Sunday, May 11. 2014
I usually don't quote from press releases, but this is good enough to make an exception:
The parameters of rock music were set one day in May 1955, when Chuck Berry recorded his debut single âMaybelleneâ. Chuck Berry was the rockânâroll pioneer who turned the electric guitar into the main instrument of rock music. Every riff and solo played by rock guitarists over the last 60 years contains DNA that can be traced right back to Chuck Berry. The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and a million other groups began to learn their craft by playing Chuck Berry songs. Chuck Berry is also a superb songwriter. In the course of three minutes he conjures up an image of the everyday life and dreams of a teenager, often with the focus on cars. Chuck Berry, born in 1926, was the first to drive up onto the highway and announce that we are born to run.These are the reasons why Chuck berry is going to be honored with the Polar Music Prize 2014 on August 26th by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden in Stockholm.
Besides being honored with a great ceremony and given a prize money of 1,000,000 Swedish Kroner (appr. $150,000), which Berry will appreciate more, this prize puts Berry in one line not only with other renowned popular artists, but with exceptional composers and performers of classical music as well.
The Polar Music Prize is a legacy from Stig Anderson (1931-1997), one of the most famous figures in the Swedish music industry. A songwriter himself with an output of around 3,000 published titles, many of them chart hits, Anderson managed some of the biggest Swedish artists of the 1960s and then in the early 1970s became manager, co-writer, and producer of Sweden's most important pop group, ABBA. Anderson's record company Polar Music released all the original ABBA albums.
[Since 1992] the Polar Music Prize is an international music prize, which is awarded to individuals, groups or institutions in recognition of exceptional achievements in the creation and advancement of music. The Polar Music Prize awards two Laureates in order to celebrate music in all its various forms and to emphasize the original intention of the Polar Music Prize: To break down musical boundaries by bringing together people from all the different worlds of music.To learn more about the prize, visit their website at polarmusicprize.org. The site also contains videos of the ceremonies, so expect to see Berry there as well. Along with their press release, the Prize Committee published a nice and almost correct brief biography of Berry at http://polarmusicprize.org/announcement/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/PMP_biografi_CB.pdf
Wednesday, December 18. 2013
It's Christmas time and while listening to the radio, from time to time you'll hear one of the various cover versions of Berry's Run Rudolph Run. Berry's???
While everyone will tell you that this is a typical Chuck Berry song with a typical Berry melody (later re-used at the same session for Little Queenie) and typical Berry lyrics (Said Santa to a boy child, "What have you been longing for?" — "All I want for Christmas is a Rock and Roll electric guitar!"), all over the Internet you will read that this song was written by Johnny Marks and Marvin Broadie! And this includes Wikipedia âŚ
With the help of three fellow Berry experts, biographer Bruce Pegg, discographer Morten Reff, and sessionographer Fred Rothwell, I've tried to sort out a few facts from the rumors.
In 1939 Robert L. May wrote the story of Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, first for his daughter Barbara, later as a giveaway booklet for his employer, the Montgomery Ward Company. Ward's was the first owner of the Rudolph copyright. In 1946 the copyright was transferred back to May and today belongs to The Rudolph Company, L.P., that means May's heirs.
In 1949 Johnny Marks, husband of May's sister Margaret and both a songwriter and radio producer, took the tale and created the famous Christmas song Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The singing cowboy Gene Autry seems to be the first who recorded the song (though some sources name Harry Brannon) and made it a huge hit. Copyright to the 1949 Rudolph song is owned by Marks own publishing company called St. Nicholas Music, Inc.
In 1958, Chuck Berry recorded his version of a Christmas story named Run Rudolph Run. The original Chess release 1714 came with this authors line:
(C. Berry Music — M. Brodie) / ARC BMI
Chuck Berry Music, Inc., Berry's company, is listed here as the author as it is on most Chess singles starting with Beautiful Delilah up to Ramona Say Yes. For some reasons, probably financial, it seems to have made sense to use a company name here instead of an individual's name. As the melody is pure Chuck Berry, it's no wonder that Chuck Berry Music, Inc. claimed authorship and that ARC, the Chess/Goodman publishing company, claimed copyright.
But, mystery #1:
Who is "M. Brodie"? Chuck Berry using a co-writer? A person named M. Brodie does not exist on the Internet. Not as a songwriter nor in any relation to a record company. So if M. Brodie was a songwriter, Run Rudolph Run is his or her only published work. But M. Brodie might also have been someone Berry or the Chess Brothers wanted to give a favor (money/fame) â as they did with Alan Freed on the original Maybellene record. Or M. Brodie might be just a pen name such as "E. Anderson" on Let It Rock who was Berry in disguise.
In the ASCAP authors database, the co-writer of Run Rudolph Run named M. Brodie is identified as member number 268788988. While it's strange that Run Rudolph Run even exists in the ASCAP database because the original single clearly refers to the rival songwriter organization BMI, it becomes even more strange:
Member number 268788988 has additional entries for songs he wrote or co-wrote. All these additional songs stem from albums recorded by a late 1990s group called the Soultans of which a Marvin Lee Broadie was lead singer. And Marvin Lee Broadie indeed wrote some Soultans songs such as Cross My Heart on their Love, Sweat and Tears album. But if you look at Broadie's photo on his concert management site, I strongly doubt he was even born when Berry's Rudolph hit the record stores. Or, as Bruce Pegg puts it:
So unless this songwriter wrote one song in 1958, then had 40 years of writers block only to surface again as a writer for a German pop band at the end of the 90s, this Mr. Broadie is not our man.And don't overlook the different spelling of M. Brodie and Marvin Broadie.
So let's go to mystery #2:
Up to today on all Chess records or re-releases Berry's recording is always credited to Berry/Brodie or just Berry, this includes the latest HIP-O-Select boxes. In contrast, the ASCAP database and almost all cover versions name the songwriters as Johnny Marks and Marvin Broadie. Marvin Broadie aside, what has Johnny Marks to do with the Berry song?
Wikipedia claims that Marks indeed wrote the song, though Wikipedia fails to give a source for this claim. Is it likely that Marks wrote the Berry tune? Not if you compare Run Rudolph Run to Autry's hit record. But if you knew that in 1958 Marks wrote Brenda Lee's Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, that story might not be too far away. Our mysterious M. Brodie could be an alias for Johnny Marks, which allowed him (an ASCAP songwriter) to team up with Berry (a BMI songwriter). However, while this is possible, I don't believe it.
More likely is a different, more logical link to Marks. His publishing company St. Nicholas Music, Inc. is very strict about copyrights. And in fact the company was created by Marks just because of the Rudolph song and to cash on its success. As such it has "exploited the name and likeness of Rudolph via trademarks in connection with a wide variety of products and services, such as musical performances, audio recordings, sheet music and other music publications" (quoted from court papers). So Marks may have forced Arc Music/Chess Records to register the song with ASCAP and under the Marks/Brodie name. St. Nicholas Music, Inc. along with Character Arts, LLC (which owns the rights to the Rudolph 1964 TV special) successfully forbids Rudolph to appear in movies unless you pay for a license. And they certainly forbid Rudolph to appear in songs as well.
I'm really glad that my rights to the Rudolph name are older than theirs. Otherwise I might have feared their lawyers for using it.
The mysteries remain. I am 100 per cent sure that the mysterious M. Brodie never heard himself called Marvin. This dual use of the 268788988 member number in the ASCAP database is certainly an error introduced by trying to remove variant spellings for the same writer. This is where M. Brodie was mixed up with Marvin Lee Broadie. Johnny Marks' entry to the game was most certainly due to legal reasons. I strongly doubt Marks' contribution to the song, but if you can put some light into this darkness, let me know.
Monday, August 6. 2012
Recently a reader referred to my blog article on La Juanda - back here.
Again there rose a discussion about whether there are two variants of this song, or not: Is the version of this song on the original Chess single (Chess 1664) different from the version used on the LP albums (and all of the CDs)? When this question last came up in 2008 I had listened to those records over and over and did not hear any difference. In contrast others, especially Berry expert Morten Reff, insisted in hearing a difference. When this topic now came up once again, I decided to finally sort this out. So I grabbed the versions into audio files and used several computer programs to analyze possible differences.
Finally I stand corrected! Indeed there are differences in the single version of La Juanda versus to album and CD versions!
Both records obviously use the same basic take having the musical instruments and the main vocal. This results in both versions having the same length and sounding exactly the same.
However, as you will know, on this record Berry sings with himself in harmony. This was done by overdubbing a second background vocal track onto the original recording. And here is where the differences can be spotted. Either the engineers used a different second vocal track for the single or they modified the background vocal track before including it.
Fact is that there are a very few seconds in this song where you can hear the two versions differ. The most prominent part is during the first refrain where Berry switches from Spanish to English singing "I speak only the language of English" (close to 0:40 minutes in the song). In the single version this sentence is sung as a duet of Berry with himself having clearly two vocal tracks. In the LP version (e.g. on the Hip-O-Select box) the same sentence is not double-tracked. Here Berry clearly sings alone with a single voice.
My apologies to all those with better ears. I added a note to the Chess records section of this page.
Saturday, March 31. 2012
There have been two articles on this blog already talking about Berry's session in Radio Bremen's TV studio on March 24th, 1972. Berry and the same band used a few days later to record the famous BBC TV session spent 45 minutes to record eight songs to be used in later German broadcasts. Three of these songs then made it to the May 27th, 1972 broadcast of Germany's most famous music show Beat-Club.
In 2008 I reported on a TV broadcast of additional recordings from this show and in 2009 some readers found yet another part of this session. Go back there to learn more about the recording and the original releases.
In early 2011 Gonzo Multimedia of London, UK announced to include this session in their series of "Lost Broadcasts" DVDs. Interestingly their description of the show was completely wrong, talking about three different sessions and about songs never heard of. Anyway I pre-ordered a copy which was supposed to be available in June 2011. It never came. Gonzo first delayed and then drew back the release completely.
But then some reader of this blog found out that the DVD has finally become available (Thanks, John!). I ordered once more and this time I really got the DVD!
Chuck Berry - The Lost Broadcasts (Gonzo Multimedia HST056DVD) is now available at the usual shops. Click here for a list. Despite what the shops may tell you: This is a single (not two) DVD and it is not an Audio CD. It says it's made in England, but interestingly the Gonzo/UK website does not list it, while the Gonzo/US website does - and with a much more correct description this time. And for even more confusion the printing on the front cover contains German notes (explaining that this DVD is unrated).
The DVD contains all eight songs recorded at the session. On the DVD are the raw cuts containing studio talk and even the clapperboard inserts. Included as well is a 30-minute Interview track, which consists of an interview where Berry tries to understand the questions from the two German interviewers followed by studio talk where the band sits on stage drinking beer. It seems as if the German cameramen and director simply let the cameras run whatever Berry and the band did. Which seemed not to disturb them. All this is now on the DVD, raw as it is.
This raw material was filmed in front of a blue-screen. This is a common technique in which during post-production any arbitrary background could be placed behind the actors. The blue color is then keyed out from the overlaid images. Here the blue background is very disturbing as by intention it has a very high contrast to what's going on on stage. When German TV broadcast this "Lost Concert" in 2008, they replaced the blue background with a black one. That was much more comfortable to view.
For the original 1972 broadcasts a distorted and modified view of the same image was placed into the background. The DVD includes both the raw and the processed variants of Let It Rock, Wee Wee Hours, and Johnny B. Goode. These three songs were used in the original Beat-Club show. Of School Day, which was used in a later German show, Gonzo missed to include the original broadcast.
Most of the contents of this DVD was known before, though in edited form. The beer-drinking scene (Berry drinking The Real Thing instead) is new as are some parts of the interview which until then had been used and even released on Audio CD in segments only. As Berry and the band are in good shape just like they are at the BBC session little thereafter, this is a nice-to-have item.
Sunday, March 18. 2012
The release of various CD sets containing Chuck Berry's complete recordings of the 1950s and their sale at very low prices makes one wonder about the legal situation of these recordings.
In this blog article I try to explain the relevant copyright portions as far as I understand those. I am NOT an expert on copyrights, so what you read here may be completely wrong and subject to legal discussions. Thus feel free to comment or send an email if you find this text need corrections or additions!
Lets try to sort out some definitions first: we are talking about COPY-RIGHTS, i.e. the right to copy something. The basic rule in almost all circumstances is that the creator of a work of art is the only one who owns the right to create copies of his or her work. In most cases of commercially replicated art, the creator of the work has transferred the right to copy to an agency, a publisher or the like. Depending on the contract, this transfer of rights might be temporary, might cover certain editions or geographical regions only, or might be permanent. In any case the owner of the copyright (remember: the right to copy) might be someone different than the creator of the work. [Note: In the U.S. it had been necessary to officially register a copyright for it to become legally effective. This was often done by other parties such as a publisher. In Europe and most other countries the simple act of creating something automatically entitled the creator to the exclusive right to copy - as it is in the U.S. now as well.]
The creator of a work of art might also waive his right to copy by putting the work into the public domain. In this case the work of art is allowed to be copied freely. The creator might still have several rights which they retain. Thus they might still claim authorship, request their name to be listed, or request the work to be unchanged.
All copyrights expire. Thus after a certain amount of time every work of art becomes part of the public domain and is allowed to be freely copied. The period of time a work is protected against unwanted copying depends on the type of work and on the applicable laws. Due to this it often depends on the source country and on the country the copy is created in.
Looking at Chuck Berry's recordings, we see that there are three different kinds of art we have to consider:
In respect to the various CD releases of Chuck Berry's 1950s recordings in Europe and in the UK, we can summarize: As a composer and writer, Chuck Berry or whoever he sold the copyright to (Chess, BMI, or their local agents) still is entitled to royalties. As a recording artist, his 1950s recordings are in the public domain, though - at least in the UK and at least those which have been published in the UK at least 50 years ago.
Thursday, December 8. 2011
Most of you will know the German Bear Family Records label. Since 35 years, Richard Weize and his team provide and surprise us with countless Rock'n'Roll rarities always at highest quality levels. Bill Haley, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewes, ... all have been presented in huge box-sets from Bear Family, mostly containing tons of rare or previously unissued stuff.
In respect to Chuck Berry, Bear Family has been astonishingly quiet. Fred Rothwell's Long Distance Information reports on an aborted box-set once planned. The only Bear Family release listed in this site's discography is their 52-CD set Geschichte der Popmusik (Bear Family BCD16300) which contains an interview nowhere else to be found.
Therefore it's a great step forward that Bear Family recently released a Chuck Berry album. Called Chuck Berry Rocks (Bear Family BCD17139AR), this is a single, but fully packed CD.
The album comes with 32 tracks and a bit over 80 minutes of rocking Berrys. Bear Family selected the best-known and the best Rock'n'Roll numbers up to Dear Dad, organized chronologically. This can easily serve as one of the best Greatest Hits albums, even though (and goodly so) it misses the Ding-A-Ling.
I usually don't discuss Greatest Hits albums here as they are released by the dozens. I have to make an exception this time, though, out of two reasons. Reason one is the perfect sound quality of this CD. What else is to be expected from Bear Family?
The second reason which makes this new CD a nice addition to every Chuck Berry collection is the enclosed booklet. 52 pages for a single CD. No other label would provide you with such an amount of additional information accompanying the music on the CD. You can almost call this a book with enclosed CD. Bill Dahl describes each and every recording in detail, talking about the recording sessions, introducing the musicians, listing chart entries and integrating interviews. Best is the selection of photos, many from inside the recording studios and often some we haven't seen before.
All in all, this CD set is highly recommended, not only to those who look for Berry's greatest recordings, but also for all the collectors out there. Thank you, Bear Family!
Tuesday, August 23. 2011
Thanks to Morten Reff I learned about a new CD album called "Dover Soul" by David Dover. This 2010 CD contains a segment of a show Dover performed with Berry on June 14th, 2008. David Dover told me:
I was hired to do all of the production for the show and it was at the Mabee Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Mabee Center is a large venue on the Oral Roberts University Campus. It's where Elvis used to play when he came to Tulsa. I did all the lighting and all the sound for the show. My band was the opening act and also played as Mr. Berry's band.The CD comes with a ten-minute excerpt from Berry's performance. Though titled "Johnny B. Goode" on Dover's CD, you hear the complete closing segment of the show. First Berry performs his best-known song, then he continues with his usual closing routine asking for girls to dance on stage while Berry and the band run through a variant of what was once published as "House Lights" on the 1979 Rockit album.
The back cover of the CD shows Dover along with Berry on stage:
I asked David Dover how he came to record the Berry show and more importantly how he got Berry's permission for that.
I told Mr. Berry that I was going to record and he had no objections so I proceeded to do so. I recorded the entire show but Johnny B. Goode was the best of the bunch so that is the one I included on my album.In contrast to a hundred of audience recordings made from Berry shows over the last decades, here we have a recording that is at least technically very good. Musically it is what you expect from an eighty-year old rock'n'roller. The backup band is better than most of the local pickup bands Berry uses when on the road, though not as good as the family line-up he plays with in St. Louis. When you look at a short video recording from this show, you see that Berry's friend, tour manager and bass player Jim Marsala was present on stage and guiding the band as he usually does.
The album is available from most of the large Internet shops. Click here for some links. The CD looks quite handmade. Even though I received a sealed copy through amazon, the disk is just a burned CD, not a pressed one. Likewise the cover seems to be made with a home printer. Song titles and running times are printed onto the CD only. Just like the recording information also writer credits are missing. I'm pretty sure that Dover did not write Who'll Stop the Rain by himself.
You can listen to an excerpt from Johnny B. Goode here or use the link to purchase the entire audio file.
[Additions to original post of 2011-08-06]
David Dover was so kind to provide us with additional information about this CD. In reply to my "handmade" comment he explained:
I have a publishing company and I own my own label so I suppose it would be considered an Indie label. I have the neccessary gear to produce a CD of good quality. A also have a Sony machine that mass produces them, so basically I am my own record company. I also own a shrink wrap machine to wrap the CDs. I have everything the big companies have except the money to promote myself.Right you are, David. Therefore here's the place for me to promote your album. Recommended!
In addition David listed the following musicians as playing the Mabee Center concert: David Dover (guitar and vocals), Rick Heck (drums), Dave Russell (sax and vocals), Chip Anderson (bass and vocals), Rick Morrow (piano and vocals), Ricky Paul (guitar).
Thanks to Morten Reff and David Dover for help with this blog article.
Tuesday, July 26. 2011
Because it probably is his most important recording, Johnny B. Goode has been the topic of several comments and discussions in this blog before. (see here and here)
Common knowledge is that besides the well-known version as released in 1958, there is a so-called alternate version "Take 2/3" which consists of a short version of the famous guitar intro (take 2) followed by some studio talk and then continuing into a complete track (take 3).
On the HIP-O-Select 4-CD set of same name (HIP-O-Select B0009473-02) one can listen to both versions one after the other (CD 2, tracks 20 and 21). And if you listen carefully you will notice that take 3 and the finally released version are exactly the same recording. As Fred Rothwell explained in this blog, common practice for Berry was to play the intro and the rhythm first, while further lead guitar segments were overdubbed later. Thus track 20 (take 3) on the HIP-O-Select CD is the undubbed version and track 21 is the overdubbed version.
That's what common knowledge said. But then I received an email from a reader of this site who noticed something strange. Josep RullĂł from Barcelona/Spain wrote:
We are missing the complete alternate take first used in the âRockÂ´nÂ´Roll Raritiesâ album in the 1986. This complete take, identified as take 3, is very noticeably different from the master.What Josep did - and none of the other collectors including me - was to compare the "Take 2/3" track on the HIP-O-Select box with the "Take 2/3" track as originally released by MCA/CHESS in 1986 on the double album "Rock'n'Roll Rarities" (Chess LP 92521). And when you compare these two, you will notice some minor differences and some major differences.
The minor differences are an additional false start of take 2 on the 1986 version, which is missing on the 2008 version which in turn has Leonard Chess shouting "Johnny B. Goode, take 2" at the beginning.
The major difference is that the 1986 version of take 3 is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT RECORDING from the take 3 on the 2008 CD. It has a much longer and different piano solo between the second and third verse which you can easily use to tell the versions apart.
I wonder if someone can shed some more light on this. So far this is my theory:
When Steve Hoffman of MCA/CHESS created the "Rock'n'Roll Rarities" album, he not only remixed some of the 1960s recordings. He and his team also found an unreleased version of Johnny B. Goode and some studio chatter about the recording of the song. So they took the aborted take 2, the following discussion, and the unreleased version (rumor goes that this is take 1) and combined those to what they called a "previously unreleased version". Note that they did not claim the unreleased take to be take 3. They just moved it after the studio discussion, not before. And because that studio talk ended with Len Chess introducing "Take 3" we all came to believe that the unreleased take was indeed take 3.
As it seems, this also fooled the engineers at Universal when they compiled the so-called "complete" CD set. They were supposed to add takes 2 and 3, so they took the master tapes and used takes 2 and 3 - the real takes 2 and 3. This is how the real take 3, which by incident is the undubbed master of the hit version, went into production. They clipped off the false start from take 2 (bad) and added Len Chess's introduction (good). But no-one noticed that the complete track was notably different from the 1986 version.
Thus we have to note that there are these studio versions of Johnny B. Goode:
We have to say a big THANK YOU to Josep twice: First for finding out the differences, and second for telling us!
Sunday, October 3. 2010
The Association for Recorded Sound Collections (arsc-audio.org) just announced the 2010 ARSC Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research. Since 1991, "the awards are presented to authors and publishers of books, articles, liner notes, and monographs, to recognize outstanding published research in the field of recorded sound. In giving these awards, ARSC recognizes outstanding contributions, encourages high standards, and promotes awareness of superior works." (Quote from the press release)
One of the awards for excellence honors the best research in recorded Blues, Rhythm & Blues, or Soul Music. And the winner is:
Congratulations to Morten and to the team at Music Mentor Books! You deserved it well!
Sunday, February 21. 2010
OK, friends! It's here and I spent some hours listening to it. So here's my review of the new Chuck Berry four CD set from Geffen Records/Hip-O-Select:
In 2008 Universal's Hip-O-Select label released a four CD set containing Chuck Berry's complete recorded output from 1955 to 1960 as produced for Chicago's Chess label. In 2009 the series continued with another four CD set covering the Chess recordings between 1960 and 1966. Another new four CD set now completes this series by presenting Chuck Berry's Chess recordings from 1969 to 1974.
Those who wonder about the three-year gap between 1966 and 1969 should know that Chuck Berry changed record labels in 1966. For a short period of time he recorded for Mercury Records only to return to Chess in 1969. Even though also the Mercury archives nowadays belong to Universal, the company decided to concentrate on the Chess recordings first. Since almost all Mercury recordings including several previously unreleased ones have been made available on CD during the 1990s, it made sense to skip those.
Most of the later years Chess recordings have not been available on CD except for a very rare and expensive box set which was available for a very short time in England until sale was stopped for legal reasons. Of the five vinyl albums Chess released during that time, only âThe Chuck Berry London Sessionsâ had been issued on CD before.
As with the other two sets, the new release comes with everything a collector can dream of. Most notably there is more than a dozen previously unknown songs. In addition Andy McKaie of Universal and Berry expert Fred Rothwell selected a couple of alternative versions of known titles and added some more tracks from the Coventry concert which led to Berry's best sold album ever, the London Sessions LP.
Design and packaging complement the other two sets. This includes reproductions of the original labels and album covers as well as a selection of rare photos. A 24 page booklet by Fred Rothwell discusses the development of these recordings and lists complete session details as far as he was able to find out from the Chess archives and tape boxes.
The Chuck Berry music of the 1970s is different from the earlier recordings. Most of the songs on this set had been known only to the experts who had bought and kept the original albums. They come from a wide selection of original Berry material and of recycled Blues and Country standards, both with new and ancient lyrics.
I wonder if Universal called the box set âHave Mercyâ to remind us to forgive Berry for producing lesser quality material. The recordings here have been produced for albums where it did not matter if one or two tracks are below standard. And there are several recordings included which are not of top quality. But this is what you get when you buy a âcompleteâ set.
Or did they want to point out the top-quality blues number âHave Mercy Judgeâ which was released as the flip side of Berry's first 45 after his return to Chess? Especially the blues songs contained on this set show that during the 1970s Berry was free to create the music he liked best.
Besides the blues numbers, also a series of very fine instrumentals stands out as a highlight of this set. Berry really shines when working with professional musicians raised up with listening to his early recordings. Bob Baldori of the Woolies on the earlier songs and Billy Peek in some later sessions help to create some great Chuck Berry songs. If you like Berry's 1950s recordings for their riffs, melody and intelligent lyrics, take your time to step through these 71 recordings. It's all there.
The 1970s introduced big changes to the Chess label. Leonard Chess had sold the company to GRT, a huge New York based music corporation. The old studios in Chicago were no longer used, so the recordings presented here come from a variety of locations, using different engineers, different producers, and different equipment. Not every combination guarantees for success, but it's interesting to find similarities and differences. As the songs on this set come in chronological order, they are much easier to compare than with the original albums who mostly contained a mixture from various origins, including Chess recordings from before Berry's leave to Mercury.
For both of the early box sets Universal searched for some very rare live recordings made from Berry performances. With this new set it was not necessary to go searching, as the London Sessions album already had one âliveâ side. It was said that this album contained only three songs because the audience sang too loud on the remaining recordings. This saying is proven now with five more recordings from the same performance. And these recordings also show that some huge editing was needed to get the original three songs on the album at all. âRoll 'Em Peteâ is one of the new tracks. It has been published before as a 45's B side even forgotten on the Charly 9-CD set. Here you can compare the original recording with this heavily edited version.
Since the CD set claims to contain his âcompleteâ recordings from 1969 to 1974, we should be allowed to ask what's missing. And, what's unnecessary. Berry's first No.1 hit âMy Ding-A-Lingâ is included twice: the famous 1972 live recording and a previously unreleased 1969 studio recording. This is fine, but the live recording again is contained twice: the full 11-minute album track and the edited version from the 45rpm single which earned Berry a Golden Record. But then, why is the single version of âReelin' And Rockin'â, likewise edited, missing? More importantly, the CD set comes with just one take of another live recording: Berry's funny variant of âSouth Of The Borderâ was released on a 45rpm single in England only. It stems from a BBC TV broadcast show of which I wish Universal would have included the complete soundtrack as it is one of the best Chuck Berry performances ever. And one which is available only on bootleg records so far.
Another live recording I was astonished not to find on this four CD set is from Berry's performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1972. At the festival there where many Chess artists performing and Chess staff recorded all these. A 2-LP set called âBlues Avalancheâ was released containing live recordings from Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker and others. According to Michael Ruppli's âThe Chess Labelsâ, two Berry tracks were mastered for inclusion, but finally omitted. So I expected to find at least these two tracks on the new box set, though they are not. According to Fred Rothwell, the two master tapes are lost and all other parts of Berry's performance in Montreux were too bad to include. What a pity!
In summary, the Complete attribute might be a bit overstated for this set. I can easily imagine further live recordings or maybe even another alternative take surface in the future. We have just seen it happen with the so-called complete 1950s recordings. But for now this is the definitive collection of Berry's work in the early 1970s and of course it's a must-have for every serious collector.
Above is my review for German Rock'n'Roll Music Magazine which is targeted to all Rock'n'Roll fans. Pure Berry collectors such as those reading this blog may want to get some more insight details:
Just like the other two boxes this new CD set is a must-have, no question.
The new four CD set comes with 13 previously unknown songs: Untitled Instrumental, That's None Of Your Business, Blues #1, Annie Lou, Me And My Country, One Sixty Nine AM, Roll Away, Turn On The Houselights, Jambalaya, Johnny B. Blues, Dust My Broom, Here Today, and Rockin'. The lyrics to Roll Away and to Me And My Country (as You And My Country) had been known from the Chuck Berry songbook Rock 'n' Roll Poet before.
My Ding-A-Ling and The Song Of My Love are included in previously unknown variants, both as studio recordings. Of the instrumental Gun you'll find two additional takes, a slow and a fast version. Also included is another, previously unheard poem called My Pad.
In addition to the previously known live recordings there are Sweet Little Sixteen, It Hurts Me Too, Around And Around, and Promised Land from the Coventry show. Next to the released edited version, also the original recording of Roll 'Em Pete from the same show can be found here.
Click here for Internet shops the CD set can be ordered from.
Saturday, February 20. 2010
Re-issues of Chuck Berry's old hits and albums exist by the hundreds or even thousands. No serious collector tries to get them all. Even Morten Reff, author of the ultimate book on Chuck Berry records "The Chuck Berry International Directory", tells me he lost track of all the cheap re-issues released month after month.
And with the Hip-O-Select CD boxes claiming to contain Chuck Berry's complete recorded output for Chess, there's another reason gone to even check out re-releases. What could be found of interest if every recording worth listening to has been included in the box sets?
Due to this, all collectors I know (including me) ignored this re-issue when it was released in June 2008, even though it says it's in Audiophile quality (i.e. expensive) and remastered from original tapes.
Thus it came as a huge surprise to me when Morten yesterday told me:
Strangely enough, but here's an alt. take of "Anthony Boy" which has never been out before.I immediately had to check out by myself. And this morning the postman brought me a sealed copy I had to open and compare with the original version within a few minutes. And astonishingly Morten is correct: The version of "Anthony Boy" is not the formerly and only known take. (It's not astonishing that Morten is correct, it's astonishing that they had a tape even Hip-O-Select did not use! So much for "complete".)
Here are some more notes from Morten:
The Mobile Fidelity CD is a pairing of two classic Chess albums, Chess LP-1435 from 1959 and Chess LPS-1488 from 1964. Front cover as on the original âSt.Louis To Liverpoolâ LP. However, they brag about the sound quality (which is quite goode actually) and how superior Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab is to the audiophile entertainment software and significant contributions to the world of high-end audio software using only original master recordings, and on and on they go. And although it is a nice digipak issue looking very professional and the CD (Ultradisc II) coming in 24-karat gold(?) and being a special limited edition (10.000, mine is #01668). BUT, and here's the news folks, how come they got hold of an alternate version of 'Anthony Boy' ??? Anyway it's here and therefore, you all need this issue! It's a little different, the choir is not so loud in its Go's.. and the guitar solo is a little staccato.How did it come? I'm sure they asked Universal for the original master tapes and by accident got a wrong one. I'm sure no one noticed because if anybody would have known, there would have been at least a minor note somewhere on cover or booklet.
Those who know say that while the hit version of "Anthony Boy" is take 9, this recording here is an earlier take 6 from the same session.
The Mobile Fidelity CD is available from many Internet shops and priced between $30 and $50 plus shipping. Quite expensive for yet another re-issue, but in order to have a complete collection, you need to buy one. Click here for some links to reasonable offers.
Many thanks to Morten!
Saturday, January 30. 2010
In June 2008, there was heated discussion by commenters of this blog regarding Two Guitars on Johnny B. Goode. One thing not discussed then was the differences between the known recording takes.
Reader Dennis had some more listening and found out:
While listening to the various tracks on the 4CD set I noticed that take 3 of the alt. take JBG 2/3 and the final master on Chess 1691 are the exact same recording. It's just one version without and the other with the overdubs. This can be heard quite clearly by listening to the improvised piano fills which are completely identical. Within the discussion it was not made clear that you were talking about the same recording in two states of finalization.Fred and I spent some more time listening to the tracks and we can confirm Dennis's findings. Thanks for this additional information.
Monday, January 25. 2010
A short first message about your next purchase:
Hip-O-Select just announced the release of its third CD set covering Chuck Berry' complete recordings for Chess Records from 1955 to 1974.
The brand new box is to be released January 29th, 2010. Called Have Mercy - His Complete Chess Recordings 1969-1974 the set again consists of four CDs with 71 tracks. Promised are 22 previously unreleased recordings! You can read the track listing here.
More details to follow as soon as I have a copy to listen to.
Wednesday, December 2. 2009
Reader Brian wrote:
Thereâs a new live album of Chuck called Rock And Roll Live which has a song called "Carolina Bound." I suspect it is actually "Promised Land" in a new packaging of old live recordings, but do you know anything about it?Good guess, Brian! In former times you had to run and find a shop which carries the album, buy it, and check it out at home. Producers still think they could make their money from such.
However, thanks to the Internet we can save a lot of money. First we find out that this is not a new CD album, but simply an MP3 "album". And that there are several shop which offer a 30-second sample segment from each song.
So you go to amazon.com (or your favourite shop). Search for the unknown title. And you click on "Play".
Listen by yourself at amazon.com.
What do you get? Not "Promised Land", but close. Of course it's the same old Toronto concert in a new packaging again. And indeed it's a segment from the long medley. But instead of "Promised Land" we hear "Carol". That's where they got the Carolina from.
Save your money, check first.
Wednesday, March 18. 2009
Since several European readers asked about how to get the new 4CD set at reasonable shipping costs:
Amazon and other online stores have started pre-ordering for the set with shipping announced for March 29th.
Click here for the corresponding pages at amazon
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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