The Complete Recordings (Robert Johnson album)

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The Complete Recordings
Compilation album by Robert Johnson
Released August 28, 1990
Recorded November 1936 and June 1937
Genre Blues
Length 104:53
Label Columbia
Producer Don Law (original recordings),
Frank Driggs (Reissue Producer),
Lawrence Cohn (Reissue Producer),
Stephen LaVere (Reissue Producer)
Robert Johnson chronology
King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol. II
(1970)
Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings
(1990)

The Complete Recordings is a compilation album by American blues musician Robert Johnson, released August 28, 1990 on Columbia Records. The album's recordings were recorded in two sessions in Dallas and San Antonio, Texas for the American Record Company (ARC) during 1936 and 1937. Most of the songs were first released on 78rpm records in 1937. The Complete Recordings contains every recording Johnson is known to have made, with the exception of an alternate take of "Travelling Riverside Blues".

The Complete Recordings peaked at number 80 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album has sold more than a million copies,[1] and won a Grammy Award in 1991 for "Best Historical Album."[2] In 1992, the Blues Foundation inducted the album into the Blues Hall of Fame.[3] It also was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2003.[4] The board selects recordings in an annual basis that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Music[edit]

Prior to his death in 1938, through the help of H. C. Speir Johnson recorded 29 songs for the American Record Company (ARC). His complete canon of recordings includes these 29 masters, plus 13 surviving alternate takes, all recorded at two ARC sessions held in San Antonio and Dallas, Texas. The Mississippi Delta—two hundred miles of fertile lowlands stretching from Memphis, Tennessee in the north to Vicksburg, Mississippi in the south—was one of the primary locales in which the blues originated and developed.[5] He is said to have been heavily influenced by early blues artists like Skip James,[6] who was recorded in 1931, around the same time that Johnson amazed his elders with his mastery of the guitar. James's eerie, distinctive style is reflected throughout Johnson's recordings, most notably in "32-20 Blues," which he adapted from James's "22-20 Blues."

Johnson's first session in San Antonio, Texas lasted three days, on the 23rd, 26th, and 27th of November 1936, sixteen songs were recorded in the Gunter Hotel, where ARC had set up equipment to record a number of musical acts. "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" was the first song recorded. Also captured in San Antonio were "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" and "Sweet Home Chicago," both of which became post-war blues standards. "Terraplane Blues," known for its metaphoric lyrics, became a regional hit and Johnson's signature song. Most of the selections were released on Vocalion 78s, but three songs and several interesting alternate takes remained unissued until they appeared on the Columbia albums. Six months later, on the 19th and 20th of June 1937, other recording sessions took place in a Dallas, Texas warehouse where, once again, ARC had set up its recording equipment to capture many different acts. This time 13 songs were recorded and 10 were released during the following year.[7]

The song "Cross Road Blues" is one of his most popular, thanks to Eric Clapton and Cream (Wheels of Fire), whose interpretation popularized the song in the late 1960s. Johnson's recordings became popular in the early '60s when Columbia Records released a collection of called King of the Delta Blues Singers. Bluesmen like Clapton and Keith Richards viewed the release as something of a blues bible,[8] considered by some to be the "King of the Delta Blues Singers"[9] The Rolling Stones recorded "Love in Vain" on their 1969 album, Let It Bleed, and "Stop Breakin' Down" on their Exile on Main St. (1972) album.

Reception and influence[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[10]
Baltimore Sun (favorable)[11]
Chicago Tribune 4/4 stars[12]
Down Beat 5/5 stars[13]
Entertainment Weekly (A+)[14]
Los Angeles Times (favorable)[15]
Q 5/5 stars[16]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[17]
Time (favorable)[18]
Washington Post (favorable)[19]

While Robert Johnson's professional recording career can be measured in months, his musical legacy has survived more than 70 years. Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, two prominent Chicago bluesmen, have their roots in the Delta: both knew Robert Johnson, and were heavily influenced by him. Johnson's emotive vocals, combined with his varied and masterful guitar playing, continue to influence blues and popular music performers to this day. In 2004, Eric Clapton recorded Me and Mr. Johnson as a tribute to legendary bluesman; the album reached number 6 on the Billboard 200 and has sold more than 563,000 copies in the United States.[20] The Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot wrote that The Complete Recordings, along with Clapton's The Layla Sessions (1990), survive as "monuments of 20th Century music that will rarely, if ever, be equaled".[21]

A new remastered edition of the album was released in 2011 in commemoration of Johnson's 100th birthday. The Centennial Edition was released in both standard and deluxe editions.[22] The track order was changed so that all of the alternate takes were placed at the end of the discs, rather than side-by-side with the master tracks—as the 1990 release had placed them.[23]

Track listing[edit]

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bordowitz, Hank. Turning Points in Rock and Roll, Citadel Press (2004), page 22 - ISBN 0-8065-2631-9
  2. ^ Grammy Award list
  3. ^ Bragg, Rick. Journeys: Driving the Blues Trail, In Search of a Lost Muse. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-08-07.
  4. ^ 2003 National Recording Registry choices
  5. ^ Random House: Vicksburg to Memphis
  6. ^ Dicaire, David. Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th, McFarland & Company (1999), page 20 - ISBN 0-7864-0606-2
  7. ^ All About Jazz: Robert Johnson
  8. ^ PBS: American Root Music
  9. ^ Wald, Elijah. Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, Harper Collins (2004), page xxiv - ISBN 0-06-052423-5
  10. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Review: The Complete Recordings. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-08-08.
  11. ^ Considine, J.D. "Review: The Complete Recordings". The Baltimore Sun: 8.L. November 11, 1990.
  12. ^ Kot, Greg. "Review: The Complete Recordings". Chicago Tribune: 12. December 9, 1990.
  13. ^ Columnist. "Review: The Complete Recordings". Down Beat: 55. February 1997.
  14. ^ Browne, David. Review: The Complete Recordings. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-08-08.
  15. ^ Cromelin, Richard. "Review: The Complete Recordings". Los Angeles Times: 16. August 25, 1990.
  16. ^ Columnist. "Review: The Complete Recordings". Q: 126. August 1994.
  17. ^ Palmer, Robert. Review: The Complete Recordings. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2009-08-08.
  18. ^ Columnist. Review: The Complete Recordings. Time. Retrieved on 2009-08-08.
  19. ^ Columnist. "Review: The Complete Recordings". The Washington Post: n.09. December 28, 1990. Archived from the original on 2009-08-08.
  20. ^ Billboard: Eric Clapton
  21. ^ Kot, Greg. "A Blue Rendezvous: Johnson and Clapton Speak the Same Language". Chicago Tribune: 8. October 7, 1990.
  22. ^ Deusner, Stephen M. (May 2, 2011). "Robert johnson: the Centennial collection [columbia Legacy]". Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  23. ^ Barbrick, Breg (May 4, 2011). "Music Review: Robert Johnson – The Centennial Collection". Retrieved December 12, 2013. 

External links[edit]