The Complete Recordings (Robert Johnson album)

The Complete Recordings is an album of recordings by legendary bluesman, songwriter Robert Johnson, originally recorded in Dallas and San Antonio, Texas during 1936 and 1937, and released in 1990, Sony/Columbia Legacy 46222. The album has sold more than a million copies.

The album won a Grammy Award in 1991 for "Best Historical Album. It also was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2003. The board selects recordings in an annual basis that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The album peaked at #80 on the Billboard 200.


Prior to his untimely death in 1938, through the help of H. C. Speir, Johnson recorded 29 songs for the American Record Company (ARC). His complete canon of recordings includes 29 masters, plus 12 surviving alternate takes, all recorded at two ARC sessions held in San Antonio and Dallas, Texas.

The Mississippi Delta--two hundred miles of fertile lowlands stretching from Memphis, Tennessee in the north to Vicksburg, Mississippi in the south--was one of the primary locales in which the blues originated and developed. He is said to have been heavily influenced by early blues artists like Skip James, who was recorded in 1931, around the same time that Johnson amazed his elders with his mastery of the guitar. James's eerie, distinctive style is reflected throughout Johnson's recordings, most notably in "32-20 Blues," which he adapted from James's "22-20 Blues."

Johnson's first session in San Antonio, Texas lasted three days, on the 23rd, 26th, and 27th of November 1936, sixteen songs were recorded in the Gunter Hotel, where ARC had set up equipment to record a number of musical acts. "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" was the first song recorded. Also captured in San Antonio were "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" and "Sweet Home Chicago," both of which became post-war blues standards. "Terraplane Blues," known for its metaphoric lyrics, became a regional hit and Johnson's signature song. Most of the selections were released on Vocalion 78s, but three songs and several interesting alternate takes remained unissued until they appeared on the Columbia albums. Six months later, on the 19th and 20th of June 1937, other recording sessions took place in a Dallas, Texas warehouse where, once again, ARC had set up its recording equipment to capture many different acts. This time 13 songs were recorded and 10 were released during the following year.

The song "Cross Road Blues" is one of his best and most popular, thanks to Eric Clapton and Cream (Wheels of Fire), whose interpretation popularized the song in the late 1960s. Johnson didn't live long enough to enjoy his belated superstardom, established in the early '60s when Columbia Records released a collection of Johnson recordings called King of the Delta Blues Singers. Bluesmen like Clapton and Keith Richards viewed the release as something of a blues bible, considered by some to be the "King of the Delta Blues Singers The Rolling Stones recorded "Love in Vain on their 1969 album, Let It Bleed, and "Stop Breakin' Down" on their Exile on Main St. (1971) album.

While Robert Johnson's professional recording career can be measured in months, his musical legacy has survived more than 70 years. Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, two prominent Chicago bluesmen, have their roots in the Delta: both knew Robert Johnson, and were heavily influenced by him. By Johnson's emotive vocals, combined with his varied and masterful guitar playing, continue to influence blues and popular music performers to this day. In 2004, Me and Mr. Johnson is a blues album by Eric Clapton, which is a tribute to legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, reaching to #6 on the Billboard 200 and has sold more than 563,000 copies in the United States.

Track listing

Disc: 1

Track Song Title Notes Time
1. Kind Hearted Woman Blues 2:49
2. Kind Hearted Woman Blues (alternate take) 2:31
3. I Believe I'll Dust My Broom 2:56
4. Sweet Home Chicago 2:59
5. Rambling On My Mind 2:51
6. Rambling On My Mind (alternate take) 2:20
7. When You Got A Good Friend 2:37
8. When You Got A Good Friend (alternate take) 2:50
9. Come On In My Kitchen 2:47
10. Come On In My Kitchen (alternate take) 2:35
11. Terraplane Blues 3:00
12. Phonograph Blues 2:37
13. Phonograph Blues (alternate take) 2:35
14. 32-20 Blues 2:51
15. They're Red Hot 2:56
16. Dead Shrimp Blues 2:30
17. Cross Road Blues 2:39
18. Cross Road Blues (alternate take) 2:29
19. Walking Blues 2:28
20. Last Fair Deal Gone Down 2:39

Disc 2

Track Song Title Notes Time
1. Preaching Blues (Up Jumped The Devil) 2:50
2. If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day 2:34
3. Stones In My Passway 2:27
4. I'm A Steady Rollin' Man 2:35
5. From Four Till Late 2:23
6. Hell Hound On My Trail 2:35
7. Little Queen Of Spades 2:11
8. Little Queen Of Spades (alternate take) 2:15
9. Malted Milk 2:17
10. Drunken Hearted Man 2:24
11. Drunken Hearted Man (alternate take) 2:19
12. Me & The Devil Blues 2:37
13. Me & The Devil Blues (alternate take) 2:29
14. Stop Breakin' Down Blues 2:16
15. Stop Breakin' Down Blues (alternate take) 2:21
16. Traveling Riverside Blues 2:47
17. Honeymoon Blues 2:16
18. Love In Vain 2:28
19. Love In Vain (alternate take) 2:19
20. Milkcow's Calf Blues 2:14
21. Milkcow's Calf Blues (alternate take) 2:20


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