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The Complete Recordings

4.7 out of 5 stars 188 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
  2. Kind Hearted Woman Blues
  3. I Believe I'll Dust My Broom
  4. Sweet Home Chicago
  5. Ramblin' On My Mind
  6. Ramblin' On My Mind
  7. When You Got a Good Friend
  8. When You Got a Good Friend
  9. Come on in My Kitchen
  10. Come on in My Kitchen
  11. Terraplane Blues
  12. Phonograph Blues
  13. Phonograph Blues
  14. 32-20 Blues
  15. They're Red Hot
  16. Dead Shrimp Blues
  17. Cross Road Blues
  18. Cross Road Blues
  19. Walkin' Blues
  20. Last Fair Deal Gone Down

Disc: 2

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

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 8, 1996)
  • Original Release Date: October 8, 1996
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Sony Legacy
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • ASIN: B000002ADN
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,720 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Something mysterious was happening in the Mississippi Delta in the 1930's. It could have been at the crossroads of highway 49 and 61 on a dark night with the full moon glowing through the fog. Robert Johnson was trying to flag a ride:
"You can run, you can run tell my friend-boy Willie Brown Lord, that I'm standin' at the crossroad, babe I believe I'm sinkin' down."
Robert Johnson didn't run though and came back months later to surprise fellow blues musicians Son House and Willie Brown with his newly acquired guitar wizardry. The legend started there and continues today.
Over the years Robert Johnson continues to be a mystery shrouded figure from his guitar skills to his death he was elusive at the time and remains so. The closest one can get to knowing him is through his music and the Complete Recordings has it all.
His songs have been coveredby dozens of performers. Sweet Home Chicago has been recorded at least 139 times, come on in My Kitchen 71 and Love in Vain 36 times. His lyrics although written in the 1930's remain alive and vibrant in today's world as they were at the time.
These recordings made in the 30's are alive and compelling. Robert Johnson was a guitar virtuoso whose work impressed the likes of Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. His voice is eerie and haunting.
These recordings were made in the 1930's, and sound that way so for someone used to modern listening they may be an acquired taste. For someone interested in the history of modern rock, pop or blues these are a must have item, regardless of two similar recordings side by side.
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