Robert Johnson, "The Complete Original Masters -- Centennial Edition"

The legendary catalog of bluesman Robert Johnson is dressed up to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth. In a collection that includes 12 vinyl reproductions of his 78 rpm records, Legacy has remastered the 42 takes that comprised 1990's "The Complete Recordings," added two CDs of recordings by Johnson's contemporaries and included a DVD of Peter Meyer's 1997 documentary "Can't You Hear the Wind Howl?" that explores the influence of Johnson's unique songwriting, singing and guitar playing. The overall sound quality is quite good and the otherworldly detachment in Johnson's voice as impressive as ever. The only unissued tracks here are two sides from Samuel "Fat" Westmoreland. The attraction is the packaging: replicas of his 10-inch records that play at 45 rpm and a book of short essays from blues historians instead of Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, whose notes were featured in the 1990 set. The discs of blues rarities feature tracks from Tommy Johnson, the Light Crust Doughboys and others to amplify Johnson's distinctiveness. The documentary points out the connection between Johnson and Son House; too bad that none of House's recordings were included for comparison.

- Album Review


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