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The Complete Recordings

Robert Johnson

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Album Review

A double-disc box set containing everything Robert Johnson ever recorded, The Complete Recordings is essential listening, but it is also slightly problematic. The problems aren't in the music itself, of course, which is stunning and the fidelity of the recordings is the best it ever has been or ever will be. Instead, it's in the track sequencing. As the title implies, The Complete Recordings contains all of Johnson's recorded material, including a generous selection of alternate takes. All of the alternates are sequenced directly after the master, which can make listening to the album a little intimidating and tedious for novices. Certainly, the alternates can be programmed out with a CD player or mp3 player, but the set would have been more palatable if the alternate takes were presented on a separate disc. Nevertheless, this is a minor complaint — Johnson's music retains its power no matter what context it is presented in. He, without question, deserves this kind of deluxe box set treatment.

Customer Reviews

Johnson, the King of Blues

RJ is one of the most amazing people. He was laughed out of his home town because he couldn't play guitar and a year later he came back after supposedly selling his soul to the devil at the Mississippi crossroads at midnight in exchange for the impecable and unimiatatable guitar skill he posessed at the times of these recordings. JUst listen to them and you'll see why everythign that is heard in classic hard rock/blues is derrivative of Johnsons magical fingers.

They say he sold his soul to the Devil to play this good

And I'd believe it too. Not only was Robert Johnson a master of his instrument, pioneering with his self accompanying boogie bass line, his contribution to modern guitar playing, his influence on today's poplular music is incalculable. You thought the Stones' version of "Love in Vain" was something? Listen to Johnson's version, and you would feel so lonesome, you could not help but cry. I rather like it that the alternate versions are lined right up after the originals. Most of the songs that he did alternate takes on were his best songs, so you hear them and think, "wow, that was a good song right there, I wanna hear that one again" and then you do get it again, but it's slightly varied, so you can experience the song, not only again, but in a different way. Most of Johnson's music, although very good, is also very similar; he often repeats rhythems and melodies, and uses them multiple times in multiple songs, thereby the alternate takes of the same songs aren't strikingly repetitive in the way they might seem to be. None of that is important though. Rolling Stone put Robert Johnson as number 5 in their list of the best guitarists in history, and in my opinion he very much deserves that title. After all, he sold his soul to play this well, and damnit does he play well.

Great Guitar Player

To the untrained ear, sombody will say "whats the big deal" to his guitar playing skills. Suffice it to say that Eric Clapton has said that even HE has a hard time playing Robert J. Songs! There was a great documentary in 2004 where Eric Clapton plays most of his songs. On Many tracks they require 2 guitars to get the proper sound. A great set if you are into the blues. My only problem is the quality of the Digital Tracks. The Recording are already not the greatest and then an mp3 compression doesn't help. The Actual CD's would be recommended for those who care.

Biography

Born: May 8, 1911 in Hazlehurst, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s

If the blues has a truly mythic figure, one whose story hangs over the music the way a Charlie Parker does over jazz or a Hank Williams does over country, it's Robert Johnson, certainly the most celebrated figure in the history of the blues. Of course, his legend is immensely fortified by the fact that Johnson also left behind a small legacy of recordings that are considered the emotional apex of the music itself. These recordings have not only entered the realm of blues standards ("Love in Vain,"...
Full Bio

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