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
Sunday, March 1. 2009
A few days ago I first talked about the new Chuck Berry Box-Set from Geffen Records/Hip-O-Select. Fred then presented the box from his personal view as part of the production team. I got my copy in the meantime and here's the translation of a review I just wrote for German Rock'n'Roll Musikmagazin:
Last year we reviewed the four-CD box Johnny B. Goode - His Complete 50's Recordings made by Geffen Records/Hip-O-Select. It contains all recordings made by Chuck Berry for the Chicago-based Chess label between 1955 and 1960. Now the manager of the Chess archives Andy McKaie and UK Chuck Berry expert and author Fred Rothwell have put another log on the fire.
You Never Can Tell is again a four-CD box, packed with everything Berry recorded for Chess between 1960 and 1966. Just like the first box it is basically complete and extensively featured. This includes a detailed booklet containing rare photos and complete session details as well as reproductions of classic album covers. Each CD looks like a Chess label from that time. Pretty!
While Berry had a lot of hits during the 1950s, the 1960s did not start to his taste. In March 1960 Berry was in court for the first time because of a story with an underage prostitute. The trials lasted until early 1962.
During this time, Chess was unable to overplay the bad press with good records. Even though the sessions in 1960 and 1961 produced some interesting material, today we know those only through the Rolling Stones: Bye Bye Johnny, I'm Talking About You or Come On are just examples. In addition to such goodies many fillers were recorded which were then put on the Rockin' At The Hops and New Juke Box Hits albums.
Between February 1962 and October 1963 Berry sat behind bars. While in England the Beatles, the Stones and many other Beat groups recycled Berry material, there was nothing new from the master himself. The Chess brothers looked through the tapes in there archives and created from the remaining bits an album called On Stage enhanced with fake applause. Because of this there is next to none unreleased material from that period. Just an alternate take of Go Go Go and an instrumental version of Brown Eyed Handsome Man can be heard for the first time in this set.
Completely unknown however was what follows next in chronological order: Immediately when released from prison, Berry entered stage again. In October 1963 four shows performed in Detroit were recorded for Chess. Because of the fake live album released just a few months before and presumably because of some sound problems these recordings remained in the vault, though. From these tapes McKaie and Rothwell collected the highlights and show us how an early 1960s Berry concert must have sounded like. Along with a very good backing band Berry runs through his greatest hits. The audience is in full swing and sings along all the lyrics even though the originals must have been oldies already even then. Unfortunately Berry's voice is hoarse and probably in Leonard Chess's view not good enough for release. Not necessarily Rock'n'Roll but interestingly from a historical view are Berry's comedy inserts where he entertains the audience telling jokes, similar to many other entertainers of that time.
Back in the studio, Berry produced hit after hit: Within four months he records the classics Nadine, You Never Can Tell, The Promised Land, No Particular Place To Go. Leonard and Phil Chess kept every note Berry played. This includes two lengthy jam sessions with Bo Diddley released on a Checker album Two Great Guitars.
Early 1965 Berry tours England and while there he records several songs with his tour band "The Five Dimensions" including a fantastical cover version of the St. Louis Blues. All these recordings have been published contemporary, though some only in the UK, not in the U.S. The only segment unknown was the ending of an instrumental called O Rangutang which we all knew in shortened form only until it accidentally surfaced on a British re-issue in 1998.
To our surprise this CD set presents three songs from a completely unknown session of July 1965: Shake Rattle & Roll, Honey Hush and an instrumental version of Wee Wee Hours can be heard here for the first time. The same holds for an alternate take of His Daughter Caroline from the last session in April 1966. Because there have been no mixed tapes from these songs, Andy McKaie and Pete Doell mixed new masters from the session multi-tracks making them sound like classic Chess mixes. Well done!
In June 1966 Berry left the Chess label after having worked with them for eleven years. After some years with Mercury Records he returned to Chess in 1969. As also the Mercury tapes and the later Chess recordings are today owned by Universal, we already look forward for a third box, maybe in 2010. Until then I recommend to every Rock'n'Roll fan to use this set to learn about a lesser known side of Chuck Berry: many Blues numbers, lots of standards, but also many originals we usually know from cover versions today.
Above is my review for the 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 1950s box this new CD set is a must-have, no question. Simply a chronological collection would have been fine, but this is much more. It is beautiful and it contains true rarities. Even if you have the CD re-issues from BGO and MCA published over the last ten years, you will have only 90 percent of what's in this box. The live recordings from Detroit are interesting, though it's a pity we only get a selection of the best tracks. Maybe Andy McKaie can release an unfiltered version of the four concerts sometime in the future so we don't always have to listen to these Toronto or Roxy tracks again and again. The new 1965 session is a true surprise. Even though the songs are not necessarily highest Berry standard, you should have them. The same holds for the previously unreleased alt takes of Go Go Go and His Daughter Caroline as well as the previously unreleased songs Spending Chrsitmas and I'm In The Danger Zone. You must note, however, that this is not the recording of same name previously known from the ARC promotional CD and subsequent bootlegs. In the ARC song Berry sings "I'm in the twilight zone" and this is an original Chess master tape. On this new CD Berry sings "I'm in the danger zone" and this is a new mix created from the original multi-track tapes. Even though the two songs are very similar, they are different recordings and as such should have been include here both. Many other songs are included here multiple times if there were different mixes. Two examples for this are Brown Eyed Handsome Man and My Mustang Ford. Both have been known as an original 1960s mix and an 1980s stereo remix from the Rarities records. Here both come with a third mix omitting the vocal track but including another lead guitar track. This is interesting to listen to but nothing more than a warm-up probably. What really makes this set highly recommended is the Detroit concert, the 1965 session and the four unreleased takes. Get it before it's sold out!
Since I have got several questions from readers about purchasing the new 4-CD set from Europe, here's what I was able to find out: Right now you can get the box only directly from the label site (click here). In contrast to last year, the label will ship internationally, though only through UPS. This means that shipping to Europe will cost you another $50. And, since UPS will do all the tax processing for you, you will have to pay your local import tax (some 20%) and maybe an UPS handling fee. The box will become available in retail stores (in the U.S.) on March 31st. Then you should be able to order the set from amazon or your local record dealer.
Tuesday, February 24. 2009
[Editor's comment: Fred is a co-author of this blog. He has written the definitive guide to Chuck Berry's recordings "Long Distance Information". Along with Andy McKaie of Universal Music Fred created the new Berry box-set and wrote the liner notes. Here's his summary.]
you'll be as pleased as I am to know that the second volume of Chuck Berry's Chess recordings has finally escaped from the Chess vaults somewhere beneath the Universal Records building in sunny California. This time it's called 'You Never Can Tell â Chuck Berry - His Complete Chess Recordings 1960 â 1966' ; 4 CDs containing 108 tracks.
Disc one alone contains 33 sides including a lot of great bluesy tracks on which Chuck is joined by Matt 'Guitar' Murphy (later of Blues Brothers fame) to play not only those lovely slow blues but also some tremendous rockers such as 'Don't Lie To Me' and my favourite 'Bye Bye Johnny' which comes in mono and a stereo remix. Other favourites include 'Down The Road Apiece' (mono & stereo) and 'I'm Talking About You'. There is only one previously unissued (commercially) track, a flimsy ballad 'Adulteen', however disc two makes up for this.
Disc two kicks off with an absolute belter, the unissued fast version of 'Go Go Go'. Whatever this track lacks in high fidelity is more than compensated for by the sheer energy emitted. Listen to the joy in Chuck's voice as the track ends. Just after his release from prison, Chuck recorded a live set which was supposed to get a Chess release but never happened. Well, right here you can hear what we've been missing for over forty years and it's just great. Recorded in Detroit and backed by Motown musicians (unfortunately their names are unknown as the tape cuts out just as the MC is introducing them) this is one hell of a gig. Chuck, the band and the audience are all in high spirits as he rips through his hits and even tells a joke or two. These live tracks are the best of four sets recorded over two nights and Andy McKaie has done a sterling job with his digital splicing knife. The disc ends with another new song, a blues titled 'I'm In The Danger Zone'.
Disc three contains some of my favourite Berry: 'Promised Land', 'No Particular Place To Go' and that under two minutes tour de force 'Dear Dad' on which Chuck is backed by the Jules Blatner band. Rarities include the unfaded version of 'O Rangutang' and the sad little ballad 'Spending Christmas' which sees light of day here for the first time.
Disc Four has a number of tracks recorded in London including the absolutely storming version of 'St Louis Blues'. Also from this session is 'You Came A Long Way From St Louis' with backing vocals from a bunch of Berry fans including my mate, the noted photographer, Brian Smith. Now there's a claim to fame â singing on a Chuck Berry recording! There is also a three song unissued session which sounds like a demo run-through but is nontheless a spirited set including the Big Joe Turner perennials 'Shake Rattle And Roll' and 'Honey Hush'. There is also a fine instrumental version of 'My Mustang Ford' with Johnnie Johnson rattling the keys for all his worth while Chuck 'chomps' along on his metallic sounding Gibson. The disc closes with two fast updated versions of 'Lonely School Days' and 'His Daughter Caroline', the latter being yet another unissued track.
The package comes with an updated sessionography and some previously unseen photos (by me anyway). If the box-set sells well, Andy has already promised a third volume of Chess recordings. This will complete the project and include a lot more unreleased tracks including a fabulous blues called 'Annie Lou'. So don't let the credit crunch cramp your style, dig deep guys and make sure it happens.
Friday, February 20. 2009
Beginning of last year Universal Music enlighted us with the release of Johnny B. Goode - His Complete 50's Recordings. At sufficient demand Andy McKaie of Universal promised a follow-up.
Well, there must have been sufficient demand as Universal's Hip-O-Select label just started pre-sale of a new four-CD box set called You Never Can Tell. 108 tracks presenting Berry's work for Chess records from 1960 to his leave for Mercury in 1966. According to Hip-O-Select, the box contains
18 Previously Unreleased Tracks Including A 45-Minute Live Concert From 1963 & Instrumental Versions Of Berry Classics "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" and "My Mustang Ford"
Right now you can pre-order the set only at Hip-O-Select. It is not listed anywhere else. Shipping date will be February 24th. For more details read the label site here.
According to Universal, the box set will be available only at their web store initially. We have seen with the first set that it takes several weeks until it will be listed at amazon or ebay. This is an interesting way to get higher profits by keeping the dealer margins to yourself for the first wave of buyers. But that's fine if it helps financing the release of recording which would have kept in the vault otherwise.
You will read more about the box set, especially about those parts of interest for us collectors, as soon as I got a copy.
Thursday, December 18. 2008
Six weeks ago I told you about the release of the second volume of Morten Reff's Chuck Berry International Directory. I promised to tell more as soon as I read it.
It took a bit more than expected to fulfill this promise. First it took some days for the book to get to my mailbox (Thanks, Morten!), then it took a long time to read through it. Why did it take that long? Not because the contents is boring, it's because there is so much contents in it.
Volume 1 already had some 500 pages full of descriptions of Chuck Berry's official records published in the U.S.A., in England, and everywhere else. Now Volume 2 adds another 500 pages, this time containing much more text and much more detailed information about everything else beside the commercial records.
Let's run through the chapters to see what you are missing if not buying this book:
Maybe half of this book's contents you could find somewhere else if you look hard enough and spend many months searching. The other half I have seen here for the first time. Great job!
Everything Morten writes is well researched and easy to read. I tried hard to spot errors and omissions, but failed to find any other than a few minor things. Along with Volume 1 this is and will be the definitive guide to Chuck Berry's commercial output for many years from now.
Highly recommended. Get your copy immediately! You'll find it in these Internet shops or maybe at your local book store.
And once you have it, you will find that you bought three books in one. Besides all the Chuck Berry contents listed above, there are two additional chapters on pianist Johnnie Johnson and guitarist Eddy Clearwater respectively. Each is again a complete discography of records, videos and movies. Also included is a complete sessionography each, i.e. a list of all recording sessions with personnel, location, and songs. Such a sessionography is omitted from the Chuck Berry part of this book as Fred Rothwell already wrote it in a separate book called Long Distance Information. These two chapters could have been individual books of a hundred pages each. So by buying the Chuck Berry book, you get two additional books for free.
Sunday, November 9. 2008
While shopping in second hand record or book shops I tend to buy items related to 1950s music in general or Chuck Berry in detail, as long as they are cheap.
So a 1973 paperback called "Any Old Way You Way You Choose It" grabbed my attention. I had read Robert Christgau before, but not this specific book with its Berry-related title. There's also a newer, expanded edition of this book available.
The book contains a reprint of Christgau's October 1972 Newsday article on Chuck Berry which is very fine contemporary reading covering Berry receiving the Golden Record for My Ding-A-Ling. In his writings, Christgau praises Berry as "the greatest rock lyricist this side of Bob Dylan". And since it is Christgau who wrote "the standard text of sorts, the Berry entry in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll", his word should be trusted.
Christgau is famous for his often hard critical reviews of recent records. Him praising a musician means a lot. But all in all, you should not expect him to write purely positive on Berry. Quite the contrary! Just read this review of Bio, the album: "Willie Mays was the greatest baseball player who ever lived, but he just can't cut it anymore. He reminds me more of Chuck Berry every time out." Ouch!
If you are interested in Christgau's writing about Berry (and others), you will be astonished to learn that his personal web site www.robertchristgau.com contains many if not all of his writings!
Here are the most interesting things he wrote about Chuck Berry:
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.
What You Missed
Some earlier but important entries:
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