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:
Monday, November 3. 2008
I have not seen it yet, but according to George Groom-White of Music Mentor Press, the second volume of Morten Reff's Chuck Berry International Directory is out now.
This volume covers Chuck Berry Bootlegs and Radio Station Albums, Berry in the movies, TV, and DVD, Berry tours and awards. Also included are tributes and related recordings.
If you read this site, you have to have this book. Get it!
More about this volume as soon as I read it. [Update 19-12-2008: My review is now online here.]
Friday, October 17. 2008
Kultur International Films recently published a series of 12 DVDs named Songs That Changed The World. Each DVD covers one particular song, e.g. I Want to Hold Your Hand, Heartbreak Hotel, Stayin' Alive or Like a Virgin. Whether these or any other song in fact "changed the world" is strongly doubted ...
The DVDs come from a TV series of same name, according to the Net shown in various countries such as Finland, Australia, Mexico, and on various cable channels such as Discovery Channel. The series was originally produced for Country Music Television (CMT) in Canada and premiered January 2003.
The interesting thing about this DVD series is that one disk concentrates on Chuck Berry's Maybellene. It's interesting to note that the makers of this TV series found that Maybellene as a birthsong to Rock&Roll had more impact than, let's say, Rock Around the Clock or Johnny B. Goode.
As the other disks in this series, Song That Changed The World: Maybellene is a documentary consisting mostly of very brief comments by famous people about Berry, about the song, or about the 1950s at all. Some spoken introductions are underlaid with 1950s footage: cars, people, city views.
You do not see Berry perform the song in question. Instead while the song is playing you see segments from Berry's 1950s movies such as Go, Johnny, Go! or Jazz on a Summer's Day. Included are segments from an interview with Berry, though. I think I have seen this interview somewhere else before, but I don't remember where. It must have been recorded sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I guess.
Berry makes some interesting comments on his view of how Maybellene did not change the world: "We played Rock&Roll long before ...", "That's just a label ...", "I had a producer who was a marketing genius ..."
The comments from all the other people interviewed are less interesting, although there are many of them. Next to historians, university professors, and music publishers you see and hear B. B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Anka, Randy Bachman, Mike Love (Beach Boys), Joe Mauldin (Crickets), Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), Robbie Krieger (Doors), Justin Hayward (Moody Blues), Steve Howe (Yes), and very briefly Ron Wood. All this is not of any importance. The only one who really has something to say is director Taylor Hackford (Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll!) who unfortunately did not direct this series.
The DVD is not very expensive and can be purchased here. Buyers should be aware that the running time is just 35 minutes of which more than 10 minutes are excerpts from the remaining DVDs in this series. The documentary alone is no more than 25 minutes, i.e. very short. Fortunately it is not region coded even though offers may tell different.
Thursday, October 2. 2008
A Chuck Berry recording available on record or CD for the first time? Sounds interesting, doesn't it?
Browsing the Net I recently found out about this CD:
Rock n' Roll Commercials of the 1950s was published by Lady Goose Productions of Inverness, Florida in 2007. Catalogue number is 32105. The item is labeled Volume 1, but the second volume is about the 1960s thus having a different title (#32106). The 1950s CD has 50 radio commercials sung or spoken by 1950s artists such as Sinatra, Crosby, Cole and so on. Despite the title, most are not Rock'n'Roll at all, but among the artists are Little Richard, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley and Alan Freed.
Track 49 is a radio commercial for Applebee's Restaurants and is sung by Chuck Berry - as the track listing makes us believe. Indeed this spot includes a version of No Particular Place to Go with modified text to fit to the restaurant. It has a Chuck Berry beat, but no lead guitar and the voice does not sound like Berry at all. So I asked around and none of the Berry experts believed this to be Berry singing.
If you want to check out by yourself: The only place I found listing the CD was this eBay offer. Amazon is selling the CD contents as MP3 files. Go to this page to listen to almost the complete commercial.
The CD sound quility is pretty bad, but there are some very interesting commercials by your favorite artist which you haven't heard before. And, with most tracks the artist is correctly listed, indeed.
Saturday, September 27. 2008
By accident I recently found a book on Rock music published in 1977 which has some interesting comments about Johnny B. Goode.
Rolling Stone Magazine recently voted it the Greatest Guitar Song of All Times. See here: http://www.crlf.de/ChuckBerry/blog/archives/40-The-Greatest-Guitar-Song-of-All-Times.html. What a difference...
In Rockmusik (ed. Wolfgang Sander) the editor himself and his three co-authors each wrote a one-page academical review of the song. As the book is in German language, here's what you can read:
Saturday, May 31. 2008
Rolling Stone Magazine today announced their selection of the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Times".
And the Number One is ...
Johnny B. Goode
Read the full cover story here: http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/20947527
Wednesday, May 28. 2008
I finally finished to read Morten Reff's Chuck Berry International Directory book.
I am collecting Chuck Berry music for more than 30 years now, though I never had the money or the will to collect (all of) Chuck Berry's records. While I have more than 500 Chuck Berry records and approximately the same number of CDs, I never tried to find each and every pressing or version of a record. Often the ones in my collection are cheaper re-issues. So when readers ask me about a special label or cover variant, my typical reply was that I don't know.
That's no excuse any more. Morten Reff's book answers maybe not all, but most of your questions. Now we finally know that there are five different versions of the Dutch variant of Berry's On Stage album, just in case you try to collect all of them. I found it astonishing to see how much I did not know about Berry's records. I will have to rewrite some comments on this web site, probably.
Morten has documented Chuck Berry's released records world-wide to a much greater extend than anyone ever before. According to his writing, the listings for the US and the UK are complete. The ones for most of Central and Northern Europe also look fairly complete to me. There's only one record documented to be published in Peru, so there may be room for extensions. If you know Chuck Berry records not yet listed in Morten's book, both Morten and I would be glad to hear from you.
Some details you may be looking for you will not find in Morten's book. For instance it seems to be impossible to document all the typeface and type size differences for those records pressed in millions. Too many pressing plants, too many printers, too many variants. Morten wisely choose not to go into details here.
But on the other hand you get many more details than you probably expect. For instance Morten has actually listened to all the records and therefore comments on sound quality, the use of mono, stereo, and electronically altered versions, and much more.
Many, yes: many of the records Morten shows I have never seen before. And this does not only cover the more obscure Korean, Taiwanese or Philippinian releases. Even some of the Dutch or English records I have not seen before. Where available Morten has listed year of release, track listing, correct and incorrect composer credits, song variants, and more. Often he shows cover and label, including variants such as promotional copies. Best reading are his comments on the worse records such as "Nobody wants or needs this record."
Volume 1 covers the officially released records. So all the more interesting ones such as bootlegs, radio station records, soundtracks, and more will be in Volume 2, due hopefully soon.
There is little I don't like about this book. One thing are the images which I have two problems with: First there are too few images. Half of the records are shown visually, but the other half is not. Having helped Morten with scanning and photographing dozens of covers and labels, I know how much work is in the images shown. But especially where Morten writes about an interesting picture, I wish he would have shown it.
Secondly all the images should, no: must have been in color. I know color print would have made the book more expensive. But I really doubt any buyer would care if the book would cost 40 Pounds instead of 30. Either you need this book, or you don't. I personally think color images would have made the book twice as good.
Finally I miss, at least according to my wishes, some kind of pricing guide. While Morten tells about the relative rarity of an item at some places, a general value or rarity index would have been helpful. But hey, this opens an opportunity for someone to come up with a pricing guide. Let me know when you're done.
Until then I cannot wait to see Volume 2. Write, Morten, write!
Sunday, May 18. 2008
I got it!
Morten Reff's new book on Chuck Berry is finally out! Yesterday I received my copy from Morten, signed and with a personal dedication. Thank you, Morten!
I spent all night reading but had to stop at around page 150. And I still wasn't through the US releases chapter alone. Could you imagine you can write so much about the releases of a single artist in a single country? And Morten even omitted most of the Various Artists records and - by intention - many of the cheap CD re-issues.
The Chuck Berry International Directory, Volume 1, or CBID, Vol.1 for short, lists and explains all official Chuck Berry records ever released in the US, in the UK, and in many other countries. Every record has a complete song listing and some explanation including comments on the versions included, the sound quality, and variants. For many records Morten shows cover or label, often comparing certain versions such as promos or re-issues.
There is a ton of information never published anywhere else. So if you are collecting Chuck Berry records, this is THE SOURCE. Get it! Now!
I will write a more detailed review within the next few weeks when I find time to do so. And I am already waiting to see Volume 2 which will cover the more obscure records such as bootlegs, radio shows, soundtracks and more.
I encourage you to review Morten's descriptions and lists. If you find some omission or correction, send it to me and I will both forward it to Morten and publish it here. According to Morten, especially the listings for countries with smaller record sales might need some rework. Although the International Directory already is the best description of Chuck Berry's records ever published, help to make it even better and in the end hopefully complete!
Thursday, March 6. 2008
I finally got my copy of the new 4 CD set containing Chuck Berry's complete 1950s recordings (HIP-O-Select B0009473-02), so it's time for a small review. It took some time for the box to reach me, but I do only write about items I own or at least have physically seen.
Let's start with one of the most disappointing items about this CD box, right on the top: its title! How could anyone come up with Johnny B. Goode to be used as yet another CD title. I have not counted, but there must be at least half a dozen CDs out there titled the same. A bit more creativity, please. This item deserves better than to get lost between all the other albums of same name.
From the outside
The next thing you notice is the funny way this CD box is designed. Looking like a 1950's mailing envelope, it is closed with a rope surrounding two hooks. You have to untie the rope/thread to open the box. While this design is funny, just using cardboard for a four CD set is fairly weak. I have heard of several copies which were damaged in mailing. I would have preferred a hardcover book-like packaging as with Charly's 1994 Poet of Rock'n'Roll 4-CD set.
From the inside
The nice design continues on the inside. All four CDs look like (different) 1950's CHESS labels. If you remove a CD, underneath you'll find one of the original album covers. The box is completed with nice photos, and the partial lyrics to Johnny B. Goodeare spread over different parts. The 24 page booklet is a fine work, though the reading direction is a bit strange: you have to flip pages up and down instead of left and right. Fred Rothwell wrote both a summary of Berry's 50's work and details on the specialties of the set. The track listing thoroughly tells about the musicians, recording date and much more. It also lists on which record the take appeared first - in the U.S.! Tracks previously published e.g. in Europe are listed as "previously unreleased in the U.S." instead of telling the true origin. With a collector's item like this, it should be clear even to the people at Universal that U.S. borders do not matter for collectors. We don't care if a song was first published in the U.S. in 1990 when it has been available elsewhere more than a decade earlier.
What's on the CDs
Very simple: The four CDs include each and every recording Chuck Berry made for Chess Records between May 1955 and December 1959 which either has been published before or was found to be worth not keeping in the vault. This includes all the singles, all the LP tracks, some demo recordings, a large number of alternate takes, plus studio jams and studio talk. In addition the first CD also has the two live tracks from Allan Freed's 1956 CBS broadcast. For details about the original releases, read the corresponding section of this site. All in all these are 103 "little records, all rock, rhythm, and jazz" as Fred claims it.
What interests me most is the material previously not available. The most important two tracks are the long jams on disk 3. While we have found lengthy jams on the Two Great Guitars and Concerto in B. Goode albums, these two jams are more Johnnie Johnson recordings than Chuck Berry's. One wonders why the band went through these, and more importantly why an engineer such as Phil Chess would record them to tape. But he did and we are glad to be able to listen to them now.
In addition to these jams, there are 14 previously unknown alternate takes, in addition to the alternate takes already on records such as Rock 'n' Roll Rarities. On this CD set we newly find additional takes of Sweet Little Sixteen, Night Beat, Time Was (slow version), Reelin' and Rockin', Around and Around, Ingo, 21, Almost Grown (two different takes), Blue on Blue, Betty Jean, I Just Want to Make Love to You, Broken Arrow, and Too Pooped to Pop. Also to be noted is that the version of Around and Around which was only to be heard on the strange Marble Arch 12-instead-of-10 song record is included as well, of course. Everything else has been available even on CD before.
All 103 songs come in chronological order. This results in CD 2 playing five different versions of Sweet Little Sixteen in a row. If the listener is interested in Chuck Berry's music, he can nicely hear how the song develops. People who only want to listen to Berry's greatest hits will be annoyed by such repetitions, but those should better buy a compressed sampler.
What's not on the CDs
Unfortunately, there are no alternate takes of songs recorded before December 1957. As the liner notes tell, Chess recycled the tapes once a master was selected. What a pity! What's also missing are takes which are very similar or simply too bad for release. Probably we are about to see some of these in later years as no record company will ever want your collection to be complete.
While the two CBS live tracks are included, though not recorded for Chess, the 1958 Newport recordings are missing. Also not included are the two Joe Alexander tracks. Luckily both have been released on CD just a few weeks ago.
Friday, January 11. 2008
When describing the outcome of Chuck Berry's recording session 9 of January 1957, Fred Rothwell writes about two different takes of a song listed as Lajaunda (Española). One take is listed as the B side of CHESS 1664, Oh Baby Doll. The other take is to be found on the One Dozen Berrys LP (CHESS LP-1432) and all subsequent releases. Fred wrote:
The second voice on the Chess 1664 single is a multi-tracked single vocal track, whilst the LP release includes an alternative cut with a true second vocal that is not multi-tracked. The LP version is more appealing because the voices are not perfectly synchronised.When I saw the track listing of Johnny B. Goode - His Complete '50s Chess Recordings (Hip-O Select / Geffen Records B0009473-02) on which Fred collected all Berry recordings including the most interesting alternate takes, I noticed that this recording is on the 4CD-set only once. So where is the alternative take, Fred? His reply:
After careful listening to both I decided that they were the same take. There is some aural difference but this I put down to mastering differences.Given this, I sat down with the single, the LP, and a series of CDs. In the end I must confirm Fred's remarks. If you listen carefully, you can definitely hear that both versions have a true second voice track and except for differences in loudness, both versions are exactly the same. There is no alternative take.
While I was at it, I also wondered about this song's name. On the original Chess single, the song is listed as LAJAUNDA - one word. On the One Dozen Berrys LP (CHESS LP-1432) the same spelling is used, though now in two words: La Jaunda. On most reissues there are also two words, but it's La Juanda now, ua instead of au.
So what is correct, I thought. I asked my brother who runs a linguistic services business (Euglottia) if either Juanda or Jaunda has any meaning. He said that neither has any direct relation to a Spanish word. It's just a name. However, while Juanda is a known name similar to Juan or Juanita, the other form Jaunda is not used as a name. In fact if you google for Jaunda, the Berry song lyrics is the only result you will get. When you listen to what Berry sings, it's also clear that Juanda is the girl's name. Finally one can note that the BMI repertoire (Broadcast Music, Inc. licenses Berry's songs e.g. for radio airplay) also lists this song as La Juanda. So we can conclude that the original spelling Lajaunda simply was a typing error by someone who did not know enough Spanish.
Did Chuck Berry know enough Spanish at that time? Probably not. Just listen to the end of the first verse: "Hablo solo en Español y no comprendo Ingles" does not translate to "I only speak English" but instead to "I only speak Spanish". In the other two verses, the Spanish text matches the English one correctly.
Correction 05-08-2012: There are differences in the two version. Read here on how to spot those.
Wednesday, January 9. 2008
Chuck Berry - Johnny B Goode - His Complete '50s Chess Recordings. 4CD box-set. Hip-O Select / Geffen Records B0009473-02
As most Chuck Berry fans will know by now, this box-set is available direct from the Hip-O Select website (USA) and from Amazon and other web outlets (worldwide). I am very proud to have been involved in this project which chronicles all of Chuck's 1950's recordings from 'Maybellene' to 'Let Me Sleep Woman' - 103 tracks in all. From start to finish it has been over two years since Andy McKaie at Universal records contacted me to ask if I would help compile the set and write the liner notes and discography. Did he need to ask! For any Berry fan it was a dream come true. Every other week or so I'd get a neat brown UPS package from the promised land containing who knows what musical gems on CD from the Chess archives. The very first I got contained just two tracks but, wow, what tracks they were! Two unissued cuts of 'Almost Grown' complete with studio discussion that literally jumped out of the speakers with the joy and energy of the moment. Fan-tas-tic!!! Check them out for yourself on disc 4. Over the months the disc kept coming and after hours and hours of very careful listening and sorting, the very best from the fifties is included in the box-set.
Originally the plan was to compile a 14 CD box-set of all Chuck's Chess and Mercury recordings from the mid-fifties until he finally left Chess in 1974. However, after compiling a list of recordings the project was vetoed by the men in suits at Universal but the every resourceful Mr McKaie came up with the current concept of all Chuck's '50's output. This is a limited edition set of 5000 and if it sells well the plan is to do a similar box-set of '60s recordings up to Chuck's departure from Chess to Mercury in 1966.
One disappointment was that there wasn't much unissued material found in the Chess archives before the 'Sweet Little Sixteen' recordings in late '57. In all, however, the box-set contains 15 previously unissued recordings ( two more if you count the previously unissued in the USA category) plus lots of rarities - all in pristine sound and without the dreaded fake audience which marred some of the tracks. I can't believe it won't sell so look out for Chuck's sixties recordings with even more rare and unissued stuff. I can't wait!
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.
Dietmar Rudolph about Big Beat magazine issue 26 contains more than 100 pages on Chuck Berry
Sorry, Jean. There is no print ed version. I'll send Alain's email to you separately so you can [...]
Jean Million about Big Beat magazine issue 26 contains more than 100 pages on Chuck Berry
do a printed version exists so mewhere?
Dietmar Rudolph about Variations of the CHUCK album?
Fred has written a great revie w which you will read here soo n.
Jean Million about Variations of the CHUCK album?
thanks ! i'll apply your advis es !!! though i already heard it by the dozen on deezer !!! w [...]
Dietmar Rudolph about Variations of the CHUCK album?
Hi Jean! As said in the articl e I'd buy the CD from the chea pest source or from your local res [...]
Jean Million about Variations of the CHUCK album?
so, at the end ...which varian t do you recommend ? 'cause i' ve been waiting for your artic le b [...]
Willem Moerdijk about Piano Overdub on Carol recorded 1958 released 1973 found 2017
This version seems to have bee n released only in electronic stereo...If anyone knows of a mono [...]
Willem Moerdijk about Picture Sleeve for CHESS 1883 Nadine - counterfeit or real?
there are two things about the catalog numbers that seem str ange to me... 1): These numbe rs a [...]
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