Select box set reviews from The Associated Press:
If you’re under 40, you likely see Johnny Cash two ways _ as the nearly mythological Sun Records proto-rocker and as the wizened old man staring down God in his American Recordings period in the years before his 2003 death.
Between those two important periods lay decades of songs, personalities and re-inventions many folks aren’t familiar with. The massive new box set, “The Complete Columbia Album Collection,” will help fill in those gaps for anyone interested in Cash beyond the name-checking cachet he brings to your iPod.
A staggering amount of music is gathered here in 63 discs representing a quarter century of output from an American popular culture icon whose career was far more Technicolor than his Man in Black nickname suggests. And the average music fan yet to turn grey has no idea what that color scheme looks like since 35 of those albums were never released on CD.
The set includes everything Cash released through Columbia from 1958 to 1983. Cash enjoyed creative control over his career and it showed in his restless inquisitiveness and unusually open-minded approach to music. There’s something here for everyone _ gospel, rock, folk and pop fans along with your country diehards. And the range is astounding, including concept albums, soundtracks, political statements, live concerts and a collection of singles and rarities.
Michael Jackson, “Bad 25” (Epic)
Three years after Michael Jackson’s death, it’s becoming pretty clear that his archives don’t contain another “Billie Jean,” “Man in the Mirror” or even “Butterflies.”
2010’s “Michael” was a nice though hardly scintillating collection of previously unreleased Jackson songs, and the three-CD, 1-DVD box set “Bad 25,” celebrating the anniversary of Jackson’s other blockbuster album, has an even less impressive set of songs from Jackson’s vault.
Following the set’s first disc, which contains the underrated “Bad” album in full, is another disc of bonus material with several unreleased songs. The problem with those tunes is that they sound like something Jackson wasn’t ready to let the world hear. While Jackson’s voice is enchanting, the songs are mired by weak lyrics and melodies and themes that sound too similar to some of his key hits. As scintillating a vocalist as Jackson was, even he can’t elevate so-so material.
Perhaps the makers of this anniversary collection knew that as well. So to make the box set worthwhile, they’ve included a real treasure here _ Jackson’s 1988 concert at Wembley Stadium. Watching Jackson in what was arguably his peak as performer is chill-inducing _ his frenetic gyrations, moonwalks, spins and jumps delivered while he’s singing at full-strength. For the concert alone, “Bad 25” is worth getting (it also comes with a live CD of the concert). There are also other goodies for fans to enjoy, like a double-sided poster, remixes from Afrojack and cool photos in the CD and DVD booklets.
_ Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP Entertainment Writer
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