An under-appreciated period of Johnny Cash’s lengthy recording career will be reexamined with the April 24th release of a seven-disc box set, The Complete Mercury Recordings 1986-1991, and a 24-cut “best of” collection representing highlights from this period. The CD set also includes several rare or previously unreleased tracks and an additional 20-track collection titled Classic Cash: Hall Of Fame Series (Early Mixes), featuring material mastered from tapes newly discovered in the Mercury vaults. While the vinyl version does not include this LP, it will be available as a limited-edition LP on Record Store Day, April 18th. Also being issued is the new greatest hits album Easy Rider: The Best of the Mercury Recordings. Collecting 24 cuts from Cash’s Mercury output, the album will be available as a single CD, double LP and digital download.
Picking up right after Cash was dropped by Columbia Records in July 1986, the first album in the set revisits his Sun Records roots with Class of ʼ55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming, reuniting him with Sun labelmates Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Produced by Chips Moman, special guests on the LP include Sun founder Sam Phillips, rockers John Fogerty, Rick Nelson and Dave Edmunds, songwriter Dan Penn, the Judds, June Carter Cash and famed producer Cowboy Jack Clement.
Cash and Clement, who worked together at Sun and beyond, would re-team for Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town, an album featuring Waylon Jennings, Cash’s then-son-in-law Marty Stuart, and Carlene Carter with her mother June and aunts Helen and Anita Carter. Among the memorable cuts on the LP is Cash’s buoyant rendition of Elvis Costello’s “The Big Light,” which opens the album, and Cash’s poignant reading of Guy Clark’s “Let Him Roll.” Water From the Wells of Home features Rosanne Cash, Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney, Glen Campbell, Jessi Colter, the Everly Brothers, Tom T. Hall, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr. Cash would duet with the latter on “The Old Wheel,” a 1988 hit that narrowly missed the Top Twenty but gave the Man in Black the highest chart entry of his tenure at Mercury.
Seven bonus tracks, including the unreleased “I Draw the Line,” augment 1988’s Boom Chicka Boom, which also includes Cash’s cover of the Harry Chapin hit, “Cat’s in the Cradle” and another Elvis Costello tune, “Hidden Shame,” written especially for Cash. His final LP for Mercury, 1991’s The Mystery of Life, put the spotlight on Cash’s songwriting with “The Greatest Cowboy of Them All” and “I’m An Easy Rider,” and found him interpreting tunes by Tom T. Hall and John Prine. The LP’s highlight is an extended version of “The Wanderer,” Cash’s collaboration with U2, previously available only on the soundtrack album of director Wim Wenders’ film Faraway, So Close.
The Complete Mercury Recordings 1986-1991 will be available as seven-CD set and a seven-LP set, with each album also available individually on 180-gram black vinyl. Classic Cash: Hall of Fame Series, which finds the singer revisiting such iconic tunes as “Get Rhythm,” “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” will be released as a two-LP set.
The Complete Mercury Recordings 1986-1991 and Easy Rider: The Best of the Mercury Recordings will be available April 24th.