Rolling Stone - 9/2/93, p.64
"...adds no new discoveries to his discography, but it boasts clearer sound than the Yazoo reissues..."
Q - 9/93, p.964 Stars
- Excellent - "...[THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS] are as crude as you'd expect...nonetheless, the intensity and strangeness of 'Dark Was The Night' suggests [Blind Willie Johnson] belongs among the heavy hitters..."
Personnel includes: Blind Willie Johnson (slide guitar, vocals).
Reissue producers: Lawrence Cohn, Gary Pacheco.
Recorded between 1927 and 1930. Includes liner notes by Samuel Charters.
Digitally remastered by David Mitson (Sony Music Studios, Los Angeles, California).
This is part of Columbia/Legacy's Roots N' Blues series.
A bottleneck guitarist of consummate skill, Blind Willie Johnson was a traveling evangelist who preached the gospel by playing and singing such message-heavy tunes as "I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole," and "If It Had Not Been for Jesus." But there is not a whit of squeaky-clean, Sunday-morning sweetness to Johnson's music. Overwhelmingly intense, Johnson's performances are all open wounds and raw nerves. THE COMPLETE collects everything the artist ever recorded, and makes a case for Johnson as one of the most passionate, affecting bluesmen of all time.
It is Johnson's singing that truly startles. A gruff yet finely nuanced bass, Johnson sings with a voice that could grind glass, wrenching out spiritually committed messages in a manner both primal and sublime. Johnson also displays great variety, be it the stark, understated intensity of "Dark Was the Night - Cold Was the Ground" (where he wordlessly vocalizes in a hush over ghostly riffs) or the full-tilt prophetic perfection of "John the Revelator" (a duet with Willie Harris). THE COMPLETE BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON is an utterly essential set of the most hair-raising gospel blues ever put to tape. Be prepared.