14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2011
Oh dear! This disc includes some of the greatest of early Mississippi blues, but this is not the record to buy. The surface noise on many of the tracks is so bad it is virtually impossible to listen to the music. I know these tracks were originally recorded by Paramount who seem to have been a pretty cheapskate operation notorious for bad recording quality but the remastering for this reissue is wholly inadequate. This must have been obvious to anybody listening to the disc before issue. Skip James' music deserves far better treatment than it received here. Nobody would dream of treating the music of Bach in this way and within its own field this is just as important.
This is all of the 1931 session which was featured in Wim Wender's film 'The Soul of a Man'. It was Skip's only recording session until his rediscovery many years later and it forms one of the classics of Mississippi blues. It is a total one off, as Skip doesn't sound like anyone else, didn't particularly influence anyone else and wasn't particularly influenced by anybody else. But, he was one of the greats.
His voice is very flexible, sometimes strong, sometimes quite weak, often high pitched but not really falsetto. Frequently the effect is eerie. His guitar playing has a clean sound, he can be quite fast but is often hesitant. Only it isn't hesitancy, it is how he saw the music, because the gaps all go to form part of beautifully realised miniature compositions. He plays piano on six tracks, dissonant, hesitant, swinging, but always apt.
The music is a mixture of blues of all sorts, dance tunes and religious songs. All come out as totally original. Some of them are acknowledged classics, such as 'Devil Got My Woman', '22-20 Blues', 'Cypress Grove Blues', and 'I'm So Glad' but all are very special. All sound as if Skip James' own particular hell was just round the corner and he knew it.
This session is one of the very few you can describe as indispensable, but unfortunately, not on this disc.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I've enjoyed listening to blues for a number of years and this is one of the jewels of my collection. Certainly the sound quality is not fantastic - it never is when you're dealing with recordings from this era. But personally I think this enhances the record. It gives it a bit of history. Certainly there is a warmth and intimacy that digital recording techniques always fail to register.
Anyway, enough of that. Onto the music itself. This is not music to lift your mood. It's dark and gritty. When Skip sings about the devil it's not irnoic and meant to scare the crap out of you. The sorrow that radiates from 'Devil Got my Woman', the rage from '22-20 Blues', the loniliness from 'Cherry ball' - They're so real they almost jumps out of the speakers and wallop you round the head.
If all you've ever listened to is the bland drivel that's peddled as music these days then give this a go. It will open your eyes to how things were done and perhaps shopuld be done again.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2008
Beautiful haunting music but the sound quality is really bad. Skip James is great, his music is unique and should definitely be experienced, its just a shame that we have to listen to the crackle, hisses and scratches as well.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 September 2010
This album is a collection of poor quality recordings, that have had no effort made to re-enhance and clean up the sound.
Look elsewhere, there's plenty of quality recordings by Skip James, sadly this collection doesn't hold any of them.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2010
I have known about Skip James for some time but had never heard him sing. What a voice! James sings in a high, pure register that aches with feeling. It's such a shame that the only surviving copies of these recordings are in such a bad condition. But James' voice, and guitar and piano playing, transcend the technical limitations and makes this CD a pure joy. Buy this CD.