Columbia - 2002 - 129 minutes

His failing health of recent years makes Johnny Cash turning 70 all the more poignant and the birthday tributes which accompany this collection seem tinged with sadness. The diverse bunch of musicians digging the words out of their hearts show just how many levers Cash has pulled on the railroads of people's lives: everyone from Slipknot to Keith Richards to Merle Haggard turns out to honour a man who, as John Mellencamp puts it, "makes you feel the truth about him, about you and about us."

Doubtless a man as humble as Cash is embarrassed by all the plaudits and is far happier to let the music do the talking. And how it does: charting his journey from 1955 to 1993, this double album has all the hits, classics and moments of overlooked wonder. The only letdown is that his recent output - the 'American Trilogy' - is absent, because Cash's version of Will Oldham's 'I See a Darkness' is the song the world needs to hear.

'Thing Called Love' is missing too, but the sentiments in the sleevenotes more than make up for it. And after reading and listening, you'll wish even more that a man who's railed against the world will be doing things his way for many years to come.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Hey Porter - Cry, Cry, Cry - So Doggone Lonesome - I Walk the Line - Get Rhythm - There You Go - Ballad of a Teenage Queen - Big River - Guess Things Happen That Way - All Over Again - Don't Take Your Guns to Town - Five Feet High and Rising - The Rebel-Johnny Yuma - Forty Shades of Green - Tennessee Flat-Top Box - I Still Miss Someone - Ring of Fire - Understand Your Man - The Ballad of Ira Hayes - Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord) - It Ain't Me, Babe - Orange Blossom Special - The One on the Right is on the Left - Jackson - Folsom Prison Blues (Live) - Daddy Sang Bass - Girl from the North Country - A Boy Named Sue (Live) - If I Were a Carpenter - Sunday Morning Coming Down (Live) - Flesh and Blood - Man in Black - Ragged Old Flag - One Piece at a Time - (Ghost) Riders in the Sky - Song of the Patriot - Highwayman - The Night Hank Williams Came to Town - The Wanderer - Man in White