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Complete Recordings

180 customer reviews

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MP3 Music, October 8, 1996
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Audio CD, October 8, 1996
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description



The forty-one tracks Robert Johnson recorded in Dallas and San Antonio in 193~37-his entire known recorded legacy collected by Columbia on two discs-provide the astonishment of seeing the Taj Mahal float by on a purple cloud. His tenor and falsetto tell you of the complicated emotions harbored by an acutely perceptive blues musician in the denigratory South; so does his guitar playing, which amazingly often mixes leads with chords. Johnson's thematic lyrics-further bespeaking his restlessness, fatalism, and defiance-are stately in their imagery. Twelve alternate takes are as stunning as the originals. The music, somehow, further benefits from the digital restoration and engineering of one Frank Abbey. Incidentally, the value of the forty-two-page accompanying booklet is subject to debate -- © Frank John Hadley 1993 -- From Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Kind Hearted Woman Blues (take 1)
  2. Kind Hearted Woman Blues (take 2)
  3. I Believe I'll Dust My Broom
  4. Sweet Home Chicago
  5. Ramblin' On My Mind (take 1)
  6. Ramblin' On My Mind (take 2)
  7. When You Got A Good Friend (take 1)
  8. When You Got A Good Friend (take 2)
  9. Come On In My Kitchen (take 1)
  10. Come On In My Kitchen (take 2)
  11. Terraplane Blues
  12. Phonograph Blues (take 1)
  13. Phonograph Blues (take 2)
  14. 32-20 Blues
  15. They're Red Hot
  16. Dead Shrimp Blues
  17. Cross Road Blues (take 1)
  18. Cross Road Blues (take 2)
  19. Walkin' Blues
  20. Last Fair Deal Gone Down

Disc: 2

  1. Preachin' Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)
  2. If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day
  3. Stones In My Passway
  4. I'm A Steady Rollin' Man
  5. From Four Until Late
  6. Hell Hound On My Trail
  7. Little Queen Of Spades (take 1)
  8. Little Queen Of Spades (take 2)
  9. Malted Milk
  10. Drunken Hearted Man (take 1)
  11. Drunken Hearted Man (take 2)
  12. Me And The Devil Blues (take 1)
  13. Me And The Devil Blues (take 2)
  14. Stop Breakin' Down Blues (take 1)
  15. Stop Breakin' Down Blues (take 2)
  16. Traveling Riverside Blues
  17. Honeymoon Blues
  18. Love In Vain Blues (take 1)
  19. Love In Vain Blues (take 2)
  20. Milkcow's Calf Blues (take 1)
  21. Milkcow's Calf Blues (take 2)

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 8, 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B000002ADN
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (180 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,687 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

126 of 130 people found the following review helpful By happydogpotatohead on June 22, 2003
Format: Audio CD
The irony of Robert Johnson's superstar status is hard to miss. He was almost completely ignored by the music-buying public of his day, even in the market his records were aimed at. Yet in the present day, he's practically the only country blues artist most people know about. On one level, this is because of relentless championing by other blues artists, not least Eric Clapton. On another level, Johnson's fame rests on the fact that he was able to write, or more properly pull together from his various mentors and influences, his songs and make them complete unto themselves. His songs have made an impact, and have been covered time and again by countless artists. That counts for something.
Part of who Robert Johnson was as a singer and songwriter is obscured by his legend, which has been retold so often it borders on cliche. But even after the hype has been dismissed, this box set shows Johnson as a powerful, innovative, soulful blues man, a great performer and a great songwriter (in the context of blues songwriting) with his own unique sound.
Johnson was not without his influences, and if he had lived he would have told you that himself. However, the interesting thing was that he managed to transform his influences and personalize them into his own vision of the blues, a blues that was one of the first steps away from country blues toward city blues - a vision that would eventually become Chicago blues.
It has been fashionable in blues circles to put Robert Johnson down recently, and to gripe about how Johnson's influences should be as well known as he is. This is a valid point. However, Johnson became an influence himself, and as such, he still deserves a good deal of respect.
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82 of 91 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2002
Format: Audio CD
First of all, I took one star off not because I don't think Robert Johnson was a transcendent genius (because I do think that), but because, since his legacy clearly _had_ to be collected and remastered and boxed up in a convenient form, it's a damn shame that they had to make such a bad job of it. The lack of the fifth star is a finger-wag to CBS-Sony, not a rebuke to Johnson.
It's all true, in case you were wondering - Robert Johnson really was the most entrancingly scary and affecting and emotional and technically accomplished Delta blues singer ever recorded. His guitar playing is quite extraordinary; Keith Richards reports in the liner notes that when he first heard Johnson (in Brian Jones' flat) he wondered who the second guitarist was. There wasn't one. Johnson could drive the rhythm and play spooky lead lines at the same time, to a degree that nobody has been able to match. He also had a remarkable voice, veering from slyly lascivious to painfully sad to hell-haunted, depending on the nature of the song. And this is one of the main points about his work.
He was a pro. He wasn't just some unusually spooked country boy, although he was clearly obsessed with themes of damnation and vengeance. He could, by all accounts, play whatever he wanted - a tune as innocuous as "My Blue Heaven" is said to have been in his repertoire. The best glimpse we get of the party-dude side of Johnson is his sprightly "They're Red Hot", which sounds like nothing else on the whole album. But fans agree that his best stuff is about lonely roads at twilight and the feeling that he will never get home, or that if he does, there is only something worse there waiting for him.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By h,s (s h) on February 16, 2010
Format: Audio CD
This collection is disappointing because they've worked so hard to clean up the hiss and scratches of recordings made in a hotel room over 70 years ago, that they've so muffled the voice and music that it just doesn't come through realistically. Sony's King of the Delta Blues (Vol.s 1 and 2) offers a virtually complete collection and the diff in sound quality is startling. While you hear more hiss and scratches, the sound of Johnson's voice has a presence that that the "Complete Collection" lacks. I already owned the latter and upon hearing the former, went out and bought it. Skip the Complete Collection and get the recording that sounds more real, more alive. If you already own the "Complete Collection" and you like the music, bag it and get King of the Delta Blues edition, Johnson deserves to be heard without a towel wrapped over his mouth.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 21, 2000
Format: Audio CD
If you are looking for a CD set to fit into your ultimate blues collection, then you must buy this one. There is a very good booklet available with the box set that is not offered with the regular double CD set. The recordings are the same on both CD sets. There is a booklet in the box set with a good biography story of his life. Also, all the words are included so you can kind of "hum along". Explanations of some of the venacular of the day. The recording is typical 78-ish quality of the day. This is a part of blues history that you will need to study the style further. The mysticism of making a deal with the devil, and the story of how he went down to the crossroads, made his deal, and then came back a transformed blues great. It's all here. Other musicians in this style are Son House...check out his excellant "Father of the Delta Blues" CD. And listen to Charley Patton. These are the "big three" of the Delta Blues style. Others went to the crossroads, also...Bukka White has a story about it and so does Peetie Wheatstraw (called "the devils son in law"). All good music from this era. Don't get discouraged about the quality of the recordings. Listen to these CD's several times through before you make your final judgement. You have to get used to the 78-speed sound before you can get to the soul and depth of what's going on. "Must Have" for anyone rediscovering, studying, or just curious about the blues.
5 historically significant stars!
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