Johnny Cash's "Unearthed" Collection Returns as Monolithic Nine-LP Vinyl Box Set, November 3rd

AnalogPlanet doesn't normally post verbatim press releases but in this case it just makes sense, with this additional information: The original Rick Rubin produced Cash albums we know and love on vinyl were not sourced from tape. In fact given how some were remotely recorded it's not likely they were analog recordings in the first place, though rumors fly that some were but the tapes were not used because they were never assembled into cutting masters. This is a case where the vinyl sounds better than the CDs for whatever reason or reasons. The vinyl reissues of the original Cash recordings were on 180g and well pressed. In its press releases, UMe unfortunately does not provide who cut and from what, and where it's pressed, for any of its releases, which I think is unfortunate and a "dereliction of duty". So we don't know who mastered this box set, or from what resolution sources, or where they were pressed, but if they are like the original Cash records, the sound should be outstanding. The CD box sound was very good because source is king and the original recordings were outstanding.

Los Angeles – October 5, 2017 – In the last decade of a career that spanned half a century, Johnny Cash capped off his musical legend with a breathtaking final act, recording a series of raw, stripped-down albums with producer Rick Rubin. Those albums re-established Cash as a vital artist, while adding a remarkable closing chapter to his incredible body of work.

In November 2003, two months after Cash's passing, Rubin's label American Recordings released Unearthed, an expansive box set of material, most of it previously unreleased, recorded during the artist's graceful twilight years. The set was originally planned to celebrate Cash and Rubin's decade of recording together, and the final mixes had been sent to Cash, but he passed away before receiving them. The recordings, which run the stylistic gamut from stark balladry to punchy rockabilly to heartfelt gospel to classic covers, offer a stunning encapsulation of Cash's wide-ranging musical vision, and provide a fitting epitaph for his iconic career.

To celebrate the Man in Black’s enduring and influential legacy, American Recordings and UMe have reconfigured this monolithic collection for its first-ever vinyl release, spreading Unearthed’s 79 songs over nine high-quality 180-gram vinyl LPs while expanding the original box's distinctive packaging for the long-playing format.

Available November 3, the Unearthed vinyl box features a pair of cloth-bound books housed in an LP-sized black cloth slipcase. One book holds the nine LPs, while the other is a gorgeous 60-page coffee table book that incorporates Sylvie Simmons' extensive liner notes, drawn from five days of interviews at Cash's home in Tennessee, as well as Cash and Rubin's comments on every song on the set, plus a copious selection of photographs from the recording sessions, including some of the last photos ever taken of Cash. You can pre-order now.

Unearthed is divided into five thematic sections. Who's Gonna Cry focuses on acoustic solo recordings, and finds Cash revisiting several classic songs from his legendary catalog. Trouble In Mind is oriented towards electric performances, and includes guest appearances by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Carl Perkins and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as Cash's wife and longtime duet partner June Carter Cash. Redemption Songs is largely acoustic, and features duets with Joe Strummer, Fiona Apple, Nick Cave and Glen Campbell. My Mother's Hymn Book demonstrates Cash's lifelong affinity for gospel music, encompassing 15 time-honored gospel standards. Best of Cash On American offers a memorable 15-song selection of highlights from Cash's first four albums with Rubin.

In its original CD release, Unearthed was acclaimed as an instant classic. Rolling Stone named it as one of the “100 Best Albums of the 2000s” and declared the set "a slice of American culture as monumental, and as enduring, as Mt. Rushmore."

Indeed, in the years since Cash's passing, the artist’s legend has grown and his music has gained in power. It's hard to think of a more appropriate and impressive sendoff for this one-of-a-kind American original than the massive musical statement that is Unearthed.

Lemon Curry's picture

Michael, I've got all the American recordings on CD. What I hear on those CDs is a lot of compression, typically on John's close vocal mic. Other than American I, the DR ratings aren't that great. Which is fine, but... the whole enterprise screams digital masters to me. Then of course we have the wonderful "Hurt", which makes artistic use of bona fide digital brickwalling to make its point.

So the question: why vinyl? I can handle the hi-res digital sourcing (a la Sintra and the Universal reissues ) but not the squashed audio. I would pick this up in a second if I knew who mastered it AND what strategy was used. But...if it's just as squeezed as before, no dice captain.

Do you, or anyone here have more details?


gubarenko's picture

The only bad thing as i see it is LPs 8&9 which are the best of first three American albums. As owner of all american releases i don't see a point to pay for useless LPs. Why not make it 7 LP, i don't understand.

Razorball's picture

Über cool!

Odyssey41's picture

Wondering if there is any word on who is pressing this and how it sounds? Would love it if it sounds great.