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CD Review: Chuck Berry - Chuck

CD Review: Chuck Berry - Chuck



Elvis Presley may be regarded as the King of Rock n’ Roll, but Chuck Berry is the Father of Rock n’ Roll, and the inspiration for every pop group and rock band that started practicing Chuck’s guitar licks in their bedrooms as teenagers.  Superstars like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones idolized Chuck, and when they talked about his influence during press interviews, they introduced a new generation of kids to Chuck’s unique genius.  And Johnny Rivers made an entire career out of recording covers of Chuck Berry hits.

And now comes CHUCK, the final studio album from Mr. Berry.  Amazingly, his last album was released in 1979, yet his name is still well-known to music fans around the world, while most artists who haven’t released any new material in 38 years have been long forgotten.

CHUCK is definitely not Berry’s strongest-ever album but it is a must-have for all true Chuck Berry fans. The album was recorded in several studios in St Louis, Berry’s home town, using the backing band that has been with him for around twenty years.  The band includes son Charles Jr. on guitar and daughter Ingrid on harmonica and backing vocals. Even grandson Charles III can be heard playing guitar on a couple of tracks. Noticeably absent is the distinctive piano playing of the late Johnny Johnson whose superb keyboard work added so much to Berry’s classic hits.

Berry was never shy about taking a great song and using the same melody to make another great song – and another hit. Take for example 1957’s “School Days” that re-emerged as the almost identical “No Particular Place to Go” in 1964.  On the new album, he reimagines the 1959 song “Little Queenie” as “Wonderful Woman,” a tribute to Thelmetta, his wife of 68 years. Similarly, “Big Boys” is strongly reminiscent of “Roll Over Beethoven.”

But who cares if some of the melodies sound familiar?  This is Chuck Berry with new material that most of his fans had given up hope of ever hearing.  And here is with his guitar-playing sounding as good at the age of 90 as it did when he was 30.  Many artists have put out ‘final’ albums that have them sounding frail and well past their prime.  Not so with Berry.  His voice is strong and his vocal delivery almost as powerful as it ever was.  This was probably helped by his regular live performances at the Blueberry Hill Club in St. Louis, until he was well into his 80s. No, this isn’t his best-ever album, but it’s still darn good!

Among the standout tracks: “Big Boys,” “3/4 Time (Enchiladas)” that was recorded live, the sweet ballad “Darlin’” and “Dutchman.”

As he said when he announced the release of CHUCK: “Now I can hang up my shoes!”



Album review by Preshias Harris for Country Music News International
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