Review of "Robert Johnson: The Centennial Collection"

Robert Russell By Robert Russell, 1st Nov 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Music>Blues

Robert Johnson was born May 8, 1911 and died at the young age of 27 in 1938. At the time of his death, Johnson was a obscure traveling blues musician. His recordings were rediscovered in the 1960s and Johnson has emerged as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.. "Robert Johnson:The Centennial Collection" honors Johnson's centennial year by reissuing his recordings in a new format.

The Centennial Collection is a "Must Have" for Robert Johnson Fans

The Centennial Collection is a two disc CD collection that presents Johnson's complete recorded catalog. Disc one presents the San Antonio recordings and the Dallas recordings are presented on disc two. Johnson's recordings have never sounded better. The recordings have been digitally transferred by transfer technique created by Steven Lasker. Once the material was digitally transferred, the pops and cracks and other sonic noises were removed so that Johnson's guitar and voice have a remarkable amount of clarity. There are even a couple of test tracks were we hear Johnson speaking and setting up his guitar.

The Cennential Collection is accompanied with an essay written by Stephen LaVere the documents the history of the recordings. LaVere's essay will proof very insightful and interesting to Johnson fans. Don Law and Vincient Liebler were in charge of the recording sessions. The goal was to recorded two takes of each song. Johnson recorded 29 compositions and there were 59 recordings altogether. The recordings were rated 1 and 2 and sent to New York City for processing. 42 recording exist from the original 59 and all 42 recordings are presented in The Centennial Collection.

Another interesting piece of information concerns the guitars that Johnson used for the recording sessions. LaVere points out that the San Antonio and the Dallas session have two very distinct guitar sounds. Don Law borrowed a guitar for Johnson to use for the San Antonio sessions. Levere believes that Johnson used a flattop guitar for the San Antonio sessions and a arch-top for the Dallas sessions. It is interesting to compare disc one with disc two to hear the difference in the guitar tone.

The Centennial Collection also includes an in depth biography that includes interesting details about Johnson's life. The biography is also written by LaVere. The biography also include photographs of Johnson, his mother and stepfather as well as photos of several musical contemporaries and colleagues such as Charlie Patton, Son House, Johnny Shines, Honeyboy Edwards. There is also a photograph of Three Forks juke-joint in Greenwood Mississippi where Johnson was murdered in 1938. Honeyboy recently passed away in the summer of 2011. He was only four years younger than Johnson and was with him the night he was poisoned at the Three Forks.

The Centennial Collection is a complete package. It opens up new insights and glimpses into Johnson's world and his music. It has must have for fans of Johnson's music and for fans of acoustic blues music in general.


Charlie Patton, Honeyboy Edwards, Mississippi Blues, Robert Johnson

Meet the author

author avatar Robert Russell
I play guitar professionally in a Cajun/zydeco band named Creole Stomp. We are a nationally touring band that have been together ten years. I also have a PhD in philosophy.

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