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86 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eric finally nails it on "Sessions for Robert J" - BUY IT!
Eric had released "Me and Mr. Johnson" only six months earlier. It was o.k., but there wasn't anything particularly compelling about it. Some songs were good, a continuation of the blues material he had previously released on "Behind the Cradle", only this time the focus was exclusively on Robert Johnson, but a few cuts were lackluster walk-throughs. In addition, the...
Published on December 12, 2004 by Mr. Get Real

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Coffee with that cream and sugar?
The opening riff is straight off 'Journeyman' and sets the wrong tone for a Robert Johnson fan. The whole sound is too studio and smooth. All cream (small c) and sugar, not enough raw black coffee like on 'E.C. Was Here'. Also, I was expecting more raw acoustic like Johnson only with a Clapton twist, which he is so good at doing, but nothing there either. I went from...
Published 12 months ago by Em Kay


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86 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eric finally nails it on "Sessions for Robert J" - BUY IT!, December 12, 2004
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This review is from: Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) (Audio CD)
Eric had released "Me and Mr. Johnson" only six months earlier. It was o.k., but there wasn't anything particularly compelling about it. Some songs were good, a continuation of the blues material he had previously released on "Behind the Cradle", only this time the focus was exclusively on Robert Johnson, but a few cuts were lackluster walk-throughs. In addition, the performances were entirely electric, full band efforts which was part of the reason for disappointment. Eric was too comfortable hiding behind a full band set-up. For anyone who has really "gotten it" in terms of what Robert Johnson was all about, acoustic seems the way to go - you want to get to the heart of it all - you just can't hide if it's only you and the guitar. Peter Green made the same misstep a few years ago with his own Robert Johnson compilation. It too was primarily a full band set up. But, what you really hoped for was a stripped down session with just one guy and his guitar - something that Robert Johnson was able to pull off in the 1930's, but something that wealthy white rockers nurtured on stadium rock don't seem to be comfortable with. Robert, after all, performed face-to-face with small house party audiences - obviously he had to bare it all night after night... Eric and Peter had gotten too comfortable with huge stadiums. Still... you have this hope that guys as talented as Peter Green and Eric Clapton have it in them somewhere and you just need to get them to take the chance. Is it possible?

This latest release by Clapton ("Sessions for Robert J.") continues to be exclusively about Robert Johnson songs. Yes, many of the songs are duplicated on the two CD releases ("Me and Mr. Johnson" and "Sessions for Robert J"), but each performance is different on the respective albums. In fact, "Sessions for Robert J." actually contains two different versions of "Hell Hound on my Trail" and "Love in Vain" (yet a third version of "Love in Vain" was originally released on "Me and Mister Johnson" so that there are now three completely different versions available).

O.K. so how is the new "Sessions for Robert J."?

In a word - "STUNNING!"

This is all that one could hope for and more since it is all on DVD in 5.1 Surround Sound. This album is quite a bit better than "From the Cradle". Watching Eric actually perform these songs on the TV screen is a revelation. And yes, some of it is just Eric and his guitar! But perhaps the best is the session where Eric plays with just one other guitar player - Doyle Bramlett. It is truly entertaining to watch these guys stay in step with each other on these technically difficult songs - If you have ever learned to play some of these songs in slide guitar you would know these are tough enough to just play solo!

About half of the songs are with a full band and regardless of what was said above, these are great! Yes, acoustic versions would be nice (and you can choose between electric and acoustic for "Hell Hound on My Trail"), but the full band approach on "Sessions for Robert J." does not disappoint at all! Eric pulls it off and really throws his heart into the performances - no "walk through" performances here! This is where "Sessions" outperforms the earlier "Me and Mister Johnson". There is energy on "Sessions" whereas "Me and Mister Johnson" seems more workman like. And one could safely hazard a guess to say that perhaps Eric felt the same way. After all, you have to wonder why he chose to release a second Robert Johnson album (with a huge duplication of song titles) inside of six months if he was really happy with the first effort? Well, whatever the reason, this album is great!

Some favorite songs on "Sessions":

"Terraplane Blues" - Eric and Doyle run through this song like a sharp knife through watermelon - they absolutely nail it! Worth the price of this set just to have this one song! Historical note: this song was actually performed by Eric in the same Dallas Texas hotel third floor where Johnson originally recorded it in the 1930's! In any case, Eric's vocal is simply amazing! Wow! There is a live version of Eric doing this same song solo in 1994 (a very rare performance caught on a bootleg tape - did he ever even perform it again in concert during that tour?) - it was really good and now we have the same song in much better fidelity and an even better performance! Yes, yes - thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

"Rambling on my Mind" & "Stones In My Passway" - Eric performing acoustic solo. These are basically the way one might have thought it should be done, one man with one guitar - Peter Green please take note!

"Milk Cow Blues", "Traveling Riverside Blues" & "If I had Possession Over Judgment Day" - Eric with the full band. These rock! Very intense and meant to be played loud. Sounds great on 5.1 DTS.

By the way, the least favorite song is "They're Red Hot" - an atypical song in the Johnson cannon, but Eric's version comes off as better than Robert Johnson's original! And even though it's too "happy" for a blues album, it does sound good here!

Having said all this, we have to realize that listening to the original 1930's Robert Johnson songs on scratchy old 78s is an acquired taste for some, but this is probably because few people today are willing to listen to low-fidelity recordings. Please note that the latest releases of the original "King of The Delta Blues" (volume 1 and volume 2) have been remastered (yes, I know - how many times do they need to endlessly remaster this stuff?) and this time on some tracks the vocals and bass have a clarity and presence that far exceeds both the two Columbia box set releases and even the Gold disc. A lot of the hardness in Robert's voice remains on a few tracks, but often it has been toned down a bit in the latest transfers and the bass is much higher in the mix - overall, I think it just sounds better now even if the hiss and ticks and pops are now actually more pronounced - less digital noise reduction seems to result in better fidelity here. In any case, try these most recent remasters if you had a problem with the sound quality of the sterilizing noise reduction used on the Columbia box set (which was re-remastered a second time around 1996 when the smaller box was issued - stay away from the original long box issued in 1991 which now has the worst sound available). I have learned to play several Robert Johnson songs on slide guitar and through that experience found genius not just in his execution, which of course is perfect, but also in Robert's arrangements. The simple truth is that Robert Johnson with his limited resources (poor Black man in the 1930's in the deep South) was perhaps an even a more naturally gifted musician than Eric Clapton - if that is even possible! This assessment is reinforced by Eric himself in the section in the DVD where he discusses how hard it is for him to sing in a different tempo than the guitar as Robert often effortlessly does. So take it from there...

By the way, if you go directly to the various sessions in the DVD you will miss the mini-interviews with Eric. You have to click on "play all" to get the entire presentation. I had been just clicking on the individual sessions thereby missing the interviews until I found them accidentally.

Please note that the companion CD is missing something like half of the performances included in the DVD! My solution was to make my own compilation direct from the DVD with ALL the songs - it will fit nicely on one 80 minute CD-R.

Bottom line, Eric finally does justice to his blues influences (this is even better than "From the Cradle") and created yet another classic in the process.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The latest in a long line of extraordinary efforts..., December 13, 2004
By 
o dubhthaigh (north rustico, pei, canada) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) (Audio CD)
Clapton has emerged, particularly since McCartney's CONCERT FOR NY, and the TRIBUTE TO GEORGE as a statesman of incomparable dignity, sublime in both the finesse and creativity that he brings to efforts whose subjects he deeply respects. It is no less the case with his most recent releases, be the homages to B B King, George, his own tours, an incredible guitar festival, and now Robert Johnson. The CD is excellent - some additional material and different takes on the ME AND MR JOHNSON release, an extraordinary document in its own right.

But what takes this to an entirely different level is the DVD. A mix of recording sessions in interesting locations (Clapton's English countryside, Johnson's former recording studio) and Clapton's reflections on his approach to Johnson and his myth, most of which Eric is keen to debunk, having been the victim of enough myths to rewrite Homer himself.

And it is just this effort of his to get to the music as he feels it and not take any of the side show for more than that that gets inside of you. You are not going to hear Robert Johnson completely re-worked. You're going to hear his tunes really honsetly delivered. There is a sublime beauty to that that just takes you to that very special place where MUSIC leans over and brings you into its confidence. And that seems to be the point for Clapton: to get inside that confidence in order to honour a man whose dedication and discipline inspired a poor English kid years ago to reach down deep.

And on both the CD and the DVD, the music is without peer. As I say, Clapton at this point in his career has acheived a level of dignity that is to be admired.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent interpretation of Robert Johnson's music, December 5, 2006
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This review is from: Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) (Audio CD)
Having listened to Clapton for more than 30 years, I can see how he had matured in his interpretation of blues and particularly Robert Johnson's music.

I enjoyed on this CD and DVD Clapton's arrangements of his songs and surprised in the variety that Johnson built into his music.

Clapton keeps the songs true to the original yet adds life of his own to them and brings them out of the 30's into our era.

I appreciate too, him keeping the original lyrics, especially on Sweet Home Chicago and Johnson's peculiar geographic connection.

The more I have seen Clapton in the last few years, I think he has really come to be comfortable in his music and playing to a legendary level. This is a very good set to own.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superior Product, June 29, 2006
This review is from: Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) (Audio CD)
This DVD/CD is far superior to the CD which preceded it, 'Me and Mr J', which was released in 2004. The band gels and seems more cohesive. In addition, the arrangements are more interesting and there is more variety in the presentation of the classic Delta songs. Clapton performs several with Dayle Bramhall 11, which are outstanding, but the highlights for me, are the solo accoustic numbers, 'Ramblin' on my Mind' and a poignant 'Love in Vain'.

The previous album lacked this essential variety and sounded repetitious and routine by comparison. Clapton is an excellent accoustic blues guitarist, and should give more exposure to this form of presentation. This is the missing ingredient from the first CD.

What contributes to the enhanced atmosphere, is the decision to perform in the hotel room in Dallas, where Robert Johnson recorded the originals in 1937/38. There are more than a few ghosts hovering and it imbues the music with a sense of spirit and dignity.

There is also an excellent 'Kind Hearted Woman Blues', which the band handles with aplomb.

Highly recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Clapton blues album, July 4, 2005
By 
John M. Thompson (Albuquerque, New Mexico) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) (Audio CD)
The weakest thing about Clapton's performances as a blues musician has always been his voice. It's never been painful to hear, but it's definitely an Englishman's voice. It made From the Cradle hard to enjoy - not because Clapton couldn't deliver the song, but because he sounded like it was work.

This recording has Clapton's best and most relaxed singing, ever. Better than Behind the Sun, Journeyman or any of his studio recordings, a year of playing these songs since the Me and Mr. Johnson has done wonders for his pitch, phrasing and clarity of tone as a singer. You already know how well he plays the guitar, and you already know he has the best damn band money can buy. He positively swaggers through "Sweet Home Chicago" and "Stop Breaking Down," and revisits "Ramblin' on my Mind" for the third time on record [first on Bluesbreakers and thereafter on Just One Night] to deliver his best rendition.

Also, all you self-impressed reviewers who think that this isn't sad enough to be the blues - GET OVER YOURSELVES. The blues derives from the emotional experience of being black and poor, taking life's pleasures and pains in America. Eric Clapton gives ample tribute to the more solemn, stripped-down feeling of the original Robert Johnson recordings in his duets with Doyle Bramhall, but then he turns around and rocks the house as Buddy Guy or Muddy Waters might have in the Fifties - when his idols were playing the songs of their idol Robert Johnson.

This isn't the only blues album anyone should own, and Eric Clapton's not the end of the blues. But this album's a great place to hear these songs for the first time.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FINALLY - Throw away Me And MR. Johnson and Buy this, December 8, 2004
By 
J. Ervin (Hollywood, Ca United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) (Audio CD)
I'm a huge Clapton fan and have been Disapointed time after time after time. Releases like Pilgrim and Riding with the king have only let me down. This is the REAL thing, the music is great as is the DVD. Live in the studio, no overdubs - no nonsense.

If you like Clapton BUY this now. Proabably the best thing he's done in 20 years.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Sessions" definitely better than "Me & Mr. Johnson", December 16, 2004
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This review is from: Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) (Audio CD)
First of all, I loved Me & Mr. J. But still, I thought he could've done a better job, and he rectifies that by releasing "Sessions For Robert J." Done after the band had been touring for a while, the band is concise they jam together great. There are even some solo accoustic performances by Clapton in the same hotel room where Robert Johnson recorded his historic recordings back in the mid '30s. Clapton has never sounded better than he does here. His guitar playing has consistently improved over the years, and so has his singing. The band is tight, and they jam with ease. I've been spinning this cd nonstop since I got it. I really like the versions of Sweet Home Chicago and If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day. This album just seems to be more of a jam-type session, like From The Cradle. And it's all the better for it.

Now, I must take an opportunity to mention Clapton's second guitar player. Many people have asked me who this guy was. His name is Doyle Bramhall II. Y'all may have heard that name before. His dad, Doyle Bramhall Sr., helped write many songs with the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan, particularly hits like Tightrope, The House Is Rockin', and Telephone Song. Doyle II has also played with Stevie's band Double Trouble and singer/guitarist Charlie Sexton in a band called the Arc Angels, which put out an outstanding cd in the early 1990s. Clearly, Doyle has the lineage to be great, and he is! Be sure to check out his cds: Jellycream and Welcome. You won't be disappointed. He's as good a songwriter as he is a guitar player. Marry You and I Wanna Be, which are from Clapton's and B.B. King's great collaboration Riding With The King, are his songs. You can hear them on Jellycream. Remember: if it's good enough for Clapton, it's good enough for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By far Clapton's best treatment of Robert Johnson material, July 25, 2009
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This review is from: Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) (Audio CD)
When I first picked this one up, I had high hopes for what I'd find within the cardboard confines of the packaging. What I found were a CD and a DVD that were both over the top in quality. Simply stated, this is Clapton's best work in interpreting the songs of Robert Johnson.

The DVD opens up with Clapton rolling up in his Porshe to a very nice recording studio parked somewhere out in the English countryside. Once inside he finds some of his mates waiting for him:
- Nathan East, bass player (you might have seen him on Eric Clapton: Unplugged or with Phil Collins on LIVE and Loose in Paris)
- Billy Preston on Hammond B3 (the only other guy to play with the Beatles - that's him up on the roof of Apple Records with the Fab 4 doing Get Back among others, the Concert for George - tribute to George Harrison)
- Doyle Bramhall III on second/rhythm guitar (did the first half hour of an Austin City Limits where Robert Cray did the 2nd half, wrote TIGHTROPE and THE HOUSE IS ROCKIN' for Stevie Ray Vaughan, guitar on In the Flesh LIVE with Roger Waters)
- Steve Gadd on drums (veteran player with Clapton on tour, Simon and Garfunkel's Concert in Central Park, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, and Chuck Mangione)
- Chris Stainton on piano (Joe Cocker on Mad Dogs & Englishmen and with the Who on Tommy - organ & acoustic guitar)

You get the idea: basically a band constructed of lightweights and ne'er do wells...

The DVD is nicely formatted with a segment of 'electric Blues' studio playing then some interview material with Clapton, a 2nd 'electric' studio segment played in Dallas, more interview material, a 3rd musical segment that's just Clapton and Bramhall on acoustics and the prettiest National Steel resonator guitar I've ever seen in my life playing in the building in Dallas where Johnson was recorded, a little more interview stuff and then Clapton in a hotel room by himself.

The few songs that you get to see and hear Clapton and Bramhall play acoustically without any production frills are worth the entire cost of this set. There is a warmth, a respect, and an honesty there that just blaze off of their fingertips and ring in Clapton's voice.

As for the CD, it is comprised of studio versions of 10 of the songs you see on the DVD and one not found there - Stop Breakin' Down Blues.

In conclusion, Robert Johnson is the guy who basically created Eric Clapton. Without Clapton's early exposure to his music courtesy of John Mayall and then his lifelong study of the quintessential Blues man of All Time, we would not have the Eric Clapton we see and hear today. This item is as nice a tribute by one musician to the music of another musician that I know about.

Mr. Clapton done Mr. Johnson proud on this little devil.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Double Bonus, July 29, 2005
This review is from: Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) (Audio CD)
As Clapton says on the DVD, a musician could spend his whole life exploring the music of Robert Johnson and trying to play it "right". That is what is so interesting about the DVD in this collection, the fact that Eric gives the viewer so much insight into what Robert Johnson means (and has always meant) to him. Their careers parallel each other in many ways except that Clapton survived his reckless youth while Johnson did not. But Eric notes in one of the many mini-interviews on the DVD that he, like Johnson, went away for several months, hiding out in a room and practicing guitar several hours a day until he could play it the way he wanted to play. Johnson, back in the late 20s or early 30s, did the same after legendary blues player Son House laughed at his way

of playing guitar. In that sense, Johnson and Clapton are the same because Eric has always stood up to his critics by improving on whatever weaknesses they thought he might have.

Clapton makes it clear on the DVD that he can't play Roberts' songs the exact way Johnson did but during performances either solo or with Bramhill, he captures the essence of those songs and explains that these songs truly"put me in the moment".

I could go on and on but other reviewers here have hit the mark, especially the guy who was diappointed with the Me & Mr. Johnson album but delighted with this one because of the DVD and the acoustic versions of many of Johnsons' songs. Being a Johnson/Clapton fan for years and years, this tribute is a double bonus. I onlywishCream had done more Johnson tunes way back when.....
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars much better than "Me and Mr. J.", January 2, 2005
This review is from: Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) (Audio CD)
I absolutely love Clapton, but I was still very disappointed and unsatisfied with his studio album of RJ covers. Despite the fact that the musicianship was superb, it just felt way too sterile and bland. I think "Sessions for Robert J." more than makes up for that. They should have shelved "Me and Mr. J." and released only this album, as it blows "Me and Mr. J." away. You get the same superb musicianship with added energy and passion that just seems to be missing from this album's studio counterpart, plus you get some superb smoking Clapton solo accoustic work which blows me away everytime I watch it on the DVD. It's one thing to listen to Clapton and admire him, but it's really quite amazing when you watch him make it all look so easy. I was never a huge Clapton fan until I had a chance to see him live, and I was sold after his first solo. The CD/DVD combo is something artists should do more of. You can put the DVD on at home be mesmerized, and you've also got a CD to take with you in the car. "Me and Mr. J." isn't bad, but if you have to chose, this one wins hands down. All Clapton fans should love it, and I can't imagine a "purist" blues fan not being able to find something that he or she likes on it either.
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Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD)
Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) by Eric Clapton (Audio CD - 2004)
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