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We wrote this song, it's our own compose' - Sleepy John Estes, Don't You Want To Know 1941

Author Topic: Skip James - Cleaner Versions of Illinois Blues and What Am I To Do Blues?  (Read 3927 times)

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Offline misterjones

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I guess my discouragement is rooted more in the prohibitively small chance that I'll ever hold a copy of Illinois Blues in my hands.  That's probably my favorite Skip James tune.  And there's only two of them.  Not 5, not 12.  2.   

But yeah, obviously there's a great indebtedness to the fiends that hunted so many of these down.  I was born a bit late for that.

I know how you feel.  That was one of the reasons why I had to buy a Blind Lemon Jefferson 78 on eBay.  There's something about actually having a 78 from a great pre-war bluesman that's hard to describe.  It's similar to the experience I had when I went to the baseball Hall of Fame museum in Cooperstown, New York.  My reaction to most of the stuff I saw was, "oh, ok, that's the hat Nolan Ryan wore when he pitched his seventh no-hitter" or "there's the helmet Bill Mazeroski wore when he hit his famous World Series homerun".  Interesting, but no big deal.  Then, when I got to the Babe Ruth stuff, my reaction was:  "Damn, Babe Ruth actually held that bat and used it!"  Though none of these bluemen held these records, holding one yourself just seems to bring you a bit closer to them.  We don't have their guitars or letters or other personal effects.  Hell, we don't even know for sure where most of them are buried.  But in many cases, it's all we have.

Offline LD50

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Shovel--If you ever come south through Pensacola, Florida where I live you can look and HOLD a copy of Illinois Blues in your hand and I will play it personally for you. Don't know where you live in USA or another couintry but your are welcome to see it. gayle dean.

Gayle, did you get that Paramount through trade or did you personally find it yourself?

Dave

Offline TallahatchieTrot

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  • Howdy!
Dave--I got the Illlinois Blues as part of a big Paramount trade with Max Vreede of Holland in 1980--6 great and rare PM jazz record for 5 great rare country blues records that included the Skip James.  It originally came from Virginia where it was found in the late 1970s.  Vreede was trying to get one copy of every PM record and did a book on the 12000/13000 PM series but he loved rare jazz more than guitar blues so we did a massive trade that also included a Louise Johnson and a Patton, etc.

Offline misterjones

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And those copyrighted but lost Jefferson Okehs and Paramounts.  And the Blind Texas Marlin (a/k/a Blind Willie Johnson?) recordings.  What else?  Let's really make this rainy day (here) worse.

Okay, then. How about the 12 Sam Collins titles that Gennett never issued, or the 14 Collins titles that ARC never bothered to issue? TWENTY-SIX lost songs, total. Enough for a whole CD.

Then there's the 17 Walter Roland tracks that ARC never issued, and the 17 Patton/Lee tracks that Vocalion didn't release and didn't save. Don't forget the eight William Moore titles that we only know about because someone submitted a copyright sheet for them.  Or William Harris: 2 tracks never issued, another 4 issued but never found...


I'm reading part 3 of the Wardlow/Calt 78 Quarterly article about Paramount.  It indicates the crappy Paramount sound was the result of the manufacturing of the records (i.e., the inferior quality materials used for the records) rather than the recording process.  More reason to be depressed over the loss of the masters. Imagine James et al. with the Columbia clarity!

Offline LD50

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And those copyrighted but lost Jefferson Okehs and Paramounts.  And the Blind Texas Marlin (a/k/a Blind Willie Johnson?) recordings.  What else?  Let's really make this rainy day (here) worse.

Okay, then. How about the 12 Sam Collins titles that Gennett never issued, or the 14 Collins titles that ARC never bothered to issue? TWENTY-SIX lost songs, total. Enough for a whole CD.

Then there's the 17 Walter Roland tracks that ARC never issued, and the 17 Patton/Lee tracks that Vocalion didn't release and didn't save. Don't forget the eight William Moore titles that we only know about because someone submitted a copyright sheet for them.  Or William Harris: 2 tracks never issued, another 4 issued but never found...


I'm reading part 3 of the Wardlow/Calt 78 Quarterly article about Paramount.  It indicates the crappy Paramount sound was the result of the manufacturing of the records (i.e., the inferior quality materials used for the records) rather than the recording process.  More reason to be depressed over the loss of the masters. Imagine James et al. with the Columbia clarity!

The original metal master for James's Devil Got My Woman survives. For decades it was in the collection of John Steiner, who got it when he bought the last remnants of Paramount in the 1940s. I don't know who owns it now, but I don't think anyone's tried to master the song off it.

Offline Shovel

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The original metal master for James's Devil Got My Woman survives. For decades it was in the collection of John Steiner, who got it when he bought the last remnants of Paramount in the 1940s. I don't know who owns it now, but I don't think anyone's tried to master the song off it.

now THAT's a travesty.  such things should be shared not hoarded, or even worse, filed away as some investment and forgotten about.    >:(

Offline jostber

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And those copyrighted but lost Jefferson Okehs and Paramounts.  And the Blind Texas Marlin (a/k/a Blind Willie Johnson?) recordings.  What else?  Let's really make this rainy day (here) worse.

Okay, then. How about the 12 Sam Collins titles that Gennett never issued, or the 14 Collins titles that ARC never bothered to issue? TWENTY-SIX lost songs, total. Enough for a whole CD.

Then there's the 17 Walter Roland tracks that ARC never issued, and the 17 Patton/Lee tracks that Vocalion didn't release and didn't save. Don't forget the eight William Moore titles that we only know about because someone submitted a copyright sheet for them.  Or William Harris: 2 tracks never issued, another 4 issued but never found...


I'm reading part 3 of the Wardlow/Calt 78 Quarterly article about Paramount.  It indicates the crappy Paramount sound was the result of the manufacturing of the records (i.e., the inferior quality materials used for the records) rather than the recording process.  More reason to be depressed over the loss of the masters. Imagine James et al. with the Columbia clarity!

The original metal master for James's Devil Got My Woman survives. For decades it was in the collection of John Steiner, who got it when he bought the last remnants of Paramount in the 1940s. I don't know who owns it now, but I don't think anyone's tried to master the song off it.

The story of the surviving Paramount metal masters are here:

http://www.mainspringpress.com/nyrl.html

There is an even more detailed story by Alex Van Der Tuuk in the Frog Jazz & Blues Annual Vol.1:

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/frog1.htm




Offline LD50

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And those copyrighted but lost Jefferson Okehs and Paramounts.  And the Blind Texas Marlin (a/k/a Blind Willie Johnson?) recordings.  What else?  Let's really make this rainy day (here) worse.

Okay, then. How about the 12 Sam Collins titles that Gennett never issued, or the 14 Collins titles that ARC never bothered to issue? TWENTY-SIX lost songs, total. Enough for a whole CD.

Then there's the 17 Walter Roland tracks that ARC never issued, and the 17 Patton/Lee tracks that Vocalion didn't release and didn't save. Don't forget the eight William Moore titles that we only know about because someone submitted a copyright sheet for them.  Or William Harris: 2 tracks never issued, another 4 issued but never found...


I'm reading part 3 of the Wardlow/Calt 78 Quarterly article about Paramount.  It indicates the crappy Paramount sound was the result of the manufacturing of the records (i.e., the inferior quality materials used for the records) rather than the recording process.  More reason to be depressed over the loss of the masters. Imagine James et al. with the Columbia clarity!

The original metal master for James's Devil Got My Woman survives. For decades it was in the collection of John Steiner, who got it when he bought the last remnants of Paramount in the 1940s. I don't know who owns it now, but I don't think anyone's tried to master the song off it.

The story of the surviving Paramount metal masters are here:

http://www.mainspringpress.com/nyrl.html

There is an even more detailed story by Alex Van Der Tuuk in the Frog Jazz & Blues Annual Vol.1:

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/frog1.htm


To make it worse, as of 1955, Steiner owned the metal master of Willie Brown's Grandma Blues, but it was described as 'buckled'. Now it seems to be missing. >:(

Offline misterjones

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Both of those songs sound the best on Yazoo's *later* Skip James CD, Hard Time Killin Floor. I previously owned Yazoo's Complete Early Recordings CD, and HTKF CD is a considerable improvement.

I just obtained a copy of Hard Time Killing Floor and didn't think any of the songs sounded appreciably better than the earlier Yazoo version.  So if you haven't listened to Hard Time Killing Floor yet, don't get your hopes up like I did.  The bottom line, I think, is that Hard Time Killing Floor probably has better underlying sound but has a lot more surface noise and vocal distortions.  (Again, the standard trade off.)  So both might be good to have to address your tolerance for noise at any given time.  I guess the problem is the rarity if the James records.  Jefferson sold so well that there probably are many pristine copies in existence, which gives the CD manufacturer a good head start in the remastering process.  Given the severe noise, perhaps James' recordings could use some more noise reduction.  I'm wondering if the Pristine Classical might be a good purchase for those occasions you're really feeling noise adverse.  (Whether PC successfully noise-reduced the tracks is not known to me at this time.)

Offline LD50

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Both of those songs sound the best on Yazoo's *later* Skip James CD, Hard Time Killin Floor. I previously owned Yazoo's Complete Early Recordings CD, and HTKF CD is a considerable improvement.

I just obtained a copy of Hard Time Killing Floor and didn't think any of the songs sounded appreciably better than the earlier Yazoo version.  So if you haven't listened to Hard Time Killing Floor yet, don't get your hopes up like I did.  

Well, as they say, your mileage may vary. When *I* heard samples of some of the really beaten-to-shit 78s on HTKF, like What Am I to Do, Illinois Blues and Special Rider Blues, I personally thought there was a BIG improvement. However, for the handful of James 78s for which N- or E+ copies exist (Devil Got My Woman, Cherry Ball, Cypress Grove, 22-20, etc.), the difference was much more slight.

But one shouldn't expect miracles: the only known copy of What Am I To Do Blues is reputedly G+.

I myself would not want more noise reduction than HTKF has, since it'd start diminishing the brightness of the music, if you know what I mean. But that's a total personal preference thing: I'm very tolerant of 78 surface noise, but very intolerant of excessive noise reduction.

That said, I would have to say the mastering of Illinois Blues on the Wardlow CD *IS* better than that on any Yazoo issue. I think Wardlow must have used a better copy of the 78 than the old Perls/Nevins copy that Yazoo has always used.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2011, 11:12:39 AM by LD50 »

Offline misterjones

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I now have:

Yazoo #1
Yazoo #2 (HTKF)
Pristine Classical
JSP

I'll be making some comparisons in the days to come.  My review of HTKF was admittedly quick, so my mileage is still at issue.

Offline JohnLeePimp

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Quote
To make it worse, as of 1955, Steiner owned the metal master of Willie Brown's Grandma Blues, but it was described as 'buckled'. Now it seems to be missing. >:(

Off topic, yet interesting...




also Illinois Blues is one of my favourite all time pieces - I'd take up GDW's offer if I ever take a trip downsouth - right after a quick stop at Illinois to see what the fuss is about
« Last Edit: May 28, 2011, 09:10:46 AM by JohnLeePimp »
...so blue I shade a part of this town.

Offline misterjones

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I now have:

Yazoo #1
Yazoo #2 (HTKF)
Pristine Classical
JSP

I'll be making some comparisons in the days to come.  My review of HTKF was admittedly quick, so my mileage is still at issue.

I'll start with the obvious proposition that two people can hear the exact same thing but hear two different things.  So mileage will vary, but mine shakes out as follows:

I prefer the first fifteen tracks of the original Yazoo release.  There might be an ever so slight reduction in sound quality, but I think the slight noise reduction ("NR") makes these tracks a better listen.  I'm not sure why, but I thought the final three tracks (I'm So Glad, What Am I to Do Blues and Special Rider Blues) sounded better on Hard Time Killing Floor.  Perhaps the sources were better.

The best NR was on Pristine Classical, which further seemed to give the tracks a fuller, more rounded quality.  Whether Pristine Classical or Yazoo is better is where the '"mileage" comes in.  Which one I'll like best in the future likely will depend on my mood at the time, so I'm keeping both (with the noted substitutions on the Yazoo).

If you want all of the surface noise sucked out of the recordings, you should choose JSP.  They did a good job in that regard, but it sounds a bit like you're listening to James through a telephone.

« Last Edit: May 28, 2011, 06:00:21 PM by misterjones »

Offline banjochris

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When Yazoo released their compilations "Times Ain't Like They Used To Be" Vol. 3 & 4, those albums featured "I'm So Glad" and "Special Rider" (originally on the same 78) in much improved sound. The liner notes mentioned that a much better copy of the record had been found. I'd be much surprised if those weren't the same versions released on "Hard Time Killing Floor."
Chris

Offline misterjones

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Perhaps I'm just being moody (or experiencing different mileage), but I'm not liking the Pristine Classical now.  They just seemed to have traded one form of distortion for another by cutting off the higher frequencies.  You might be able to get the same result with the Yazoo by turning down the treble.  But I still prefer the earlier Yazoo compilation (with the exceptions noted) because I think the recordings needed that little touch of remastering given to them in that release.

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