by: Johnny Cash

Sixteen songs and you're going to adequately sum up Johnny Cash's take on love, the most common element in his lyrics (as love is in the lyrics of most popular music performers). That's more of a sampler than a survey. Still, this is a decent compilation, spanning 1956-1996, and understandably most heavy on the earliest part of that period; only three of the songs postdate 1970. "I Walk the Line," "Ring of Fire," and "I Still Miss Someone" will be familiar to, and most likely already in the collection of, any Cash listener. To its credit though, the bulk of this disc spotlights LP tracks that are not all that well known, and are sometimes superb, such as "Oh, What a Dream." Also to its credit, this emphasizes the starker and less embellished of Cash's productions, with little in the way of gloppy supplements to the guitars and voices. Cash never sounded more like Leonard Cohen than he did on the brief "'Cause I Love You" (recorded 1969), though it's more likely that Cash influenced Cohen than it is the other way around. As bait to the completists, perhaps, there are two songs that were previously unreleased in the U.S.: the 1964 Cash-June Carter composition "My Old Faded Rose," whose jivey vocal does not sound altogether serious, and the 1967 cut "I Tremble for You" (co-penned by Cash and L.C. DeWitt Jr.), which has a satisfying acoustic demo ambience. June Carter contributes the liner notes. Love is also available as part of the three-CD box set Love God Murder, comprised of thematic discs that are available together or separately. ~ Richie Unterberger

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