Robert Johnson Recordings

Discussion in 'Music to Your Ears' started by ping-ping-clicka, Jun 10, 2021 at 3:07 AM.

  1. ping-ping-clicka

    ping-ping-clicka Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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  2. wangdaning

    wangdaning TDPRI Member

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    Reminds me of my Gibson L-3 (which my brother is now in possession of). Awesome sound.
     
  3. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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  4. Ron R

    Ron R Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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  5. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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    I had that one as well. They did two mastering's on it, one when it came out in the box, and a slightly better one when is was rereleased as a Brick.

    But the Centennial one beats it big time.

    The one shame of his stuff, is that we didn't get to hear more "jazzier/swing" things he was doing like "Red Hot".

    He was recording after the swing revolution of 35, and I'm sure incorporated some of those ideas into his cannon of songs.
     
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  6. buster poser

    buster poser Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    Weak, I have the boxed one and didn't know this.
     
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  7. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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    It was great when it came out. But what they did on the recent Centennial one is really remarkable.

    Sony was still using that weird noise cancelling audio program on a lot of their late 80's-early 90's blues and jazz stuff, and it tended to cut out the high end. They did a much better job when the box set was released in the Brick form.

    Yazoo Records has done an amazing job on its Skip James and Son House stuff, but that early 30's stuff is in much worse condition.
     
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  8. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Silver Supporter

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  9. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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    Obsessed, with your avatar, you seem to be one in the know when it comes to the blues.

    What's your take on the possibility that his recordings were speeded up? I tend to discount it, but his voice does seem more natural on some of the takes?





     
  10. Vocalion

    Vocalion TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    Piling on with comments regarding the Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings box. I was amazed as just how bad this particular collection sounded. The sound was very flat in comparison to the King of the Delta Blues Singers LPs. I suspect that the culprit was a heavy hand on the CEDAR noise reduction. In the early days of CDs, there was an effort to remove all noise possible from recordings derived from 78s often resulting in flat sound with rolled-off highs. Most of the early blues CDs I have just from the Sony Legacy imprint had the life sucked out of them - minimal resonance, air, overtones, etc. In addition to the more recent Centennial issue being sourced from better surviving discs, any digital processing has been done much more artfully.
     
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  11. marshman

    marshman Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I also heard the 'theory' that his recordings were accidentally sped up in the process of recording/transfer to record and the few songs I've heard do have a palpable, and very different, feel to them.
     
  12. OldPup

    OldPup Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    @Mike M, I’m not a blues enthusiast, but there is no question in my mind that those “slowed down” versions of the recordings sound far more natural. I’d bet money they are much closer to how he sounded than the recordings we all heard of him first.
     
  13. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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    Yeah, the CEDAR thing, that was it.

    By removing all the clicks and pops, you also sucked the life out of it. What they did to Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Bessie Smith on those re releases was almost criminal.

    Since then, Sony seems to be doing a much better job. All the stuff on their "Essential" comps seem to be really good.
     
  14. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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    Yeah, I feel like there might be something there. His voice reminds me of Paul's in the speeded up "When I'm 64" version.

    It might also explain some of the weird keys he played in, and how its really hard to duplicate his playing.

    That theory tends to get discounted, he was recorded during two different times, 7 months apart. So Law and Vincent Liebler would have to sped them up during the recording, since the LP and CD transfers do seem to mimic the 78s.
     
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  15. The Angle

    The Angle Tele-Afflicted

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    I used to buy into the notion that Johnson's records had somehow been sped up until I read Escaping the Delta by Elijah Wald. He examines each of Johnson's recordings in detail. I highly recommend the book, but for the condensed version of Wald's reply to this question, here's his blog entry on it -- The Robert Johnson speed controversy (elijahwald.com)
     
  16. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Silver Supporter

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    I have learned a few of his songs note for note, and I am pretty convinced that if there is any speeding up, it was minor and by accident considering the recording technology of the day, but these songs beg to be played quickly.

    Anyway, it is just a guess on my part as well as others. We may never know.
     
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  17. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Silver Supporter

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    An excellent book and probably a big influence on my conclusion too.
     
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  18. Mike M

    Mike M Tele-Holic

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    "We may never know."

    True, although we never thought he had been photographed either.

    I had the both LP's in the 70's, and was amazed when the photos appeared. You took one look at his long slender fingers (like Hendrix) and thought "but of course!"
     
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  19. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Haaaa, me too. There are a few note changes that have been assumed by people trying to figure out how he played them, that seem obvious when you think about those fingers of his.:eek:
     
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  20. bumnote

    bumnote Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    It was very common for speeds to be sped up or slowed down for mixing. The Beatles did it A LOT. I'm all but certain that Zeppelin's "Hey, Hey, What Can I Do" has the instrumental tracks slowed down, not the vocals just the backing track. The cymbals sound slowed and when sped back up the key changes to A & is easier to play using cowboy chords without changing tuning.
    When slowed, in analog, Johnson's songs sound so much more natural & so do the keys.
    Just in case some don't know, slowing down playback in digital will not change the key. Only analog does that.
     
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