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Robert Johnson(1911-38) was the most mysterious and influential of all the Delta bluesmen. Bob Dylan once said that "it felt like a ghost had come into the room, a fearsome apparition" when he first heard the LP 'King of the Delta Blues Singers' in 1961. Robert Johnson's intense guitar playing combined with his haunting voice and stark, elemental songs created something utterly compelling. This CD reissue of 'King of the Delta Blues Singers' contains 17 stunning tracks(including an alternative take of 'Traveling Riverside Blues') recorded by Don Law for VOCALION in a San Antonio hotel room in November 1936 and Dallas in June 1937. These momentous recordings should be a cornerstone of any blues collection along with Volume II.
I haven’t studied music as much as many reviewers and do not worry too much regarding musical style or historical accuracy. However this album is inspiring because it takes the listener back in time and you can feel the dust in the cotton fields, the hot sun, the emotion in the songs and the playing. Very pleasurable and a good start for listening and understanding the blues. Did Johnson really make a pact with the devil at the crossroads? Who knows, but the story sure adds mystery to the brilliant playing of this man from the delta. The sleeve notes are very interesting, the background to Johnson’s life and sad demise fills in the album to make it a great buy.
This CD (the 1998 Columbia Legacy edition with the bonus track of an alternate take of Travelling Riverside Blues) is THE best quality Robert Johnson recording I have heard.
If you own either of the the old Sony/Columbia "Complete Robert Johnson" double CD sets (the original 1990 or remastered 1996 issue) you could well be mistaken for thinking those, taken at the time from the earliest known sources, were the best examples you were ever likely to hear of Robert Johnson. Not so.
After the latter compilation was released they rediscovered a collection of better source material which had lain forgotten about in the vaults since the 1960s. And the improvement that brought to these recordings is immense. There is still some surface noice and a little distortion here and there on vocal peaks, but the astounding upgrade in fidelty achieved with the newly discovered sources cannot be overstated. The difference really is one of night and day between this collection and it's predecessors.
So if you want the best quality RJ on CD, my advice is to buy this and its companion "King of the Delta Blues Singers Volume 2". You'll still be missing a few tracks from the "Complete Robert Johnson", but for the phenomenal upgrade in sound, that's a VERY small price to pay.
For many musicians and fans of the blues, this is one of those "where it all started for me" albums. I would recommend having a listen to the track samples before you buy as it may be an aquired taste for some. I like it as a change of mood. Late night music.