Slow it Down, Mr. Johnson!
Of course, many of you have probably heard the rumors. The Robert Johnson recordings are too fast. It is not how they were recorded. They are sped up either by accident, due to a recording error, or on purpose, as they thought more records would sell with faster upbeat music.
Well, the test results have finally emerged, and I urge you to hear it for yourself.
The theory, originated (as some believe) by John Gibbens. His theory – as most popularly beleived in Japan – is that the Johnson recordings play at about 20% faster than they should. So he took the Johnson recordings and went ahead and slowed them down to prove his theory. What happened? A music transformed.
His voice now sounds darkly toned, and you can hear hints of his mentor Son House. His words are better pronounced. The tone acheived from his guitar is amazing – no more 4th fret capos to play Kind hearted Woman along with him. His vocals are clearly delivered, cleverly modulated, and not garbled. His delivery of his vocals will simply capture you at this speed – his timing seems perfect, a far cry from the rushed, almost desperate sound of the recordings at their original speed. Quite simply, it sounds amazing.
However, there are some facts to point out. Johnson was recorded on a mobile studio, directly to disk (actually, the Library of Congress now holds those original recordings). Therefore, the disks were not actually “remastered” or sent somewhere for enhancing, but simply copied. So in order to be “sped up”, we must blame that error on the recording equiptment being miscalibrated. Is it possible to miscalibrate by 20%? It seems unlikey.
However, I pursuade you to judge yourself. Listen to him played back at 80% of the speed, and tell e if the sound better fits everything we know about Robert Johnson. To make it easier, here are some tracks already slowed:
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2009-08-09 20:52 by Dali.