Monday, September 11. 2017
All the fuss about the CHUCK album should not let us overlook the many other Chuck Berry releases from the last months.
When Fred informed me about the CD The Palladium New York '88 I wasn't too impressed. The Palladium show had been on the Smashing Pumpkin CD The Sheik of Chicago already which we wrote about last year. And as you know it's a high-quality but low-performance recording. Or as Fred wrote: "When you listen to it you can understand why [it has never had a legitimate release]. Chuck is renowned for performing unrehearsed and with a waywardly untuned guitar but on this particular night his fingers were also unrehearsed and untuned. While energy levels are high, the duff notes come thick and fast, falling in such infectious clusters that the pianist is tempted to join the discordance too. Add to this the thud, thud, thud of a tub thumping drummer and it's all rather disheartening." So why should we care?
Then I learned that this new release of the Palladium show is also available on Vinyl. The CD is ROXVOX RVCD2106, the Vinyl is LIVE ON VINYL LOV 2019LP.
As expected, the CD contains the same recording as last year's Smashing Pumpkin CD. It includes the radio station MC's announcement, though. And it has two bonus tracks!
The first bonus track is a very nice live recording of Bio said to be recorded for KBCO-FM of Boulder, Colorado and broadcast in the early 1990s. Recordings of this broadcast had been floating around as private tapes for long. The second bonus track called Riding Along is said to stem from the same broadcast and is also on the audience tapes noted. However, if you listen closely, this is just the plain old studio recording of No Particular Place To Go. The previously unreleased version of Bio is also on the Vinyl version which however misses four songs from the Palladium concert.
The Palladium New York '88 comes with a strange cover, as you see. In addition the track listing has many songs incorrectly named. The CD booklet does include some nicer Berry photos, though, and a reprint of both an 1987 L.A. Times interview and an 1985 biography from Associated Press which starts with "Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in San Jose, California on January 15th 1926" ... Hey, at least they had the name right!
As said, the most interesting thing with this CD is the KBCO bonus track. I tried to research a bit about the origins of this recording but didn't succeed. So here's a summary of what I have been able to find out:
The surviving tape of the KBCO broadcast consists of five live tracks:
1: Louisiana Blues (Muddy Waters)
2: Bio (Chuck Berry)
3: Nadine (Chuck Berry)
4: Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)
5: Reelin' and Rockin' (Chuck Berry) / House Lights (Chuck Berry)
Of interest is the first track as no Berry recording of this Muddy Waters tune has been released yet. The remaining are pretty standard for his 1990s concerts. Nadine comes with a lyrics change when Berry sings "I shouted to the driver: Hey conductor, you must - take me to Atlanta, Atlanta on a bus." Since Berry often changed lyrics according to the location of the concert, Atlanta might be a good guess. However, on Bio Berry claims "I'll be back here in Hollywood." This would point to an L.A. venue. Who known?
During the closing routine of Reelin' and Rockin', Berry in the "It wasn't me" segment typically talks about the drummer, the piano player or the bass man, all anonymously as he usually doesn't know their names. Here, however, Berry refers to the drummer, the bass man, and a "Johnny" the crowd cheers to. I had originally assumed this to be Berry's long-time pianist Johnnie Johnson, as there is a piano player on stage. Johnson toured with Berry in the late 1980s. But further listening reveals that the piano player is not good enough to be Johnnie Johnson.
Instead it seems to be the second guitarist who is Johnny. All five tracks, especially Bio include a second lead guitar which exchanges licks with Berry. And a good one! One source claims that this second guitar is played by Johnny Rivers, though no proof is given. It's possible, though. Rivers and Berry had several common performances, e.g. in various TV shows. Thus Berry would known him by name.
I searched around to find a concert where Berry and Rivers shared the same bill. And found one. In Colorado. In the late 1990s. And broadcast on radio. As far as I was able to find out, the only 1990s concert these two appeared on was the 1997 KOOL concert at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, June 14th, 1997. It seems that all KOOL concerts were recorded and broadcast by KXKL-FM (a.k.a. KOOL-105) at that time.
Now, Denver is not that far from Boulder, 1997 is not that far from 'early 1990s' and KXKL-FM is not that far from KBCO-FM. So maybe this recording wasn't "broadcast by KCBO of Boulder, Colorado in the early 1990s" but by KXKL of Denver, Colorado in 1997 instead.
But Denver would neither explain the Atlanta nor the Hollywood text change. Therefore we have to stick with the KCBO bit in our discography database until we learn better.
If you know more, let me know!
Many thanks to Frank Wilmot of the Denver Public Library and to Tyler Fey of Feyline Events Management for their help researching the Colorado concert and lineup.
Friday, July 21. 2017
You have been asking about the so-called photobook offered by Dualtone in combination with the CHUCK album.
There was absolutely no information about this book available from Dualtone except for the black cover. No Contents, no page numbers, nothing. So I finally bit the bullet and ordered one. (Note that Dualtone constantly changes the descriptions on their site. Since I ordered they included a small video of a hand browsing through the book.)
Here's my review for you to decide by yourself if you want one of not.
It is awfully expensive to get this photobook. In contrast to the early offers they at least allow ordering from outside the U.S. now. Dualtone's list price is $35 plus shipping. The cheapest shipping they offer is $23.38 to Europe. It took ten days to get me the package. Faster shipping is available at even higher costs. Shipping to your location might vary. A European buyer should thus expect at least $60 payment to Dualtone plus customs fees and taxes if they apply.
What you get is the size of an LP and has 40 sheets of paper, i.e. 80 pages. Most pages have a single image or document reproduction.
The images are often taken from Berry's own photo collection. But there are also lots of well-known images from PR shots or concerts. The quality of the photos vary a lot. While this is no surprise for seventy years old wedding photos, also newer photos have been scanned poorly or reprinted from magazines.
The selection and quality of the scanned documents vary even more. We'll see excerpts from Berry's correspondence files, some internal accounting, telegrams (wired messages) but also copies of newspaper articles or even sheet music. Many of this is damaged and seems to be taken from the burnt scrapbook Berry shows to Robbie Robertson on the Hail! Hail! Rock'n'Roll! DVD (four DVD set only, Image Entertainment ID3156THDVD, 2006).
Again there are some documents which we have seen before, but there's also some I haven't seen before. And this includes interesting stuff such as a 1957 inquiry by Elvis Presley Music, Inc. asking for Chuck to write material for Elvis.
The creators of this book were very keen to point out Berry's honors. So you'll see letters regarding Grammy and BMI awards, messages from Dick Clark, Carl Sagan, and Etta James. And you'll see thank-you letters from President Carter, from President Reagan, from Hillary and from Bill Clinton, and another from Bill, and another from the White House's Social Secretary, and ... You'll get the picture.
All in all you'll get a couple of interesting photos and documents, you'll get a lot you already know or which you don't care about. And what you don't get at all is any information on image source or contents.
Except for a few sentences in a non-signed foreword there is absolutely no text in this book. It would have been extremely helpful if not necessary to tell where a certain photo has been taken, or when, or who is shown next to Berry. Nothing. And where every book, magazine or CD booklet tries to give correct credit to the owner of a photo, here all is "from the Berry Family Archives". This is disappointing.
In summary you have to be a very enthusiastic Berry fan to enjoy the segments of the book which you don't already know. Take your time and wait until it gets cheaper - or at least sold in your country for less shipping.
Thursday, July 20. 2017
Chuck Berry's performance at the NBC Midnight Special show of October 12th, 1973 is well known. You can even view it using YouTube at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5NwvAiRmvw (Reelin' And Rockin')
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1oaf2hEXwY (Johnny B. Goode)
Since Berry is backed by the Brothers Gibb, i.e. the Bee Gees, on this performance, audio copies of these segments were available in the Bee Gees collectors community on CDs. It wasn't clear, though, whether these CDs qualify for inclusion in our Chuck Berry sessionography database. We only include albums which have been commercially available and produced in quantities. This means we have all the official releases and the factory-produced bootlegs.
It took a looong time to find out, but in the end we can now tell that these Chuck Berry recordings have been made available on what seems to be true, pressed CDs. One example is Down The Road (Drifter CD 022, 2009). While I haven't seen a copy yet, at least I have seen photos of the CDs.
Many thanks to the Bee Gees experts GĂ¶ran Gustafsson of the Bee Gees Collection, Detlef Wange of the Private Bee Gees Archive and SĂžren Forup of the Bee Gees Rarity Site
Monday, July 10. 2017
Who would be better qualified to review Chuck Berry's latest and last album CHUCK (Dualtone/Decca) than our expert Fred Rothwell, author of "Long Distance information - Chuck Berry's Recorded Legacy". This review first appeared in the Juli 2017 edition of Now Dig This magazine, the most interesting British magazine on Rock and Roll music. Many thanks to Trevor Cajiao, publisher of NDT, to allow Fred and me to reprint this revised edition of Fred's review here. If your want to have the printed version, go to the NDT store here: https://www.nowdigthismagazine.co.uk/product/now-dig-this-magazine-no-412-201707. On this page you can also buy your subscription to the magazine. Highly recommended!
'Chuck' â the last go-round from Chuck Berry.
Fred Rothwell performs a post-mortem on Chuck's posthumous album, dissects the disc and examines a platter that really matters.
Small miracles can and do happen, even in the jaded world of commercial music. Just a few months after his 90th birthday and untimely death, Chuck Berry's final contribution to rock and roll has arrived in the form of 'Chuck' a 'new' album on the Dualtone label (Decca in the UK). The album that his fans had been promised for many a year has finally surfaced. Its gestation has been elephantine. Back in 2001 I wrote in Long Distance Information
Chuck plans to release a new studio album consisting of thirteen new compositions including one tantalisingly called 'Lady B Goode' (no prizes for guessing the progenitor of this song) and another titled 'Loco Joe' (said to be 'Jo Jo Gunne' with new lyrics) in celebration of his 75th birthday. I for one can hardly wait!Well wait I did, along with an army of Berry fans. 18th October 2001 came and went but the album was a no-show. Later, a little more information seeped into the public domain and several new songs were mentioned, a talking blues called 'Dutchman', a rocker titled 'The Big Boys' and a slow ballad called 'Darling'. 'Havana Moon' was slated for a rewrite as 'Jamaica Moon' and 'Down Bound Train' was to be updated as 'Hell Bound Train'. A Billboard Studio Monitor report from October 2001 said Chuck had spent 30 hours at Four Seasons Media Productions recording studio in St Louis, recording new material and transferring demos and rough tracks from two inch, two track magnetic analogue tape to a digital Pro Tools platform. Berry would soon record more guitar and vocal tracks it was reported. 'Since March I've put a lot of energy into it. I've done more since March than I have in the last 14,15 years,' Chuck said. 'I want this to be like no other record I've ever put out'. Some of the songs go even farther back to the 1980s, written during his spare time during breaks in touring. 'He always had a pad and a pencil with him,' said his long-time bass player and tour companion Jim Marsala. Jim said Chuck started working on his 'new' album right after he released his previous studio album 'Rockit' back in 1979. However, a March 1989 fire at Chuck's Berry Park studio put paid to embryonic versions of the songs. Chuck told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the fire had destroyed a master tape with thirteen songs he had completed off and on over the last seven years. It took until 1991 for the studio to be rebuilt and for Chuck to re-create his lost work. Chuck's son Butch, a member of his band since 2001, recalled, 'He had to go back to square one. It was him doing all the basics by himself, all his vocals, all his guitars, putting all the basics together and building from there'.
In the intervening period more recording, overdubs, digital splicing and other sonic jiggery-pokery has taken place. The album now has ten, not thirteen tracks and 'Loco Joe' and 'Hell Bound Train' have disappeared. More musicians have been drafted in, including Chuck's son Charles 'Butch' Berry Jr (guitar) and daughter Darlin Ingrid (harmonica and vocals) and 23 year old grandson (Butch's son) Charles Berry III (guitar) together with Bob Lohr (piano), Jim Marsala (bass) and Keith Robinson (drums). Collectively named by Chuck as The Blueberry Hill Band due to their association with the St Louis club of that name at which they had played each month for twenty years. There are also some other 'guests' but thankfully there has been no overload of musical 'stars'. This had already been done at Chuck's sixtieth birthday bash. There are three young guitarists, Gary Clark Jr., Tom Morello and Nathaniel Rateliff who are on one track each. Clark had been recruited by Butch while Dualtone had suggested to other two, along with a bunch of other names that Chuck rejected. In addition to the base tracks being laid down at Berry Park and Four Seasons the album was the product of St. Louis studios, Casa Del Torretta and Electropolis plus additional recording work in Nashville.
So let's examine the individual tracks in the order that they trip off the disc.
'Oh well looky here now, this just makes my day,' Chuck exclaims at the start of 'Wonderful Woman', a rockin' shuffle with more than a hint of 'Back In The USA' to the melody. It's a tale of a beautiful woman with long brown wavy hair and a form fitting dress that is too hard to bear. In an earlier age this might have been 'Beautiful Delilah' or 'Little Queenie' but as it turns out the lady in question is Chuck's wife, the equally enchanting Toddy. The track is chock full of guitarists, son Charles Jr., grandson Charles lll and young Texan blues buck Gary Clark Jr. They are all in the mix along with Chuck himself. However, the cut isn't cluttered as they each queue up to play their own versions of Chuck Berry licks. There is even room for Ingrid's harp. She ain't no Little Walter but her contribution adds to the texture. With intricate couplets like 'Have you ever seen a woman to whom your heart you'd give? Who would betray you twice and you know you'd still forgive', you know Chuck's poetic prowess is still present. A great opening track that was selected as the second album taster issued as a digital single.
This is a cracker. If the song had been recorded at Chess it would be up there with Berry's best. 'Big Boys' is a rampant rocker which kicks off with Chuck's signature 'Johnny B Goode' opening riff but with a coda added that ricochets violently from the guitar fretboard. This is a coming of age saga where the wean-year Chuck finds out the 'where, what, and why' that the big boys do with the big girls. Great lyrics with even a touch of second grade French thrown in, 'Mademoiselle, je vous aime, voulez-vous?'. There are scorching guitar solos after each chorus, not necessarily played by Chuck, as again he is joined by his son and Tom Morello on guitars plus Nathaniel Rateliff helping out on the 'yes yes' choruses and on one of the verses, just before the French bit. Such are the vagaries of modern recording that Rateliff, the bearded front-man of the Night Sweats, never even met Chuck but mailed in his contribution from Denver. I suspect the same goes for Tom Morello and Gary Clark (on 'Wonderful Woman') who both recorded their bits in Los Angeles studios. Morello, who contributes a solo, is well known (by some - not me) from his days in the band Rage In The Machine. Chuck's voice shows its age but he articulates his lyrics with ease. Subtle vocal changes occur between verses which makes one wonder if there has been some judicial splicing in creating this minor classic. Not surprisingly this cut was the first we heard as a digital download single. Very recently the song was promoted on the US TV Tonight Show, sung totally by Rateliff, with the two younger Berrys on guitars. It's a pretty good version â check it out on YouTube.
You Go To My Head
This is the first of only two songs not written by our man and stems way back to 1938, a time of big band sounds and classic ballads that so influenced him. The 'You Go To My Head' song has a long history of recordings, most frequently associated with Billie Holiday. My guess, however, is Chuck's interest in the song comes from Frank Sinatraâs 1945 version. I've never seen any mention of Chuck being influenced by Billie Holiday but he certainly was a big fan of Ol' Blue Eyes' citing him frequently in interviews. Chuck doesn't attempt to emulate Sinatra's smooth balladry but applies a slow blues shuffle to the tune. Bob Lohr's piano to this point has provided sterling back-up but here it takes centre stage, rippling the keys in true Johnnie Johnson fashion over the solid bass and drums of Messrs Marsala and Robinson. But the most effective element of the recording is the father and daughter duet. Ingrid sings slightly behind her father's lead and this out of synch approach, reminiscent of soul and gospel styles, is extraordinarily effective. Chuck sings this song during the Berry park rehearsals of 'Hail Hail Rock And Roll' and it is featured in the video out-takes. If you dug Chuck's quieter moments during these rehearsals then you will surely appreciate this cut.
3/4 Time (Enchiladas)
Surprisingly for a so called studio album, this track is a live recording. This was caught in the small venue, Blueberry Hill, in 2008 according to bassist Jim Marsala, during one of the two hundred or so monthly performances Chuck and his Blueberry Hill Band played at his friend Joe Edwards' St Louis club of the same name. The song is pure country, in waltz time, hence the 'ÂŸ Time' title. Written by Tony Joe White but never recorded by him, its main custodian was Ray Charles who released it as a Columbia single in 1983 and also placed it on his album 'Wish You Where Here Tonight'. This was a winning combination for Chuck who dug Ray a lot and loved country music so how could he resist, especially as the song promotes cars, guitars and women who like to love in ÂŸ time? Chuck updates the song with a touch of his own humour, 'All of my life, thereâs one thing Iâve been hoping to find, a woman like you, honey, whose software matches this hard drive of mine.' The song had been in Chuck's repertoire for many years although never officially released on disc. It is a nice relaxed performance by Berry and his band who are clearly at ease with the audience and the environment.
Nostalgia rules on this beautifully poignant ballad sung with the help of Darlin' Ingrid. Chuck is in reflective mood as he croons the lines 'Darlin' your father's growing old', and 'There has been many sundowns that I have seen - since you were sweet sixteen' and 'The good times come but not to stay, you'll find time will take them all away'. The song, said to have been written 25 to 30 years ago, is a postscript of the equally moving slow version of 'His Daughter Caroline' where the father bemoans the loss of the daughter to marriage. His vocals are intimate, wistful and emotional all at the same time and the deep feeling of his own mortality is heightened by Ingrid's touching interjections. Chuck and Ingrid's best recorded performance has got to be the Spanish language, Mercury version of 'The Song Of My Love' but the two duet cuts on this disc run it pretty close. Something very rare on a Chuck Berry recording happens at the close when he is joined by The New Respects, a young black Nashville based group, sweetly cooing in the background. The song and its performance is a bitter-sweet lament of Chuck's fast approaching exit from this world. Am I moved, you bet.
Lady B. Goode
With a title like 'Lady B Goode' how could it be anything other than a gene clone of the Chuckster's signature song? It has been said that the song is a sequel to 'Johnny B Goode' but unlike 'Bye Bye Johnny', 'Go Go Go' and 'Tulane' the song doesn't mention Johnny directly. What it is, in fact, is a fictional biography as seen from Lady's point of view. 'Fell then a lassie in love with a lad; 'till it took him to vindicate the feelin' she had.' For 'vindicate' read 'consummate', as left behind, when fame and fortune befalls our hero, she's led on by the promise of a part in his movie. However, she has to be content with watching him on the silver screen with little Baby B Goode, Johnny junior, bouncing on her knee. Musically it's JBG all over with guitar contributions from the two younger Chucks, as well as the old man himself, supported by the best hard driving rhythm of the album. 'Lady B Goode' is to 'Johnny B Goode' what 'Little Marie' was to 'Memphis Tennessee', good but not quite 'Goode', but still good enough to be the third cut to be 'singled' out from the album.
She Still Loves You
'She Still Loves You' is a floating poignant ballad in which Chuck adopts a sad, 'Lonely Schooldays' lilt in his vocals. It's a sorrowful tale of the love he had, then lost. A story told directly to his rival who has beaten him to the beautiful lady he so desires, but who did not reciprocate. Its convoluted lyrics are as complex as ever a Chuck Berry song got with a modulating rhythm to match. Resigned to reality Chuck finally laments, 'But I gave up on her as much as we were both lonely and blue; She still loves you so, I thought you ought to know she's true to you'. This is another song stretching back to the pre-fire days which passed through several iterations, once titled 'She's True To You' with radically different lyrics, before coming to fruition on this album. Guitar-wise, this seems very much like a Chuck Berry solo effort in which he adopts a laid-back 'San Francisco Dues'- like feel, wonderfully supported by Bob Lohr's New Orleanian piano.
'Jamaica Moon' seems to have haunted Chuck for many moons. He first cut it as 'Havana Moon' way back in October 1956 and then again in a terrible disco style in February 1979 for his 'Rockit' album. It seems he was disappointed with the sales when it was first released in tandem with 'You Can't Catch Me' (Chess 1645) but it did hit #7 on the Cashbox R&B charts in 1966 with 'Ramona Say Yes' on the lower deck (Chess 1963). Nevertheless he must have felt their was still some potential in the composition. This time however it is a fairly radical departure from the original and not just its relocation from Cuba to Jamaica. The storyline remains the same, a sad little tale of unrequited love caused by the demon drink, but both the lyrics are updated and the melody changed from the delicate rhythms of the original to a more funky reggae feel. The vocals are double tracked, a trait I disliked on the 'Rockit' LP, and include a touch of rapping complete with a 'ting ting ting' thing. I think I would like this cut a lot more if I didn't just love the original so much.
Chuck once stated that poetry was his life-blood and he proved this not only by his superb mastery of meter and scansion in his song lyrics but also in a number of poems he recorded. These were freely adapted versions of existing poems such as 'My Dream', based on Donald Benson Blanding's 1928 poem 'Vagabond's House', and 'Pass Away' from 'Even This Shall Pass Away', a long 1867 poem by Theodore Tilton which Chuck had learned by heart in his formative years. 'Dutchman', however, is an entirely original composition, a cautionary tale of love lost and its effect. The scene is a bar-room full of drinkers including the enigmatic Dutchman who are interrupted by a tall dark dude who the patrons initially wish to see off, siccing a Great Dane on the guy. However, for the price of drink offered by the Dutchman the stranger imparts his story of fame and fortune now lost all because of his unrequited love for a femme fatale. A Cleopatra with luxurious hair who, when she allowed him to kiss her, near petrified his heart. The tension of the tale is intensified by the sparse grungy blues rhythm, just guitar, bass and drums, that accompanies Chuck's perfectly enunciated narration. A great vignette beautifully told.
Eyes Of Man
In 'Eyes Of Man' Chuck's deep love of poetry is evident again in this philosophical manifesto to the innate power of woman which he declares 'is seldom seen in the eyes of man'. Over the course of six rather obscure verses he opines that 'many a man has built his own temple' but eventually they are 'doomed to decay and turn to dust' but 'Oh! the temple borne by woman - they have withstood while ages roll; Because that beautiful unseen temple - is a child's immortal soul'. Deep stuff indeed for a sweet little rock and roller, taken even deeper by the insertion of chorus lines between the verses from an ancient Persian proverb collected by Sir Richard Burton (he of the Kama Sutra, The Perfumed Garden and other saucy works and not the husband of Cleopatra) and published by his wife Isabel in 1893 in 'The Life Of Captain Sir Richd. F Burton'. Chuck freely adapts the lines to suit his style but the meaning of the original stanza is maintained.
Men Are FourAs a counterpoint to all this philosophical pontification the half sung, half spoken words are supported by an easy loping bluesy melody containing some fine Berry guitarisation. 19th century romantic poetry. What strange paths we take in the search for the source of our hero's music!
His Latest And Greatest - and last?
The indie record label Dualtone have done the man proud. The album boasts an attractive, digitised action photo of Berry, albeit from an earlier age. The booklet notes by history professor Douglas Brinkley are unfortunately excessively ostentatious, I don't think the man understands rock and roll. However, the intimate photos and full lyrics more than compensate. In addition, booklet ephemera illustrations provide a tantalising glimpse at other song titles recorded at the sessions. 'Loco Joe' is there plus a cover of the jazz standard 'Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)'. There are instrumentals 'Once In The Past' and 'Open Up' and original songs 'Let Us Come Together', 'Temples Of Time', 'Hail Hail Rock And Roll', 'Think About It' and 'I Want To Love You', almost another album full. In line with modern marketing methods, 'Chuck' is available in ten packages from the ultimate bundle (limited red vinyl LP, tee shirt, photo book, tote bag and poster) at $130 to the digital MP3 download at $10. Dualtone have also pushed the promotion of the 'Big Boys' single by issuing Chuck Berry's first musical video which unfortunately is a real bummer. The scene is a squeaky clean fifties sock hop ball full of guys and gals in make-believe fifties gear, all primary colours and full skirts. Add to this a counterfeit Chuck Berry circa mid-sixties with a band about as authentic as The Blues Brothers and a little midget-like guy leading the dancers in a pseudo Michael Jackson routine. What a total mish-mash. Can this be the last of the Chuckster? Hopefully not, as in addition to the unissued titles above, there are loads of Chess out-takes which didn't make the Bear Family box-set and, believe it or not, some pre-fire, Berry Park tapes do exist.
'Chuck' is Chuck Berry's first studio recording for 38 years since the 'Rockit' album (barring the reggae-cum-rap dancehall aberration 'Go Shabba Go' from 1994) and it is one Chuck wanted to see issued in his lifetime. He wanted fans to know, 'I'm still here, I'm still kicking ass and I'm still taking names.' His son Charles Jr said his dad has put out something a lot of people are going to like and he didnât care if it sells or not. He just wanted his record out. Well I'm not so sure hard line rockers will take to the album, firm fans have already said to me they thought the world wouldn't have missed much if it had remained in the vault. For me it seems like an allegory of his musical life, his work in microcosm, containing rock and roll, blues, ballads and poetry. On his 90th birthday Chuck devoted the album to Themetta, his wife of 68 years, so lets give him the last word: 'This record is dedicated to my beloved Toddy. My darlin' I'm growing old! I've worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!'
If you intend to buy the album or any other item from Dualtone's shop, use this link to get a $5 discount: https://dualtone-music.myshopify.com/?redeem=596498870d7ea20044c4aa18
Friday, June 30. 2017
Big Beat was a French fan magazine which started in the late 1960s and ended after 21 issues in the 1980s. Thirty-five years later the magazine was brought back to life with a 22nd issue. Since then it's purely digital with no paper releases. Issue 26 was recently published and is of huge interest to Chuck Berry collectors - even if you don't speak French.
Big Beat Magazine is a non-commercial project by Alain Mallaret created with a team of volunteers having pure passion for Blues, Country Music and Rock and Roll, just like the creators of this site and so many others around the world!
Issue #26 concentrates on Chuck Berry and includes both a very nice and interesting photo collection from Jean-Pierre Ravelli and a huge discography by Pierre Pennone. The contents of the discography follows more or less the contents of this site, which Pierre used and referred to. It is, however, limited to the official records released by Chess, Mercury and the likes as most of the 'official' discographies do. Pierre's discography fills almost 100 pages because he has managed to include hundreds of images showing labels, front and back covers, and sometimes even the booklets coming with the records. A minor thing to complain about is that Pierre did not always show the original records but used re-issues sometimes. All in all it's a great discography based on a huge amount of work. Well done, Pierre!
You can read Big Beat magazine at no charge from the CalamĂ©o publication platform:
Alain told me that there's also a PDF version of the magazine available. You cannot download it anywhere, but if you want one, Alain would send it to you. I won't publish Alain's email here, but if you contact me I'd be happy to forward your request. Alain also said that because this is a non-commercial project, you may freely give the PDF to other collectors interested.
It's great to have fellow collectors working so enthusiastically.
Many thanks to Alain and Pierre for their work and for telling me about it.
Tuesday, June 27. 2017
Readers keep asking us about the multiple variations the new album CHUCK which is now offered by both Dualtone and Decca (and maybe other labels). We canât really tell, simply because we donât know either.
Where in the past companies targeting the Chuck Berry collector such as Bear Family and Universal/HIP-O Select have been extremely helpful by providing us with lots of information prior to the release of their CD sets and with samples as soon as available, both Dualtone and Decca seem to not target the Chuck Berry collector at all, but to concentrate on the traditional new records markets such as stores, radio, TV, and streaming business.
Though we cannot directly blame Dualtone and Decca for ignoring bloggers as multiplicators since both have outsourced their public relations to specialized companies. In the US this is a company called Shore Fire Media, in the UK a company called Big Mouth Publicity.
We had an email contact with Shore Fire Media when they took over the promotion for the CHUCK album. At that time we asked them to keep us informed and they confirmed. Since then: nada. Shore Fire never sent us a press release or whatever. Only a private contact to Dualtone allowed us to tell you a bit about the release which you couldn't read everywhere else. But even there was a strange "America first" attitude. Or better said "America only". No, they won't ship anything to Europe. And they're not responsible for Europe anyway. Strange, given that while the authors of this site are located in Europe, you, our readers, are located all over the world (and mostly in the US if I look at the emails I receive). And even more strange, the likes of amazon and ebay allow buyers from all over the world to buy American. Looks like it's not only this funny president who's trying to move a whole country to another planet or universe.
About Big Mouth Publicity we cannot say anything at all as only last week we learned that they are supposed to 'promote' Chuck Berry. "In addition to our UK media services, Big Mouth also offers online campaigns targeting key US sites and international blogs." (quote from their site) Interesting. They hadn't found our blog, though. OK, we're only "the best Chuck Berry website in existence" (quoted Now Dig This magazine). Who expects them to find out such when a record label pays a PR agency.
Thus we can only tell you what we have seen on the Dualtone website and elsewhere so far. Last week the Dualtone store had about 10 variations of the CHUCK album which differ in media (CD, Vinyl, or none at all) and packaging (with or without poster, shirt, or book). And no, we cannot tell what's inside the "Photo Book" as we haven't seen one yet. Since last week the Dualtone shop notes that they indeed ship worldwide, but just the shipping of the book doubles its already high price. And, as said, you cannot see what's inside unless you order it.
In addition the Dualtone-labeled Vinyl album is available in different colors. Right now the Dualtone shop offers a "limited edition" red wax variant. Another "limited edition" on white wax is sold through the Barnes & Noble bookstores. A "regular" black wax edition had been in the Dualtone shop but is currently gone. Maybe that was even more limited.
For Decca there's less information available, yes, even less. It seems that there's only a regular black Vinyl album and the usual CD. Decca Japan offers the album as an SHM-CD (this is a different sort of plastic).
Decca UK has distributed promotional copies of at least the CD album. These are labeled to be watermarked and traceable. (If you don't know what this means, read e.g. http://www.idolator.com/298040/watermarked-cds-cause-paranoia-to-be-added-to-long-list-of-music-critics-problems. So no passing of unwanted CDs to friends. Basically you can't even dump such a CD into the next PVC recycling bin as somebody might find it there and make you guilty of unauthorized distribution. Ensure you break the CD first.)
We haven't seen a promotional CD from Dualtone yet, so we don't know if they used the same watermarking. We have seen and shown here a promotional CD single of Big Boys by Dualtone.
Which one of the multiple variants do you need to have? Depends on your budget. Right now we suggest you get the cheapest one to listen to it. Which is what counts.
Many thanks to Thierry for researching most of this article's contents.
If you intend to buy the album or any other item from Dualtone's shop, use this link to get a $5 discount: https://dualtone-music.myshopify.com/?redeem=596498870d7ea20044c4aa18
Sunday, June 25. 2017
Dick Clark remembers in his autobiography (Clark/Robinson - Rock, Roll & Remember, Popular Library, 1978, p. 103):
Phil and Leonard Chess sent Chuck Berry to Philadelphia to do the show. Chuck was a giant star, and he'd even written Philadelphia and Bandstand into the lyrics of a song, "Sweet Little Sixteen." Chuck, a very mercurial performer, got to the studio about 20 minutes before he went on the air. We exchanged pleasantries, then he said, "Ain't going do any dancing."
Chuck Berry describes the same incident a little bit differently: (Berry - The Autobiography, Harmony Books, 1987, p. 185)
At my first "American Bandstand" appearance, I ran into trouble because I thought it was ridiculous to lip sync the words to "Sweet Little Sixteen." The song was written in honor of first, the teenage girl, and second, the "American Bandstand" show that Dick Clark hosted. I was being stubborn in ignorance of the cost of live singing over lip syncing. Rock 'n' roll on television was in its early days with budgets low, and lip syncing rather than live vocalizing helped cut expenses. In Dick Clark's book Rock, Roll and Remember, he quotes me as saying on this occasion "Ain't going do any dancing." It's hardly likely anyone whose mother taught school would be trained to speak in such fashion. Another point in the same section contains a description of Leonard Chess using profanity and lewd terms while speaking with me long distance, after Dick called him asking him to persuade me to lip sync. Leonard explained the reasons for lip syncing, but he never used profanity while doing business with me at any time in our affiliation.
It's nice from Chuck to defend Leonard from using profanity, but this fact has been widely reported. Whether or not Chuck used the "Ain't going do any dancing" quote and maybe why, will remain unconfirmed. One thing Berry is probably incorrect in saying is that he was supposed to sing "Sweet Little Sixteen". According to Morten's books and according to The Pop History Dig, Berry's first appearance on "Bandstand" was on 8 November 1957. Maybe the song was already written by then, but it was recorded at the end of December 1957 and released in January 1958. It's more likely that Berry did an earlier song and that he wrote "Sweet Little Sixteen" after he was on "Bandstand".
In the end Berry went dancing/lip-sync'ing his hits on American Bandstand. Same in the Alan Freed movies.
What Berry never did, though, was make a music video. In the 1950's there weren't any. And when videos became a reasonable way to do advertising for a record, there weren't any Chuck Berry records worth creating one.
The old story came back into my mind when I saw the music video created to promote Big Boys. "Ain't going do any dancing." And any playing either.
Matt Bizer and Curtis Wayne Millard created a video which shows ... people dancing and lip-sync'ing to the music. According to NPR, the video was filmed in Jasper, Georgia, using dancers from Atlanta's Dance 411 studio supervised by choreographer Jeremy Green.
The result is a bit American Bandstand-like, though in color. Helpful to promote the song? Judge for yourself: https://youtu.be/WQzapVH94Lo
In my opinion, THIS video is a much better promotion for the song. It was filmed during Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lDjjX-M0O0
Here the song is performed live. No dancing, no lip-sync'ing. Of course it's not Chuck Berry playing, but three guys who helped making the original recording: Nathaniel Rateliff, Charles Berry Jr., and Charles Berry III. One of the first covers of this new Chuck Berry song. And a good one!
Late addition: There's a second official music video for the CHUCK album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j05AQJQRuIw. Here you hear Chuck and Ingrid singing "Darlin'." And while listening, you see photos and video snippets of Ingrid with her dad, obviously taken from her private collection. Plus we see a few film segments of Chuck performing, some known, some not, which have been slowed down to fit to the song's feeling. For some reason they added live audience applause to the end of the song.
Sunday, June 11. 2017
When German Rock'n'Roll Musikmagazin celebrated their 40th anniversary two weeks ago, I sought some appropriate clothing for the party and concert.
Browsing eBay I found this nice T-shirt. Interestingly most visitors at the celebration did not get the message, but readers of this site should have no need for explanation. Enjoy!
If you like this as much as I did, here's the link to the corresponding eBay offer: eBay item 230919634545. They ship world-wide. Select your favorite color during checkout.
Tuesday, May 23. 2017
Following Chuck Berry's passing in March, every music-related magazine had one or more articles describing Berry's life or work. And almost every magazine not dedicated to music as well.
Depending on the quality of the magazine and depending on how the editors valued Berry's importance on their readership, the articles were quite nice or they were so-and-so. Rolling Stone magazine for instance in issue 1285 dedicated almost 20 pages to Berry. And they place lot of text onto each page. Good reading!
Vintage Rock magazine of England even created a special issue called "Chuck Berry - A Celebration". This consists of a full 132 pages! Besides many, many photos, often full-page, the issue also has a lot of text. Randy Fox, Julie Burns, David Burke, Michael Leonard, and John Howard each provide in-depth descriptions of Berry's life and work, divided into common topics such as his Mercury releases, the Birthday movie, or Berry's guitar playing. In addition there are commented lists of Berry's most important and most unknown songs, stories about his influences, and multi-page reviews of his best-known albums. And there's an interview with this site's contributor and author Fred Rothwell.
All in all this special issue is highly recommended. You can order directly from the publisher at http://www.vintagerockmag.com/2017/04/chuck-berry-celebration-sale-now/. They ship world-wide.
As with every review, you should not forget some things to criticize, so here it is: Even though this site here is mentioned in the magazine, it's obvious the authors did not fully read the blog or main text. There's some outdated or even completely wrong information contained. Also they missed to mention of the most important books on Chuck Berry's work, Morten Reff's "Chuck Berry International Directory". And I would have wished the editors would have eliminated the various repetitions which happen when multiple authors write about the same subject.
Saturday, April 22. 2017
[Editor's note: You may have wondered why we had not covered all the new Vinyl albums released during recent years. Read Morten's review below and you'll see why. They aren't any more worth collecting than the hundreds of 'new' CD releases.]
Vinyl is back in business and since 2009 thereâs been several Berry albums pressed on 180gr high quality vinyl. But as you will notice from some of my comments, it all depends on the source. The session discography printed on the various album covers are not to be trusted though. Better stick to our Chuck Berry Database which always contains the most recent knowledge about Berry recordings.
AFTER SCHOOL SESSION
Doxy DOY-608 â Italy, 2009
Same as US LP-1426 from 1957, both tracks and cover. Sound quality is not the best.
AFTER SCHOOL SESSION
Doxy DOX-302 â Italy, 2009
Same as above, however, this time it includes a bonus CD of the same album, so as the they tell us: You can have the analog and the digital for the price of one.
ST. LOUIS TO LIVERPOOL
Speakers Corner Records [Chess] LP-1488 â USA, 2010
No bonus tracks. Identical album cover both front and back as the original 1964 US album. However, the sound quality on the stereo tracks are pretty goode but the mono ones are destroyed by el.stereo, would you believe.
Come to think about it, why was the mono tracks included in the first place since there were several stereo versions/songs in the files, like âThe Little Girl From Centralâ, âBig Benâ, âFrauleinâ, âLonely All The Timreâ (Crazy Arms), âIâm In The Danger Zoneâ. The Chess folks did a lot of stupid things when compiling Berry LPs back then.
ONE DOZEN BERRYS
Wax Time 771785 â Spain, 2012
14 tracks incl. bonus: Brown Eyed Handsome Man / You Canât Catch Me
New liner-notes and session discography. Besides two small pics, itâs rather imprudent to include a print of the front page of a souvenir programme from a 1959 Australian tour, and use two bonus tracks from 1956. BUT, except for âIt Donât Take But A Few Minutesâ the sound quality is pretty goode.
ROCKINâ AT THE HOPS
Wax Time 771890 â Spain, 2013
16 tracks, incl. bonus: Our Little Rendezvous / Jaguar And The Thunderbird / County Line / Back In The USA
Stupid really to include two bonus tracks that are almost the same in structure and text, âJaguar And The Thunderbirdâ and âCounty Lineâ. Thatâs the way it goes when people who are not familiar with the music are compiling an album. Same front cover as the original US album, but the back cover has extra liner notes, session discography and images from various sources, US posters, UK songbook(!) and a couple of single picture sleeves from Holland (would you believe). The sound quality is pretty goode though.
THE CHESS YEARS
Not Now Music NOT2LP-178 â UK, 2013
LP 1: Johnny B. Goode / Maybellene / Little Queenie / School Day / Carol / Worried Life Blues+ / No Money Down / Too Much Monkey Business / Roll Over Beethoven / Brown Eyed Handsome Man / Come On / Childhood Sweetheart / Thirty Days / Guitar Boogie (instr) / Jaguar And The Thunderbird / You Canât Catch Me
LP 2: Memphis, Tennessee / Sweet Little Sixteen / Let It Rock / Almost Grown / Go Go Go / Down The Road A Piece+ / Rip It Up+ / Reelinâ And Rockinâ / Back In The USA / Rock And Roll Music / Sweet Little Rock And Roller / Iâm Talking About You / Around And Around / Vacation Time / Too Pooped To Pop+ / Bye Bye Johnny
32 tracks from the greatest period of his Chess years (except for âRip It Upâ that is). Fold-out cover with a few pictures of Berry plus recording years. âSweet Little Sixteenâ is the original speed version. The sound quality is ok.
There is also a 3-CD set out titled âThe Best Of The Chess Yearsâ with 73 tracks (CBID page 1986), which is even a better buy unless you are a vinyl freak?
SAN FRANCISCO DUES
Geffen [Universal] GET-54058-LP â USA, 2013
Same as original Chess LP CH-50008 from 1971, except that âLonely Schooldaysâ is the slow version not the rockinâ one. And also the sound on this LP is not any better than the original album. As a matter of fact the â71 album has a little more debt to it.
AFTER SCHOOL SESSION
Geffen [Universal] Friday Music FRM-1426 â USA, 2013
15 tracks incl. bonus: You Canât Catch Me / Thirty Days / Maybellene
Same as original US Chess LP-1426 from 1957, except for the three bonus tracks. Fold-out cover with a standard black&white picture of Berry. The three bonus tracks really fit the concept for this album. AND the sound quality here is quite goode. So if you really need an LP on 180gr. vinyl of this classic album, this is the one to buy.
BERRY IS ON TOP
Geffen [Universal] Friday Music FRM-1435 â USA, 2013
Same as original US Chess LP-1435 from 1959. No bonus tracks. Fold-out cover with two pictures of Berry that we have all seen before. Goode sound quality except for âCarolâ and âRoll Over Beethovenâ.
And using fold-out covers should actually mean to make the most out of it and to full advantage for the buyers.
NEW JUKE BOX HITS
Wax Time 771921 â Spain, 2014
14 tracks incl. bonus: Come On / Go Go Go
I have a feeling this album was mastered from the Universal box set âYou Never Can Tellâ. Anyway, besides new liner notes (plus the original) and session discography there are a few images from the US and UK, posters and labels. Inside is also a card which makes it possible to download the album as a free mp3.
Originally this LP should have been out as a stereo album in the States back in 1961, since most of the songs have later turned up in stereo on other releases.
AFTER SCHOOL SESSION
VipVop VIPVOP-006 â UK, 2014
Red vinyl. Same tracks as US LP-1426 from 1957. Same front cover but different back cover with liner notes by one Max DĂ©charnĂ©. Session discography and image of the original US âAfter School Sessionâ EP and three US silver-top Chess singles. Also includes a bonus CD of the same album. The sound quality has not been improved onto 180gr vinyl.
ONE DOZEN BERRYS
VipVop VIPVOP-007 â UK, 2014
Red vinyl. Same tracks as US LP-1432 from 1958. However, both front and back cover are completely different. Liner notes again by Max DĂ©charnĂ©, images of the original LP labels and Chess 1671 single labels. Not an exact session disco but only whoâs playing on the tracks. Also includes a bonus CD of the same album.
It would have been interesting to know what sources have been used to re-master these albums on the VipVop label. Tracks like âOh Baby Dollâ, âReelinâ And Rockinââ and âRock And Roll Musicâ sounds like they have been taken from old rechanneled stereo versions. Although mono thereâs too much echo.
CHUCK BERRYâŠIS ON TOP
VipVop VIPVOP-008 â UK, 2014
Red vinyl. Same tracks as US LP-1435 from 1959, but different front and back cover. Liner notes again by Max DĂ©charnĂ©, info of who plays on the album plus images of four US Chess labels and two UK London. Also includes a bonus CD of the same album. However, the sound is a variation from bad to good. âAnthony Boyâ and âCarolâ are the worst ones. The liner notes says that it was re-mastered by Patrick Bird (as have all the VipVop LPs) at PSB Music (London) Ltd. Re-mastered from what?
ROCKINâ AT THE HOPS
VipVop VIPVOP-009 â UK, 2014
Red vinyl. Same tracks as US LP-1448 from 1960, but completely different front and back cover. Liner notes once again by Max DĂ©charnĂ©, and info of whoâs playing on the album. Also includes a bonus CD of the same album.
Strange though is the sound quality as some of the tracks like âWorried Life Bluesâ and âDriftinâ Bluesâ are pretty goode with some debt in them, but several of the others have a thinner sound. In case you are copying from a bad source it doesnât help if you use 180gr vinyl. If you donât have the original master tapes the final results might not be the best.
CHUCK BERRY SINGS THE BLUES
Not Now Music NOTLP-208 â UK, 2015
Driftinâ Blues+ / No Money Down / How Youâve Changed / Low Feeling (instr) / Deep Feeling (instr) / Sweet Sixteen+ / Blues For Hawaiians (instr) / Worried Life Blues+ / Run Around / In-Go (instr) / Confessinâ The Blues+ / Down Bound Train / Blue Feeling (instr) / I Got To Find My Baby+ / Wee Wee Hours / Together (Weâll Always Be)
Donât know what to say exactly? Itâs a great front cover with a picture I have never seen before, but that must be it, or? Who the hell selected these tracks? âLow Feelingâ, give me a break! âBlues For Hawaiiansâ when you have âCrying Steelâ? âDown Bound Trainâ and âTogetherâŠâ on a blues compilation when you have i.e. âI Just Want To Make Love To Youâ and âI Still Got The Bluesâ. What a waste. And the sound quality is varying. Again it all depends on the source.
AFTER SCHOOL SESSION
Vinyl Lovers 6785413 â EU, 2015
16 tracks incl. 4 bonus: Maybellene / Rock And Roll Music / Sweet Little Sixteen / Thirty Days
Except for the bonus tracks, same as original US Chess LP-1426 from 1957 but different cover. âRock And Roll Musicâ and âSweet Little Sixteenâ shouldnât be here. The compilers donât know a bloody thing. Great front cover though. And the sound quality here is actually quite goode.
Printing EU here is something I donât like but I have been unable to find the exact country of origin. It seems that Vinyl Lovers has a sister label called Lilith based in Russia.
ONE DOZEN BERRYS
Vinyl Lovers 6785448 â EU, 2016
14 tracks incl. 2 bonus: Brown Eyed Handsome Man / You Canât Catch Me
Except for the bonus tracks, same as original US Chess LP-1432 from 1958 but different cover. The two bonus tracks from 1956 are stupid. Sound quality is again quite goode. Contents is the same as the Spanish album from 2012 on Wax Time 771785 (see above).
ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC
Delta Entertainment N 79 022 â Germany, 2016
Johnny B. Goode / Brown Eyed Handsome Man / Around And Around / Ingo (instr) / Sweet Little Sixteen / Rock And Roll Music / Roll Over Beethoven / Maybellene / Too Much Monkey Business / Wee Wee Hours / Let It Rock / Carol
The most interesting thing about this release is the front cover. Taken from the best photo shoot ever of Berry. The one with the burgundy tuxedo and the original 350T Gibson.
These photos were never used on any original US release, unfortunately. Why is an interesting question. Strange to leave out âSchool Dayâ in favour of âIngoâ. And the sound is the same as on most of the other 180gr. vinyl albums above, nothing to brag about.
Now after so many 180 gr. vinyl LPs of the old Chess albums and tracks poppinâ up over and over again with and without bonus tracks I am beginning to be fed up. Except for new (sometimes) clever front covers, the sound is not always the best, bonus tracks often doesnât fit the concept of the respective albums (the word here is year!), the liner notes are sometimes a little too much and the session discographies are full of mistakes!
Do we need any more of these albums? Maybe enough is enough.
Saturday, April 8. 2017
As announced on Berry's 90th birthday in October, the planned album CHUCK (Dualtone Music) was supposed to be released in March 2017. Obvious reasons now have postponed the release to June 16th.
While waiting for the release, we are trying to get some facts about the songs and the recording process. Anyway this is what should finally make it to our database - and as correct as possible. While we know about all the uncertainties regarding Berry's recordings in the 1950s and 1960s, it shouldn't be so difficult to get facts about recent recordings, should it?
Right now, some facts about the new album are public. Most of what's of interest for us, remains unclear, though. The contributors, some of which are reading and commenting here, seem to be under non-disclosure. So we have to stick with Dualtone's press releases and the liner notes excerpts reprinted in Rolling Stone magazine.
Berry has been talking about this album in interviews for at least 25 years including naming songs such as "Lady B. Goode". He must have had recorded parts or all already when in March 1989 a fire at his Wentzville farm destroyed both the recording studio and all of the master tapes.
Berry started re-recording the lost tapes shortly thereafter. He moved to digital recording techniques in the 1990s which allowed him to do the same cut-and-paste recording common with multi-track taping. Due to this we will probably never be able to set a date or even year of when a specific song from CHUCK was recorded. And we won't be able to tell where such recording took place and who played which instrument.
Listening to the single Big Boys released in advance, we hear that Berry's singing and guitar playing is not that of a 90-year-old. Even comparing it to the concert tapes made during the last 20 years, he sounds fresh. Therefore we can assume that at least the base track for this song has been recorded in the 1990s or early 2000s. According to an interview, at least six of the tracks had been ready by 1996. Not to forget that "Big Boys" was dubbed ready for release in an article celebrating Berry's 80th birthday in 2006.
Digital recording also allowed Berry to play more than one instrument. Thus while we are told that Jim Marsala, Bob Lohr and Keith Robinson worked as bassist, pianist and drummer on CHUCK, it might be for all songs, or just a few.
Besides Marsala and Berry's children Chuck Jr. and Ingrid, who toured with him during the last decades, the album also lists guest musicians such as Gary Clark Jr., Tom Morello and Nathaniel Rateliff as well as Chuck's grandson Charles III.
Tom Morello is the guitarist who provides the very unlike solo at the end of Big Boys, while Rateliff sings the background vocals. Whereas Morello has been a recording artist since the 1990s, both Rateliff and Clark are relatively fresh artists. This makes us believe that at least these guest artists have been overdubbed onto finished tapes during the last few years. While the liner notes list Clark Jr. on "Wonderful Woman", the guitarist himself says that he doesn't know which song his playing was used for. Berry Jr. explained that he and his son, that's Chuck III., finished their parts in Nashville in 2014 or 2015.
In addition to Big Boys we already know two songs from CHUCK: "3/4 Time" has been in Berry's touring repertoire for decades. Written by Tony Joe White and best known sung by Ray Charles, this is included in various concert recordings known from Berry since the early 1990s. A version of the Jazz standard "You Go To My Head" from 1938, written by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, has been recorded during the rehearsals for Berry's 1986 birthday movie. It didn't make it to the film but can be heard on the corresponding DVD set.
The remaining seven songs on CHUCK are written by Berry himself. This is the expected track listing:
Wonderful Woman [5:19]
Big Boys [3:05]
You Go to My Head [3:21]
3/4 Time (Enchiladas) [3:47]
Lady B. Goode [2:55]
She Still Loves You [3:00]
Jamaica Moon [3:50]
Eyes of Man [2:27]
Collectors should note that "Big Boys" was not only released as a download. Dualtone Music also released a CD single (DUA-1793-SI) containing just this track. It was sent as a not-for-sale promotional item to radio stations.
Many thanks to Lori Kampa of Dualtone Music for information about the album and PR single.
[Addition April 27, 2017: The song "Wonderful Woman" has been made available yesterday at https://youtu.be/kRFg9zUZnpU.]
Wednesday, April 5. 2017
One would imagine this to be an easy attempt to create revenue from Chuck Berry's death in March. But that would be very unfair to Ace Records. This album was released before Chuck's passing including Morten's review thereof as shown here. It's my fault that there were other topics to write about during the last weeks. And there's a second reason why such a claim would be very unfair to Ace: They spent an enormous amount of work in this album which must have taken months to complete.
Here's Morten's addition to CBID, the Chuck Berry International Directory:
CD: Rock And Roll Music â The Songs Of Chuck Berry
Ace CDCHD 1491 • UK, 2017
Roll Over Beethoven (Helene Dixon, USA) / Around And Around (The Swinging Blue Jeans, UK) / Down Bound Train (Ken Colyerâs Skiffle Group, UK) / Maybellene (Marty Robbins, USA) / Come On (Ian Gomm, UK) / Memphis (Don Covay, USA) / Oh Baby Doll (The Pretty Things, UK) / Nadine (The Bunch, UK) / Little Queenie (Jerry Lee Lewis, USA) / Iâm Talking About You (The Remains, USA) / Brown Eyed Handsome Man (Buddy Holly, USA) / Johnny B. Goode (Jay And The Americans, USA) / Sweet Little Sixteen (The Hollies, UK) / Too Much Monkey Business (Elvis Presley, USA) / Almost Grown (Syndicate Of Sound, USA) / No Money Down (John Hammond, USA) / Beautiful Delilah (The Cound Bishops, UK-USA) / Havana Moon (Santana, USA) / Back In The USA (MC5, USA) / You Canât Catch Me (Sleepy LaBeef, USA) / Rock And Roll Music (The Beach Boys, USA) / You Never Can Tell (John Prine, USA) / Run Rudolph Run+ (Dwight Yoakam, USA) / Promised Land (Dave Edmunds, UK)
24 classic songs from the Poet Laureate of RockânâRollâs matchless catalogue as the cover tells us. Interesting compilation put together by one Tony Rounce who has also written the liner notes with each song being examined by the way of performance by the individual artists and groups. If you need any additional info check out Vol.3 of CBID, so thereâs no need for me to comment on the tracks. However, I wished they had picked a better version of âRun Rudolph Runâ.
So far for Morten's entry to CBID written early March. We should add that the same CD is also offered in Japan as P-VINE PCD-17762. And after having received the CD, Dietmar would like to add these comments to the review:
What impressed me with the new Ace CD was how much energy Ace has spent creating it. Although it's almost expected with Ace's long list of excellent albums. The 16 page booklet not only explains the recordings in detail, it also shows cover and label images of each. In addition the selection itself is astonishing. They not only included some of the oldest cover versions (Marty Robbins: 1955, Helene Dixon: 1956, Ken Colyer: 1956 in the UK!!). They also selected both prominent names (Elvis, Buddy, Jerry Lee) and groups I had never heard of. The recordings span more than 40 years and many of the interpretations are notably different from Berry's original tunes.
This album is highly recommended. You'll find a list of web shops here.
Monday, April 3. 2017
Back to our main interest here: documenting Chuck Berry's recordings as completely as possible.
Chuck's work for Chess records is known pretty well nowadays. We have heard the 1950s recordings over and over, first on their original releases, then on all the 1970s re-releases, next when transferred to CDs, then in complete by HIP-O Select and Bear Family. So we should know them by heart.
Then last week Willem Moerdijk asked me:
According to your info, only one Chess take of Carol has been found. I think I may have found a second take. I noticed differences in the piano playing.
Willem included an MP3 of the version he found. It's a version most Chuck Berry collectors have sitting on the shelf. But yet it is different.
Get any of your records containing the 1958 hit Carol and listen to it. Now locate you old copy of Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2. Carol is the very first track on side one. Play it. Hear any difference? Probably not. The singing is completely identical as is the guitar playing.
However, Willem is an expert on Jerry Lee Lewis. So he did not care about the guitar or the singing. He heard the piano. And he heard a different piano.
After a week of discussions and with the help of Arne's technical expertise (Thanks, Arne!) we finally have to agree with Willem.
The recording of Carol on Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2 (Chess 60023, USA, 1973-02) is different indeed. It contains the exact same recording as the usual version, but there's another piano line. Listen for instance to the solo near the end of the song (at 2:33): On the 'new' version you can clearly hear the pianist performing a slide (glissando). On the 'common' version it isn't. There are some other piano differences at the beginning of the song and in between as well. The differences are minimal and you need to have a good and piano-trained ear to spot them.
Since the singing, the guitar, and even the original piano lines are exactly the same on both variants, it's clear that this is not a different recording/take. Instead it seems that Chess overdubbed another piano track onto the recording, probably because the original piano was pretty thin in the mix. Remember that in 1958 Chess recorded in Mono to a single tape. No way to enhance the original piano line later. Note that also the guitar was overdubbed, but this is identical on both variants, so must have taken place before the piano overdub. Why the enhanced variant did not make it to the original release, remains unknown.
The inclusion of this 'new' variant on Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2 (again I show the much prettier UK cover) fits to the known facts about this strange release. Collectors had already found differing variants of Let It Rock (missing the guitar overdub) and Betty Jean (previously unreleased take) in this set. Since all three variants on Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2 sound very much like their 'correct' releases, we doubt these were released intentionally. Especially as the liner notes don't tell anything. Or maybe some re-release engineer tried to tease us. In this case he succeeded for 44 years!
If you don't have the original 2-LP set, listen to other late 1970s re-releases. We have found the piano overdub on a few other albums. We haven't found it on any CD, though. If you do, let us know.
Many thanks to Willem, of course!
Friday, March 31. 2017
$251.11 - That's what a collector this week paid for a picture sleeve of CHESS 1883, the U.S. original single Nadine. And just for the sleeve only!
Why did this collector pay that much? Because nobody I know has ever seen this sleeve before.
There are similar looking picture sleeves for the CHESS singles following Nadine. But a PS for 1883 has been unknown.
We wonder if this sleeve truly is a genuine product. Or whether it's one of the many counterfeit picture sleeves popping up lately. Since the image on eBay looks reasonable and since the seller seems to be trusted, it may in fact be a long-lost item.
If you've been the buyer, let us know once you received it. What is your opinion?
Addition by Morten Reff:
Collectors should know that some of the US 45 picture sleeves had the titles only on one side whereas the other side had the same image and layout but no song titles. I also have one of these sleeves which has no song titles on both sides. Which would make it easy to imprint whatever you want.
Friday, March 24. 2017
This site contains a full bibliography about Chuck Berry, i.e. a commented list of books about his recordings, his records, and his life. So when I accidentally found a book titled "The Life of Chuck Berry" at amazon, I bought it without thinking, especially as the price was very low (about $6 including shipping here in Germany).
At this price I wasn't too disappointed when it arrived here the next day. You probably won't call it a book at all. It's a leaflet of less than 25 sheets of paper. This certainly is not enough for a paper book. But it is a custom size for a Kindle eBook. And that's what you get: the printout of a Kindle eBook. And it's just a sequential printout without any layout whatsoever. No page numbers. Ten-line pages because the following image is too big to fit. And so on.
What puzzled me the most was that this book doesn't have an author. It doesn't even have a copyright note. Charles River Editors is a company which publishes eBooks about almost every topic you can imagine, hundreds of which are sold by amazon, apple and the likes.
Typically this kind of "books" consists of nothing more than wikipedia articles pasted. This is not the case with "The Life of Chuck Berry", though.
This booklet contains original text. It's well structured, not bad written and good reading. It covers Berry's personal life and career up to 2012 and it does so quite completely.
The book even has two pages listing a bibliography of sources. When writing a book about the life of Chuck Berry, sources should include Bruce Pegg's book, Berry's own autobiography, maybe the books by Howard DeWitt and John Collins, definitely Fred Rothwell's book. None, none of these important books is listed as a source! Instead the whole list of sources consists just of websites (and some magazine articles available on websites).
The unnamed author(s) obviously did not read any of the main sources. All they did was google'ing Berry's name and re-word their findings. So you won't find a quote from Berry's autobiography in this book. But you will find several quotes from reviewers who quoted from Berry's autobiography. That's odd! Why not read the original?
Therefore you will not find any first-hand information in this book. You will not find second-hand information either. All this is third-hand information.
Due to this, while most of the text is correct, there's an obvious error now and then. That happens when you copy and paste from sources who didn't know better.
This book is good for someone who wants to get a first impression about Chuck Berry's career. You won't need more than half an hour to read it. And you have seen the photos before. For readers of this site, it's not recommended at all.
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This weblog is an addition to my Chuck Berry fansite called "A Collector's Guide to the Music of Chuck Berry" which describes all books and records of interest to everyone enjoying Chuck Berry's music.
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