King of the Delta Blues Singers

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King of the Delta Blues Singers
Compilation album by Robert Johnson
Released 1961
Recorded November 1936 in San Antonio, Texas
June 1937 in Dallas, Texas[1]
Genre Blues
Length 43:08
Label Columbia
CL 1654
Producer Don Law (original recordings),
Frank Driggs (Reissue Producer)
Robert Johnson chronology
King of the Delta Blues Singers
(1961)
King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol. II
(1970)

King of the Delta Blues Singers is a compilation album by American blues musician Robert Johnson, released in 1961 on Columbia Records. It is considered one of the greatest and most influential blues releases ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 27 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Music[edit]

The album compiles sixteen mono recordings, thirteen of which were previously available as 78s on the Vocalion label, originally recorded during two sessions in 1936 and 1937. The records sold well in their target market of the American south and southwest, with "Terraplane Blues" something of a regional hit, but their sales figures were never beyond 5000 or so in total.[2] By the time this album appeared, Johnson was mostly rumor, if known at all, except to a small group of collectors and those who had purchased the original 78s. An advance copy of the album was given by its instigator, John Hammond, to his newest signing to Columbia, Bob Dylan, who had never heard of Johnson and became mesmerized by the intensity of the recordings.[3][4]

Hammond, who had initially searched for Johnson in 1938 to include him on the bill for the first of his From Spirituals to Swing concerts, prodded Columbia to assemble this record during the height of the folk revival. It was the first of the retrospective albums for folk, country, and blues artists of the 1920s and 1930s rediscovered in the wake of that revival, some of whom would be located and invited to appear at events such as the Newport Folk Festival. Nevertheless, Johnson's LP failed to make the charts, but the quality of Johnson's music was recognized and Johnson's reputation grew. The album became a badge of hip taste in the 1960s, evidenced by its appearance in the album cover photo to Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home amid various emblems of bohemian life.[5] Songs from the album were repeatedly covered throughout the decade by many artists, notably Eric Clapton who recorded "Ramblin' On My Mind" on John Mayall's 1966 classic Bluesbreakers album, and "Cross Road Blues" with his own power trio Cream on the 1968 album Wheels of Fire. Clapton would later record an entire disc of Johnson's songs, Me and Mr. Johnson.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[6]
Birmingham Post 5/5 stars[7]
Down Beat 5/5 stars[8]
Ebony (favorable)[9]
The New York Times (favorable) 1969[10]
The New York Times (favorable) 1998[11]
Texas Monthly (favorable)[12]
Vibe (favorable)[13]
Virgin Encyclopedia 5/5 stars[14]
The Wall Street Journal (favorable)[15]

The album was originally released by Columbia Records in 1961 as a mono LP.[16] At the time of its release very little scholarship had been done on Johnson's life, and the album liner notes contain some inaccuracies and false conclusions, and a speculative portrait of Johnson's personality. As the two surviving portraits of him were discovered a decade later, the cover painting depicts a faceless musician in field clothes. The album was followed in 1970 by King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol. 2, including the remaining recordings at that time available by Johnson not on this record. King of the Delta Blues Singers was reissued on September 15, 1998 by the Legacy Records subsidiary label of the Sony Corporation, with a newly discovered alternate version of "Traveling Riverside Blues" appended as a bonus track. The original recording engineer was Vincent Liebler.

The Los Angeles Times wrote that Johnson's recordings for the albums "revolutionized the Mississippi Delta style that became the foundation of the Chicago blues sound".[17] The Wall Street Journal wrote that "when his album King of the Delta Blues Singers made its belated way to England in the mid-1960s, it energized a generation of musicians".[15] English rock musician Eric Clapton cited King of the Delta Blues Singers, along with its second volume, as an early inspiration on his recording career.[18] In 1980, King of the Delta Blues Singers became the first album to be inducted by the Blues Foundation into the Blues Hall of Fame.[19] The Hartford Courant selected King of the Delta Blues Singers for its list of the 25 Pivotal Recordings That Defined Our Times (1999).[20] In 2003, the album was ranked number 27 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[21] Mojo magazine ranked it number 6 on its list of 100 Records That Changed the World (2007).[22]

Track listing[edit]

Side one[edit]

Track Recorded Catalogue Released Song Title Time
1. November 27, 1936 unreleased alternate take 1961 Cross Road Blues 2:29
2. November 23, 1936 Vocalion 3416 1937 Terraplane Blues 3:01
3. November 23, 1936 unreleased alternate take 1961 Come On in My Kitchen 2:52
4. November 27, 1936 Vocalion 3601 1937 Walkin' Blues 2:30
5. November 27, 1936 Vocalion 3445 1937 Last Fair Deal Gone Down 2:39
6. November 26, 1936 Vocalion 3445 1937 32-20 Blues 2:50
7. November 23, 1936 Vocalion 3416 1937 Kind Hearted Woman Blues 2:51
8. November 27, 1936 previously unreleased 1961 If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day 2:36

Side two[edit]

Track Recorded Catalogue Released Song Title Time
1. November 27, 1936 Vocalion 4630 1939 Preachin' Blues 2:52
2. November 23, 1936 previously unreleased 1961 When You Got a Good Friend 2:56
3. November 23, 1936 unreleased alternate take 1961 Ramblin' On My Mind 2:52
4. June 19, 1937 Vocalion 3723 1937 Stones in My Passway 2:28
5. June 20, 1937 previously unreleased 1961 Traveling Riverside Blues 2:47
6. June 20, 1937 unreleased alternate take 1961 Milkcow's Calf Blues 2:17
7. June 20, 1937 unreleased alternate take 1961 Me and the Devil Blues 2:34
8. June 20, 1937 Vocalion 3623 1937 Hellhound on My Trail 2:37

1998 reissue bonus track[edit]

Track Recorded Catalogue Released Song Title Time
17. June 20, 1937 alternate take
(previously unreleased)
1998 Traveling Riverside Blues 2:39

References[edit]

  1. ^ Howard Mandel, ed. (2005). The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues. Billboard Books. p. 97. ISBN 0-8230-8266-0. 
  2. ^ Marmorstein, Gary. The Label: The Story of Columbia Records. New York, Thunder's Mouth Press: 2006; p. 87. ISBN 1-56025-707-5
  3. ^ Dylan describes the impact the Johnson recordings made on him in his autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One, (2004), pp. 281-288
  4. ^ Mamorstein, p. 309. The Johnson track "Preachin' Blues" had been released in 1959 on The Country Blues, Folkways RF1. Albums by Folkways greatly circulated in Greenwich Village folk circles, their office located on Broadway between Houston and Bleecker. However, Dylan may never have encountered this particular album. If he had, the sole Johnson track may not have made an impression, or he may not have made the connection between it and the advance pressing of the Columbia LP given to him by Hammond.
  5. ^ Miller, James. Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947-1977. Simon & Schuster (1999), p. 185. ISBN 0-684-80873-0. The LP is visible between Bob Dylan and Sally Grossman on the front jacket photo.
  6. ^ Koda, Cub. Review: King of the Delta Blues Singers. Allmusic. Retrieved on August 7, 2009.
  7. ^ Columnist. "Review: King of the Delta Blues Singers". Birmingham Post: January 30, 1999. Archived from the original on August 7, 2009.
  8. ^ Columnist. "Review: King of the Delta Blues Singers". Down Beat: May 24, 1962.
  9. ^ Garland, Phyl. "Review: King of the Delta Blues Singers". Ebony: 28. August 1975.
  10. ^ Goldman, Albert. "A Private Bag of Mixed Beauties". The New York Times: D44. December 14, 1969. Archived from the original on August 7, 2009.
  11. ^ Scherman, Tony. Review: King of the Delta Blues Singers. The New York Times. Retrieved on August 7, 2009.
  12. ^ Flippo, Chet. "Review: King of the Delta Blues Singers". Texas Monthly: 70. October 1975.
  13. ^ Columnist. "The Vibe 100: King of the Delta Blues Singers". Vibe: 158. December 1999.
  14. ^ Larkin, Colin. "Review: King of the Delta Blues Singers". Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music: March 1, 2002.
  15. ^ a b Columnist. "Still King of the Delta Blues". The Wall Street Journal: October 16, 1998.
  16. ^ King of the Delta Blues Singers (Comp, Album). Discogs. Retrieved on August 7, 2009.
  17. ^ Snowden, Don. "Robert Johnson: Demons on the Delta". Los Angeles Times: 64. August 14, 1988.
  18. ^ Columnist. "Review: Crossroads". Miami Herald: 2K. April 17, 1988.
  19. ^ Bragg, Rick. Journeys: Driving the Blues Trail, In Search of a Lost Muse. The New York Times. Retrieved on August 7, 2009.
  20. ^ Staff. "A Century of Music: The 25 Pivotal Recordings That Defined Our Times". The Hartford Courant: G.1. December 12, 1999.
  21. ^ Columnist. RS500: 27) King of the Delta Blues Singers. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on August 7, 2009.
  22. ^ Staff. "Records That Changed the World 100 Records That Changed the World". Mojo: June 2007.
Bibliography

External links[edit]