Saturday, June 12, 2010

For The Weekend: Think You've Heard Robert Johnson?

For your weekend consideration: 

We all know Robert Johnson. He sprang out of rural Mississippi and went on, in his short undocumented life, to define the blues with songs that have influenced musicians on every corner of the globe.

Some listeners are voicing loudly what has been percolating in audio circles and online forums for years--that we've never actually heard Mr. Johnson's songs as he intended them, that the pitch and speed of his classic sides such as "Cross Road Blues" were deliberately altered in the mastering process.

WNYC's Soundcheck recently featured a discussion with Jon Wilde, a writer for The Guardian newspaper in London, who contends that Mr. Johnson's songs have been sped up by 20%. The program compares the versions of "Cross Road Blues" we know with how the song might sound slowed down. The results, far from being "right" or "wrong" are fascinating. Enjoy.