied stylistic avenues. Countrified covers of Bob Dylan (“It Ain’t Me Babe”) and Tim Hardin (“If I Were a Carpenter”) exemplify his fascination with folk-rock. The socially conscious “Man in Black” and the patriotic “Ragged Old Flag” perfectly display the ostensibly conflicting sides of this complex artist’s sensibilities. Album-closer “The Wanderer” finds Cash collaborating with U2, filling his role as icon to a whole new generation of artists.