The Essential Johnny Cash
(Columbia/Legacy/Razor & Tie)

If you don’t have any Cash, now is the time to begin collecting. This guy’s been everywhere, man, and this double-disc set sums it up nicely. It’s part of a special tribute that Columbia/Legacy will be doing all year long to celebrate the 70th birthday of this American icon. As the title implies, the tunes you need are here, including: “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Jackson,” “Folsom Prison Blues (Live),” and “A Boy Named Sue (Live).”

7 Worlds Collide (Nettwerk America)

Usually a live album conjures up thoughts of poor sound quality, overpowering crowd noise, and solos that you had to be there for. This 17-song set recorded during five shows in the former Crowded House/Split Enz member’s home country of New Zealand is different. A great live quality recording and special appearances by Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) and Johnny Marr (The Smiths) give this disc a studio album feel.

Jools Holland’s Big Band Rhythm & Blues
(Rhino/Warner Strategic Marketing)

Ex-Squeeze member and host of his own talk show in Britain, Holland has assembled a virtual who’s who of musicians in this big-band-infused set. Eric Clapton, Sting, Paul Weller, Van Morrison, Steve Winwood, David Gilmour, Dr. John, Taj Mahal, Mark Knopfler, you name it, they’re here. A really fine gem in this release is one of the last new recordings from the late George Harrison.