Where to start?
Though opinions will differ, here are my suggestions in exploring and buying the music of Johnny Cash.
First Cut: The Legend of Johnny Cash
Probably the best single CD to sample Cash's entire career. Has the early hits like "I Walk the Line" and "Folsom Prison Blues," mid-career hits like "Ring of Fire" and selections from the Rick Rubin years like "Rusty Cage," "Hurt," and "When the Man Comes Around."
Deeper Cut: Love God Murder
A three CD set hand-picked by Cash spanning his career. Liner notes from June Carter on Love, from Bono on God and Quentin Tarantino on, you guessed it, Murder.
The Concept Albums
First Cut: Ride This Train
Cash's first concept album, the one many consider to be his best. Songs of America with Cash narrating between musical "stops" on a cross-country train ride.
Deeper Cuts: Bitter Tears and Sings Ballads of the True West
The Prison Concerts
First Cut: At Folsom Prison
The legendary concert. If you have only one Johnny Cash album this should be it.
Deeper Cut: At San Quentin
The concert that brought the world "A Boy Named Sue."
The Sun Years
First Cut: With His Hot Blue Guitar!
Johnny Cash's very first album. This is Cash's early Rock & Roll sound as he recorded at Sun with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Deeper Cut: Sings the Songs that Made Him Famous
The Columbia Years
First Cut: The Fabulous Johnny Cash
Cash's first Columbia album.
Deeper Cut: Orange Blossom Special
Bob Dylan gave Cash three songs for Orange Blossom Special, a time when Cash was trying to connect with the folk music movement. Beyond that there are so many albums from the Columbia years that's it is hard to pick.
The Rick Rubin Years
First Cut: American IV: The Man Comes Around
The last album released by Cash before his death. Has "Hurt" and "The Man Comes Around."
Deeper Cuts: Any of the American albums: American Recordings, Unchained, American 3: Solitary Man.
I'll now turn it over to Johnny Cash fans. What are your favorite Johnny Cash albums?