* archives *

Recorded:

1936-1937

Released:

1961 K1, 1970 K2, Aug. 28, 1990 CR


Notes:

CR The Complete Recordings
K1 King of the Delta Blues Singers, Volume 1
K2 King of the Delta Blues Singers, Volume 2

These three collections all mine from the same 29 known recordings of Robert Johnson songs. The two volumes of King of the Delta Blues Singers cover all 29 songs on two separately released albums; The Complete Recordings gathers all 29 of those masters plus another 12 alternate versions.


Genre:

blues


Rating:


Quotable:

“If you are starting your blues collection from the ground up, be sure to make this your very first purchase.” – Cub Koda, All Music Guide


Album Tracks:

  • Kind Hearted Woman Blues CR *, K1, K2
  • I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom CR, K2
  • Sweet Home Chicago CR, K2
  • Ramblin’ on My Mind CR *, K1, K2
  • When You Got a Good Friend CR *, K1
  • Come on in My Kitchen CR *, K1
  • Terraplane Blues CR, K1
  • Phonograph Blues CR *, K2
  • 32-20 Blues CR, K1
  • They’re Red Hot CR, K2
  • Dead Shrimp Blues CR, K2
  • Cross Road Blues (aka “Crossroads”) CR *, K1
  • Walkin’ Blues CR, K1
  • Last Fair Deal Gone Down CR, K1
  • Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped the Devil) CR, K1, K2
  • If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day CR, K1
  • Stones in My Passway CR, K1
  • I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man CR, K2
  • From Four Until Late CR, K2
  • Hell Hound on My Trail CR, K1
  • Little Queen of Spades CR *, K2
  • Malted Milk CR, K2
  • Drunken Hearted Man CR *, K2
  • Me and the Devil Blues CR *, K1
  • Stop Breakin’ Down Blues CR *, K2
  • Traveling Riverside Blues CR, K1 **
  • Honeymoon Blues CR, K2
  • Love in Vain Blues CR *, K2
  • Milkcow’s Calf Blues * CR, K1

* Includes two versions – the master and an alternate.

** Alternate take discovered in 1998 and added to reissue of album.


Sales (in millions):

1.0
--
--
1.0


Peak:

80
--


Singles/Hit Songs:

No charted songs, but among the many notable covers are:

  • Elmore James’ Dust My Broom
  • John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers’ Ramblin’ on My Mind
  • Cream’s Crossroads
  • The Rolling Stones’ Love in Vain
  • Led Zeppelin’s Traveling Riverside Blues
  • The Allman Brothers Band’s Come on in My Kitchen
  • George Thorogood & the Destroyers’ I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man
  • The Blues Brothers’ Sweet Home Chicago
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers’ They’re Red Hot
  • John Mellencamp’s Stones in My Passway
  • The White Stripes’ Stop Breaking Down

Awards:


The Complete Recordings/
King of the Delta Blues Singers (Vols. 1 & 2)

Robert Johnson

Review:

“If we didn’t have these scratchy etchings it would have been necessary for someone to fake them. This is how the blues sound in the root of every imagination.” NC

Legend has it that “Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to learn how to play guitar.” TL “Before his early death in 1938, Robert Johnson virtually defined the blues.” BL “The revisionist history is that he wasn’t really the greatest blues musician of his era, he was just lucky enough to get recorded. The response to both stories is simple – just listen to his songs.” TL “Whether the devil made him do it or not, these songs (recorded in 1936 and 1937) certainly hit otherworldly extremes. On first hearing this music, [legendary Rolling Stones’ guitarist] Keith Richards assumed Johnson had two guitars.” BL

The King of the Delta Blues Singers album, released in 1961, jump-started the whole ‘60s blues revival.” CK “The majority of Johnson’s best-known tunes, the ones that made the legend, are all aboard: Crossroads, Walkin’ Blues, Me & the Devil Blues, Come on in My Kitchen, and the apocalyptic visions contained in Hellhound on My Trail are the blues at its finest, the lyrics sheer poetry.” CK

King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol. 2 followed in 1970 and boasted “the first album appearance of Love in Vain, as well as a number of other blues classics penned by the artist. Sweet Home Chicago, I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom, They’re Red Hot, and Malted Milk are all present.” AG “The music is…impeccable – the self-accompanying bassline boogie was one of Johnson’s greatest contributions to the blues, and it’s displayed in all its beauty here. To top this, there’s the beauty of his melodic work, and the interplay with his semi-gruff voice that help to make his songs memorable.” AG

1990’s The Complete Recordings was “a double-disc box set containing everything Robert Johnson ever recorded,” STE “including a generous selection of alternate takes.” STE It “is essential listening, but it is also slightly problematic. The problems aren’t in the music itself, of course…[but] in the track sequencing.” STE “All of the alternates are sequenced directly after the master, which can make listening to the album a little…tedious for novices. Certainly, the alternates can be programmed out with a CD 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.” STE

“The official 1998 edition of the original 1961 album was…remastered off the best-quality original 78s available, of far superior quality to any of the source materials used on even” CK The Complete Recordings. “Johnson’s guitar takes on a fullness never heard on previous reissues, and except for a nagging hiss in spots on Terraplane Blues…this really brings his music alive.” CK The reissue of King of the Delta Blues Singers also included “a newly discovered-in-1998 alternate take of Traveling Riverside Blues that’s appended to the original 16-track lineup.” CK

“Johnson’s masterful writing, with its perfect control of images and emotion, and magnificent guitar playing loom large over music to this day.” TL His “guitar is as polyphonic as the wheels of a train, his voice as elemental as the wind; they pass the listener at an unbiddable distance and leave only the faintest trace, like steam on a window.” NC “He is the true legend of the blues, and anyone with even the slightest curiosity in that genre or rock needs to own both this album and its predecessor, or else the box set…that covers both of them.” AG “If you are starting your blues collection from the ground up, be sure to make this your very first purchase.” CK


Review Source(s):


Crossroads (video with text about the myth of Robert Johnson)


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Last updated June 20, 2011.