The 63-disc Johnny Cash: The Complete Columbia Album Collection ($230) brings together 59 albums. It starts with 1958's The Fabulous Johnny Cash, which featured his first No. 1 country single, Don't Take Your Guns to Town, and stretches through 1990's Highwayman 2 with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Cash, who died in 2003, would have turned 80 this year.
Cash embraced a variety of musical styles -- country and western, gospel, blues, rockabilly, traditional balladry and folk -- though with his gravelly deep baritone made each distinctly his own. The set includes 35 albums being released for the first time on CD in the USA. Each title is packaged as a mini-LP CD with its original artwork, including the five original gatefold albums in Cash's Columbia discography. It comes with a full-color booklet that includes information on every album: songwriters, recording dates and cities, musicians, guest performers, producers, release dates, catalog numbers and chart rankings.
Among the many rarities are two movie soundtracks produced in Nashville in 1970 by Bob Johnson: I Walk the Line, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Gregory Peck, and Little Fauss and Big Halsy, a motorcycle racing film starring Robert Redford and Lauren Hutton.
There are also two new compilations to complement the boxed set. Johnny Cash With His Hot & Blue Guitar, a 28-track collection of songs released during his Sun Records years (1954-58), and the two-CD The Singles, Plus, a 55-song collection spanning 1958-1985 and featuring singles that did not appear on his Columbia albums, plus guest appearances by Bob Dylan, the Carter Family, Mother Maybelle Carter, June Carter Cash, the Earl Scruggs Revue, Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson and Shel Silverstein.