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Johnny Cash’s Mercury Years Reexamined On Suite Of Releases

They will include a new box set, a compilation and individual vinyl reissues of an often overlooked and underappreciated period in Cash’s career.

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Johnny Cash Mercury Recordings

The albums that Johnny Cash made for Mercury Records between 1986 and 1991 are to be honoured with a suite of releases from Mercury/UMe on 24 April. They will include a new box set, a compilation and individual vinyl reissues of an often overlooked and underappreciated period in the career of the country titan.

The comprehensive new box set, The Complete Mercury Recordings 1986-1991, will be available on 7CD or 7LP on 180 gram vinyl. It collects all six albums made during that era: Class of ’55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming (1986), Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town (1987), Water From The Wells Of Home (1988), Classic Cash: Hall of Fame Series (1988), Boom Chicka Boom (1990) and The Mystery Of Life (1991).

The albums are presented in a handsome slipcase emblazoned with the distinctive, bold Cash logo. All of the LPs have been remastered from the original Mercury master tapes by Kevin Reeves at UMG Studios Nashville. The set was assembled by the Grammy Award-winning producer Bill Levenson and includes extensive new liner notes by respected music journalist Scott Schinder.

Record Store Day exclusive

The CD version of The Complete Mercury Recordings 1986-1991 is augmented with several rare or previously unreleased tracks and an additional 20-track disc of mixes, Classic Cash: Hall Of Fame Series (Early Mixes). These have been mastered from tapes newly discovered in the Mercury vaults. They’re not part of the vinyl box set, but are being released on 18 April as a Record Store Day exclusive, as a stand-alone limited edition double LP.

Easy Rider: The Best Of The Mercury Recordings, a new collection of 24 highlights from Cash’s Mercury catalogue, will also be available, as a single CD, double LP and digital download. Also on 24 April, each of the albums will be released individually on 180 gram black vinyl, with Classic Cash: Hall Of Fame Series as a two-LP set. It’s the first time that Cash’s Mercury albums have been reissued.

The Class of ’55

This prolific period for the Man In Black, after the end of his 30-year association with Columbia Records, encompassed six albums in five years, at a time when he was also still touring extensively. The sequence began with the fondly-remembered Class of ’55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming, which reunited him with fellow alumni from the early days of Sun Records, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins.

Veteran Memphis producer Chips Moman oversaw a delightful mix of old and new material, including the Cash-led ‘I Will Rock and Roll with You’ and the tribute to their fallen Sun comrade Elvis Presley, ‘We Remember The King.’ Another ode to Elvis, John Fogerty’s ‘Big Train from Memphis,’ featured Fogerty, June Carter Cash, Rick Nelson, Dave Edmunds, Dan Penn and the Judds on the chorus.

Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town reunited Cash with seminal producer “Cowboy” Jack Clement, who had overseen many of Cash’s 1950s sessions as house engineer at Sun Records, and wrote some of Johnny’s early hits. Wife June Carter Cash, her siblings Anita and Helen and daughter Carlene Carter sang on the LP along with Cash’s then son-in-law Marty Stuart and Waylon Jennings, who lends his voice to the warmly nostalgic ‘The Night Hank Williams Came to Town.’ The album also included Cash’s versions of Elvis Costello’s ‘The Big Light’ and James Talley’s ‘W. Lee O’Daniel (and the Light Crust Dough Boys).’

Cash, Macca, Glen and Emmylou

The star-studded Water From The Wells Of Home, again produced by Clement, had guest appearances by June Carter Cash, daughter Rosanne Cash, Glen Campbell, Jessi Colter, the Everly Brothers, Tom T. Hall, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Paul and Linda McCartney and Hank Williams Jr. ‘That Old Wheel,’ a duet with Williams, became Cash’s highest-charting single in over a decade, reaching No. 21 in a 20-week run in 1988.

Classic Cash: Hall of Fame Series had Cash revisiting such signature songs from the 1950s and ’60s as ‘I Walk the Line,’ ‘Ring of Fire,’ ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ ‘Get Rhythm.’ ‘I Still Miss Someone’ and ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down.’

Boom Chicka Boom, produced by Nashville veteran Bob Moore, was named for the trademark rhythm that Cash pioneered in the 1950s. It included Cash’s surreal composition ‘A Backstage Pass,’ a remake of Harry Chapin’s ‘Cat’s In The Cradle’ and the poignant ‘Hidden Shame,’ written for Cash by Elvis Costello. The new CD edition includes seven bonus tracks not on the original album, including several b-sides and early versions and the unreleased gem ‘I Draw The Line.’

The Mystery of Life, again produced by Clement, put the focus on Cash’s songwriting, on such as ‘The Greatest Cowboy of Them All’ and ‘I’m An Easy Rider.’ It also had songs by Tom T. Hall and John Prine. The new CD version will contain Cash’s collaboration with U2 on ‘The Wanderer,’ in an extended version previously released only on the soundtrack album of director Wim Wenders’ film Faraway, So Close.

“A notable transitional body of work”

This deep dive into a lesser-discussed period of Cash’s career provides an important link to the celebrated resurgence he enjoyed under the production of Rick Rubin with the American Recordings series, from 1994. As Schinder writes, the recordings “stand as a notable transitional body of work, and an illuminating prelude to the full-blown creative resurgence that Cash would experience in the 1990s.”

The Complete Mercury Recordings 1986-1991 and Easy Rider: The Best Of The Mercury Recordings are released on 24 April, along with individual reissues of Johnny Cash’s Mercury albums. Scroll down for the tracklistings.

Follow uDiscover Music’s Johnny Cash Best Of playlist.

THE COMPLETE MERCURY ALBUMS 1986-1991
CD TRACK LISTING

CD1: CARL PERKINS / JERRY LEE LEWIS / ROY ORBISON / JOHNNY CASH – CLASS OF ’55: MEMPHIS ROCK & ROLL HOMECOMING (1986)

1. Birth Of Rock And Roll
2. Sixteen Candles
3. Class Of ’55
4. Waymore’s Blues
5. We Remember The King
6. Coming Home
7. Rock And Roll (Fais-Do-Do)
8. Keep My Motor Running
9. I Will Rock And Roll With You
10. Big Train (From Memphis)

CD2: JOHNNY CASH IS COMING TO TOWN (1987)
1. The Big Light
2. The Ballad Of Barbara
3. I’d Rather Have You
4. Let Him Roll
5. The Night Hank Williams Came To Town
6. Sixteen Tons
7. Letters From Home
8. W. Lee O’Daniel (And The Light Crust Dough Boys)
9. Heavy Metal (Don’t Mean Rock And Roll To Me)
10. My Ship Will Sail

CD3: WATER FROM THE WELLS OF HOME (1988)
1. Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (With Roseanne Cash & The Everly Brothers)
2. As Long As I Live (With Emmylou Harris)
3. Where Did We Go Right (With June Carter Cash and The Carter Family)
4. The Last Of The Drifters (With Tom T. Hall)
5. Call Me The Breeze (With John Carter Cash)
6. That Old Wheel (With Hank Williams, Jr.)
7. Sweeter Than The Flowers (With Waylon Jennings)
8. A Croft In Clachan (The Ballad Of Rob MacDunn) (With Glen Campbell)
9. New Moon Over Jamaica (With Paul McCartney)
10. Water From The Wells Of Home (With John Carter Cash)

CD4: CLASSIC CASH: HALL OF FAME SERIES (1988)
1. Get Rhythm
2. Tennessee Flat Top Box
3. Long Black Veil
4. A Thing Called Love
5. I Still Miss Someone
6. Cry, Cry, Cry
7. Blue Train
8. Sunday Morning Coming Down
9. Five Feet High And Rising
10. Peace In The Valley
11. Don’t Take Your Guns To Town
12. Home Of The Blues
13. Guess Things Happen That Way
14. I Got Stripes
15. I Walk The Line
16. Ring Of Fire
17. Ballad Of Ira Hayes
18. The Ways Of A Woman In Love
19. Folsom Prison Blues
20. Supper Time

CD5: CLASSIC CASH: HALL OF FAME SERIES (EARLY MIXES) (1987)
1. Sunday Morning Coming Down (early mix)
2. Get Rhythm (early mix)
3. I Walk The Line (early mix)
4. Long Black Veil (early mix)
5. I Still Miss Someone (early mix)
6. Blue Train (early mix)
7. I Got Stripes (early mix)
8. Peace In The Valley (early mix)
9. Five Feet High And Rising (early mix)
10. Folsom Prison Blues (early mix)
11. Cry, Cry, Cry (early mix)
12. Don’t Take Your Guns To Town (early mix)
13. Tennessee Flat Top Box (early mix)
14. A Thing Called Love (early mix)
15. The Ways Of A Woman In Love (early mix)
16. Ballad Of Ira Hayes (early mix)
17. Guess Things Happen That Way (early mix)
18. Home Of The Blues (early mix)
19. Supper Time (early mix)
20. Ring Of Fire (early mix)

CD6: BOOM CHICKA BOOM (1990)
1. A Backstage Pass
2. Cat’s In The Cradle
3. Farmer’s Almanac
4. Don’t Go Near The Water
5. Family Bible
6. Harley
7. I Love You, Love You
8. Hidden Shame
9. Monteagle Mountain
10. That’s One You Owe Me
11. Veteran’s Day (b-side of “The Mystery Of Life”)
12. I Shall Be Free (b-side of “Farmer’s Almanac”)
13. I Draw The Line (previously unreleased)
14. A Backstage Pass (early version)
15. Harley (early version)
16. That’s One You Owe Me (early version)
17. Veteran’s Day (early version)

CD7: THE MYSTERY OF LIFE (1991)
1. The Greatest Cowboy Of Them All
2. I’m An Easy Rider
3. The Mystery Of Life
4. Hey Porter
5. Beans For Breakfast
6. Goin’ By The Book
7. Wanted Man
8. I’ll Go Somewhere And Sing My Songs Again (with Tom T. Hall)
9. The Hobo Song
10. Angel And The Badman
11. The Wanderer (with U2) [Long version from the Faraway, So Close! soundtrack album]

THE COMPLETE MERCURY ALBUMS 1986-1991
LP TRACK LISTING

LP1: CARL PERKINS / JERRY LEE LEWIS / ROY ORBISON / JOHNNY CASH – CLASS OF ’55: MEMPHIS ROCK & ROLL HOMECOMING (1986)
SIDE A
1. Birth Of Rock And Roll
2. Sixteen Candles
3. Class Of ’55
4. Waymore’s Blues
5. We Remember The King

SIDE B
1. Coming Home
2. Rock And Roll (Fais-Do-Do)
3. Keep My Motor Running
4. I Will Rock And Roll With You
5. Big Train (From Memphis)

LP2: JOHNNY CASH IS COMING TO TOWN (1987)
SIDE A
1. The Big Light
2. The Ballad Of Barbara
3. I’d Rather Have You
4. Let Him Roll
5. The Night Hank Williams Came To Town

SIDE B
1. Sixteen Tons
2. Letters From Home
3. W. Lee O’Daniel (And The Light Crust Dough Boys)
4. Heavy Metal (Don’t Mean Rock And Roll To Me)
5. My Ship Will Sail

LP3: WATER FROM THE WELLS OF HOME (1988)
SIDE A
1. Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (With Roseanne Cash & The Everly Brothers)
2. As Long As I Live (With Emmylou Harris)
3. Where Did We Go Right (With June Carter Cash and The Carter Family)
4. The Last Of The Drifters (With Tom T. Hall)
5. Call Me The Breeze (With John Carter Cash)

SIDE B
1. That Old Wheel (With Hank Williams, Jr.)
2. Sweeter Than The Flowers (With Waylon Jennings)
3. A Croft In Clachan (The Ballad Of Rob MacDunn) (With Glen Campbell)
4. New Moon Over Jamaica (With Paul McCartney)
5. Water From The Wells Of Home (With John Carter Cash)

LP4: CLASSIC CASH: HALL OF FAME SERIES (1988)
SIDE A
1. Get Rhythm
2. Tennessee Flat Top Box
3. Long Black Veil
4. A Thing Called Love
5. I Still Miss Someone
SIDE B
1. Cry, Cry, Cry
2. Blue Train
3. Sunday Morning Coming Down
4. Five Feet High And Rising
5. Peace In The Valley

LP5: CLASSIC CASH: HALL OF FAME SERIES (1988)
SIDE C
1. Don’t Take Your Guns To Town
2. Home Of The Blues
3. Guess Things Happen That Way
4. I Got Stripes
5. I Walk The Line

SIDE D
1. Ring Of Fire
2. Ballad Of Ira Hayes
3. The Ways Of A Woman In Love
4. Folsom Prison Blues
5. Supper Time

LP6: BOOM CHICKA BOOM (1990)
SIDE A
1. A Backstage Pass
2. Cat’s In The Cradle
3. Farmer’s Almanac
4. Don’t Go Near The Water
5. Family Bible

SIDE B
1. Harley
2. I Love You, Love You
3. Hidden Shame
4. Monteagle Mountain
5. That’s One You Owe Me

LP7: THE MYSTERY OF LIFE (1991)
SIDE A
1. The Greatest Cowboy Of Them All
2. I’m An Easy Rider
3. The Mystery Of Life
4. Hey Porter
5. Beans For Breakfast

SIDE B
1. Goin’ By The Book
2. Wanted Man
3. I’ll Go Somewhere And Sing My Songs Again (with Tom T. Hall)
4. The Hobo Song
5. Angel And The Badman

EASY RIDER – THE BEST OF THE MERCURY RECORDINGS
CD TRACK LISTING
1. Waymore Blues (with Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins)
2. We Remember The King
3. The Big Light
4. The Night Hank Williams Came To Town (with Waylon Jennings)
5. Let Him Roll
6. W. Lee O’Daniel (And The Light Crust Dough Boys)
7. Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (with Roseanne Cash & The Everly Brothers)
8. The Last Of The Drifters (with Tom T. Hall)
9. That Old Wheel (with Hank Williams Jr.)
10. Get Rhythm
11. Tennessee Flat Top Box
12. Sunday Morning Coming Down
13. Veteran’s Day
14. A Backstage Pass
15. Cat’s In The Cradle
16. Farmer’s Almanac
17. Monteagle Mountain
18. I Shall Be Free
19. I’m An Easy Rider
20. The Greatest Cowboy Of Them All
21. Hey Porter
22. The Mystery Of Life
23. Goin’ By The Book
24. The Wanderer (with U2)

2LP TRACK LISTING
SIDE A
1. Waymore Blues (with Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins)
2. We Remember The King
3. The Big Light
4. The Night Hank Williams Came To Town (with Waylon Jennings)
5. Let Him Roll
6. W. Lee O’Daniel (And The Light Crust Dough Boys)

SIDE B
1. Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (with Roseanne Cash & The Everly Brothers)
2. The Last Of The Drifters (with Tom T. Hall)
3. That Old Wheel (with Hank Williams Jr.)
4. Get Rhythm
5. Tennessee Flat Top Box
6. Sunday Morning Coming Down

SIDE C
1. Veteran’s Day
2. A Backstage Pass
3. Cat’s In The Cradle
4. Farmer’s Almanac
5. Monteagle Mountain
6. I Shall Be Free

SIDE D
1. I’m An Easy Rider
2. The Greatest Cowboy Of Them All
3. Hey Porter
4. The Mystery Of Life
5. Goin’ By The Book
6. The Wanderer (with U2)

Format: UK English
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