Hard Time Remastering Blues
Posted in Honey on 08.01.05

The end of July marks our third consecutive month of growth both in users and bandwidth – both of which is good as they are growing in sync with each other. I’ll do the July recap of the top 10 downloads tomorrow – it’s a good list of songs again, it also shows that people still love Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Today’s post is about the new Yazoo Records highly touted remaster of the 1931 Paramount Sessions of Skip James. I’ve talked about this before, but I have a love/hate relationship with Yazoo. On the one hand they put out some really fun compilations and some really fun single disc overviews of blues legends (and almost legends) but they always skimp when it comes to providing adequate notes about the recordings and the sequence of the track lists is normally really awful and confusing. Their new Skip James release “Hard Time Killin’ Floor” is no exception to any of those rules. It has a really nice essay by Stephen Calt about Skip James’ life and some really great details about each of the songs. However, there are no notes about the actual remastering process and the track list order is a mess. The actual sound of the remastering is really solid, however. It sounds like they’ve slowed the songs down just a touch which really brings out James’ phrasing of the songs much better. James’ guitar also sounds a lot “cleaner” and has a much better tone than the previous cd reisusses of these recordings. Lastly, the entire session is very clear sounding – previously tracks like Illinois Blues and others were hard to hear through all the surface noise, these wonderful new remasters have really brought out these hidden gems without making them too clean sounding like the Columbia blues series.

For comparison I’m postings tracks from the Document Records release “I’m So Glad: The Complete 1931 Paramount Recordings” which I believe was the previously best sounding recording of these sessions before the new Yazoo set.

Skip James – Devil Got My Woman (Yazoo)
Skip James – Devil Got My Woman (Document)

Skip James – Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues (Yazoo)
Skip James – Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues (Document)

Skip James – 22-20 Blues (Yazoo)
Skip James – 22-20 Blues (Document)


7 Comments so far
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By Steve H on 08.01.05 10:16 pm

Hey Peter — how did you get the Yazoo CD? I was just on the Yazoo website, and can’t find it?
~ Steve

By Rob on 08.02.05 10:54 am

Re: “It sounds like they’ve slowed the songs down just a touch”, if Yazoo is using 78s as their source (it sure sounds like it), the speed might be explained by proper (or improper, I guess) playback of the 78s. The speed at which 78s were recorded varied widely (folks more knowledgeable than I have said anywhere from under 70 rpm to as high as 90rpm). I gather that speeds were fairly standard for any given label, even though they varied more widely between labels, so perhaps the folks at Yazoo did more research to figure out the proper speed.

By mike p on 08.02.05 11:39 am

The Yazoo website is kind of slow to update. I also looked around for a while to find the new cd. For being “highly touted”, you’d think it’d be a little bit easier to find some information about it. I found one other review of the cd. It’s called “Hard Time Killin’ Floor” — Yazoo 2075

Here’s a link to it at Amazon, but you could order directly from Yazoo for cheaper.

I have a hard time believing that they’ve slowed down the songs considering that all of the Document recordings are ever so slightly longer.

By peter patnaik on 08.02.05 1:23 pm

the timing of the songs leads me to believe that they aren’t slowed down much, but songs like Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues sound much slower than the Document recordings for some reason.

The Skip James and Charley Patton Sets that both went under these new remasterings have been all the talk around some pre-war blues circles, I guess the rest of the world hasn’t caught up yet.

By mike p on 08.03.05 2:09 pm

Cool… would you mind divulging some other “pre-war blues circles.” This has been my only refuge. This place is great, but even better is the fact that others exist.

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