cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

"Chuck Berry is the poet laureate of rock and roll." - (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) _ "Rock's so good to me. Rock is my child and my grandfather." - (Chuck Berry)

Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews.  
The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50
and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.

This is number forty eight in the series of retro-reviews of Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called,
“Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

If there is one man who has been synonymous with quality Rock & Roll since the 1950’s, it’s Chuck Berry.

This album by Chuck Berry has the title, One Dozen Berry’s. It was originally released on the Chess label in 1958. This is one of the many Cd re-releases of his music and was released on the Hallmark label and manufactured in the Netherlands and has the code 709702.

 

cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
CD Label – CLICK to enlarge]

 

It was released in 2010 and is just one of many Cd re-releases of Chuck Berry’s amazing catalog of albums.

I chose it for one reason, it was the first Chuck Berry album I ever owned, and followed on from his first (studio) album titled After School Session, released approximately one year previously.

I do really wish I still had that original vinyl copy, but sadly, like many of us have experienced, it is long lost.

It is worth pointing out that a great “Music Quiz” question might be, what was the first album Chuck Berry tracks appeared on?

Because the answer is not a Chuck Berry album but, Rock, Rock Rock – which is a 1957 album of the soundtrack to the film by the same name and predates the release of After School Session.

Rock, Rock Rock has four Chuck Berry tracks including Maybellene, his first big hit.

Now the tracks on this Cd – One Dozen Berry’s, are exactly as they were originally released, no re-working in anyway.

It has twelve tracks and history shows that at least five became well loved, certainly by all the up and coming groups in the 1960’s who made a habit of raiding the “Chuck Berry Song Book“.

cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
Rear Cover:Track Listing – [CLICK to enlarge]
Track Listing:
1. Sweet Little Sixteen

2. Blue Feeling

3. Lajuada

4. Rocking at the Philharmonic

5. Oh Baby Doll

6. Guitar Boogie

7. Reelin’ and Rockin’

8. Ingo

9. Rock & Roll Music

10. How You’ve Changed

11. Low Feeling

12. It Don’t Take But a Few Minutes

 

Being only the second album release by Chuck, it provided plenty of surprises for the listener when it was released.

It certainly features Chuck’s guitar style which while it didn’t ever put him anywhere into the class of a “guitar god”, most certainly became one of the most recognisable and much copied styles of all time.

In considering the provision on some background material on Chuck Berry, the issue is the richness of choice.

This is a man who is an icon of Rock & Roll and so I went to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where one can rightly expect the details to be completely accurate.

Berry was born in St. Louis in 1926. He got his first taste of the stage at 15, performing Jay McShann’s “Confessin’ the Blues” at a high school assembly.

Berry played guitar, learning the basics from a neighborhood jazz guitarist named Ira Harris. He would also develop competence on piano, saxophone, bass and drums. He sat in with bands at clubs and parties, learning a variety of styles – jump blues, jazzy ballads, boogie-woogie and hillbilly music – that would form the backbone of his approach to rock and roll.

Toward the end of 1952, he joined the Sir John Trio, which played at the Cosmopolitan Club in East St. Louis.

Pianist Johnnie Johnson was the ostensible leader, but it was Berry who began stealing the show. During their sets of jazz and blues, he’d throw in an occasional “hillbilly” song.

The sight of a black man singing white music appealed to a crowd that became progressively more integrated. This is where the essence of Berry’s act came together.

cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
A young Chuck – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

On a weekend in May 1955, Berry visited Chicago to check out the blues scene on the city’s South Side.

He approached Muddy Waters after a show, asking for advice about how to get recorded. The blues legend suggested he contact Leonard Chess, founder of Chess Records.

After meeting with Chess, Berry returned to St. Louis and cut a four-song demo. Ironically, it was not Berry’s blues numbers that convinced Chess to sign Berry on a return visit but his high-spirited rewrite of a country number called “Ida Red.”

Berry recorded “Maybellene” on May 21, 1955 – a red-letter date in music history, as this song helped ignite the rock and roll revolution.

Released in August, “Maybellene” went to Number Five in Billboard, making Berry a relative rarity for that time: a black artist with a major hit on the largely white pop charts. Asked why he crossed over with “Maybellene” and other hits while many other deserving artists were locked out, Berry replied: “I think it had a lot to do with my diction.

The pop fan could understand what I was saying better than many other singers.” [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame]

The interesting thing about his hit Maybellene, is that although it rocketed to No.1 and sold over a million copies, it didn’t appear on a solo Chuck Berry album until the release of his 3rd album, Chuck Berry Is On Top, over four years after it was recorded.

All in all Chuck released between 1954 and 2011, some 300 songs, many of them in various versions or mixes.

Trying to determine his total album releases is quite a task as there have been so many compilations and re-releases over the years.

Chucks own web site cites sixty nine albums in total, including the duo album “Two Great Guitars” with Bo Diddley.

What seems to be clear is that he recorded 20 studio albums from the After School Session (1957) through to Rock It (on ATCO), in 1979.

This does not include Rock, Rock, Rock, despite it being a studio album.

There are so many Chuck Berry Greatest Hits CDs, that it is worth noting here that you should seek out the original versions, not budget live remakes.

However, back to this album. The first thing is to be mighty impressed with the line-up behind the great man.

  • Chuck Berry – vocals, guitar
  • Fred Below – drums
  • Ebbie Hardy – drums
  • Willie Dixon – bass
  • Johnnie Johnson – piano
  • Lafayette Leake – piano
  • Hubert Sumlin – guitar
cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
Dixon, Leake & Berry

 

When you have the likes of Willie Dixon and Hubert Sumlin playing with Chuck, both of whom are magnificent blues artists in their own right and both of whom worked so hard with the great Howling Wolf, then you know this album has some seriously good playing on it.

Then you throw Johnnie Johnson in, a man who was with Berry from the beginning and worked with him for some 20 years, and, add Lafayette Leake, not only a great session musician at Chess but a composer and player of real quality. You can bet if there is piano on a Berry track and Johnson is not playing then it will be Leake.

Fred Barlow on drums, is well known to most blues aficionado’s – having also played with Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Rogers, Elmore James, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Howlin’ Wolf and others.

The album represents an eclectic side of Berry, showcasing the R&R style he was pioneering, but also allowing him to pay homage to the Blues, a style most people fail to credit him as having an ability in.

But there’s more!

There is a track, track No.12It Don’t Take But A Few Minutes, which pays homage to the “Country” element that made up the melting pot known as Rock and Roll and demonstrates that not only was Chuck comfortable with the style, he recognised it being part of the “roots of rock” by including it.

 

cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
Classic Berry pose – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The one totally weird track on the album, and that is Track No.11 Low Feeling.

This track is in fact nothing but the track “Blue Feeling” andt doctored in the studio by Leonard and Phil Chess, who slowed down to half speed and edited it to create a 12th track.

Doing that to the original was bad enough, but sticking it on the same LP with the original was downright bizarre.

There are no record of what Berry thought of this abomination!

My first track to examine is No.2 Blue Feeling.

It is far more down tempo in regard to the tracks that most Berry fans came to love. An instrumental, it pays homage to Chuck’s blue’s playing ability and was part of a design to showcase his broad talent.

This is a most excellent track for witnessing the brilliant piano playing of Lafayette Leake, with Willie Dixon on bass and Ebbie Hardy on drums.

The track was the B-side to Rock and Roll Music and must surely be one of the best “B”-sides ever produced!

I really like this track because it actually doesn’t have the urgency that his more “rock” based tracks have, it is far more lay-back and a very nice track just to groove to.

The interesting thing about almost all of Chuck Berry’s instrumental tracks, is that when you really listen to them you can mount an argument that really, lyrics somewhat get in the way!

Blue Feeling


The second track I chose to play is track No.5Oh Baby Doll.

Oh Baby Doll features a “classic” chord progression/strum of Berry’s that would be picked up and used by many other groups in the 1960’s, both in covers and in their attempts to write and play original blues/rock.

Oh Baby Doll was one of the mainstay tracks of the many young R&B bands that exploded onto the music scene right around Australia.

I guess its best described as a fast blues shuffle with the E “power” chord being played on the 7th fret of the A string, the A “power” chord on the 5th fret on the low E string and the B on the 7th of the low E.

There is nothing complex about the song, in construction or overall sound, but like most of Chucks music, the lyrics are easy to remember (and that’s a good thing from the punters point of view), generally easy to play, and fun to dance to.

[E] Baby Doll..when bells ring out the summer free.
[A] Oh, baby doll..[E] will it end for you and me?
[B] We’ll sing old Alma Mater [A] and think of things that
used to [E] be.

Oh Baby Doll

 

The next track to grab my attention is track No.6, Guitar Boogie.

Now find me a guitarist in any era, any era at all that doesn’t play or hasn’t played a boogie, and I’ll show you a guitarist that is not a R&R guitarist.

Simple constructions, they are a gem for grabbing the attention of the listener.

Boggie, aka Boogie Woogie was traditionally a piano blues based 8 to the bar rhythm largely based upon the 12 bar structure. It is fantastic on piano, but does lend itself beautifully to guitar.

So here once again we have a pure instrumental track – and its a ripper!

cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s

Now Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith is credited with the first guitar boogie track in 1945 and it rapidly became known as the Guitar Boogie Shuffle.

Various other guitar “masters” including the great Les Paul recorded Guitar Boogie, so it’s no surprise that in 1958, a different “Guitar Boogie” with more chording, was recorded by Berry and so included on this album.

In fact in some ways he modifies this track and uses that modification on future tracks such as “Monkey Business“, purely because it is such a winner of a style.

Guitar Boogie with Berry is played utterly effortlessly, and hits a groove where the other members of the band can just sit in that groove, and fatten it out without altering that Berry influence.

Guitar Boogie

 

For the final track I could not go past acknowledging through discussion, one of the all time Chuck Berry classics, Rock and Roll Music, which is track No.9.

This is one of a few R&R tracks than can fairly wear the label of a R&R Anthem.

Written in 1957 it is totally synonymous with Chuck Berry, yet is one of those monstrously covered tracks covered by both the big name artists through to the young group down the road who add it to their repertoire because it is so familiar and loved.

Surely it was the track that gave rise to the famous John Lennon quote, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.”

It is both a “primer” in what R & R music is, as well as a declaration of why there is no music better than Rock and Roll music.

Of course, there are those that will simply say, lyrics?

It’s hardly a complex piece of writing! well, of course it’s not – it’s R & R music, and although we all love to sing along which makes it a favourite of fans, it is the distinctive guitar riff that is the cream on this cake.

Produced by the Chess Bothers, backing Chuck Berry were pianist Lafayette Leake, bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Fred Below.

 

cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
John and Chuck – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The only version that is close in quality in my opinion, is when John sings it and the Beatles play it.

In fact the Beatles played this at their early concerts and recorded it on Chuck Berry’s 38th birthday. It was one of their favourite songs to play live, and they used it when they needed an additional track for their album Beatles For Sale.

Just let me hear some of that
Rock And Roll Music,
Any old way you choose it;
It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it,
Any old time you use it.
It’s gotta be Rock And Roll Music,
If you want to dance with me,
If you want to dance with me.

I’ve got no kick against modern jazz,
Unless they try to play it too darn fast;
And change the beauty of the melody,
Until they sounded like a symphony,
That’s why I go for that
Rock And Roll Music …

I took my loved one over cross the tracks
So she can hear my man a wailin’ sax,
I must admit the have a rockin’ band,
Man they were blowin’ like a hurricane
That’s why I go for that
Rock and Roll music …..

Way down South they gave a jubilee,
The jockey folks they had a jamboree,
They’re drinkin’ homebrew from a wooden cup,
The folks dancin’ they all got shook up
And started playin’ that
Rock and Roll music ….

Don’t care to hear ’em play a tango,
I’m in the mood to dig a mambo;
It’s way to early for a congo,
So keep a rockin’ that piano
So I can hear some of that
Rock And Roll Music …

Rock and Roll Music

 

cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
The much loved ‘Duck Walk’
cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986.

He received Kennedy Center Honors in 2000 in a “class” with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Plácido Domingo, Angela Lansbury, and Clint Eastwood.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Chuck Berry No.5 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. He was also ranked 6th on Rolling Stone’s Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest guitarists of All Time.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included three of Chuck Berry’s songs (Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene, Rock & Roll Music), of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.

cream of the crate: cd review #48 – chuck berry : one dozen berry’s
None finer

 

Finally, although the track is not on this album, it is some indication of the utter brilliance and awe that Chuck Berry is held in when In 1977 the United States sent a Voyager Space Probe deep into outer space and included a berry track.

The probe contained a bunch of items to illustrate what the culture on Earth was like. As part of the cultural package they picked one record to represent rock and roll, and that record was “Johnny B. Goode“.

We know Johnny was “good” and Chuck? Even better!


VIDEOS:

The three video clips I present are all on Youtube. Sweet Little Sixteen is a classic track and in many ways a classic clip. Reelin’ and Rockin’ starts out with Chuck revisiting his (now wrecked) 1950’s tour bus and he reminisces before the clip breaks into a hot version of the track. Finally I have chosen a track not on this album, but it has some utterly classic “Duck Walking”.

 

Sweet Little Sixteen

 

Reelin’ & Rockin’

 

Johnny B Goode


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

Click to open the following CD reviews:

#1. The Fugs: The Fugs First Album

#2. Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

#3. Bob Dylan – Biograph

#4. Robin Trower – Essential

#5. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under Compilation

#6. Various Artists – The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans

#7. Hugh Masekela – African Breeze: 80’s

#8. The Last Poets – The Very Best of the Last Poets

#9. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Down By The Riversiide

#10. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Vol. 2

#11. The Beatles – On Air: Live at BBC Vol.2

#12. The Rolling Stones – Singles Collection: The London Years

#13. Compilation: Girl Groups Of The Sixties

#14. The Byrds – There Is A Season [Boxed Set]

#15. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Volume 4

#16. Howling Wolf – The London Sessions

#17. The Who – Thirty Years of Maximum R&B

#18. Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive

#19. Various Artists – Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965 – 1970

#20. Various Artists: 60’s Down Under – Volume 4

#21. 2nu – Ponderous

#22. The Great Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds [Boxed Set]

#23. The Sue Records Story: New York City – The Sound of Soul

#24. Various Artists – The Encyclopedia of Boogie Woogie

#25. Cam-Pact – Psychedelic Pop ‘n Soul: 1967 – 1969

#26. The Clash – The Singles

#27. Arthur Brown – Fire: The Story of Arthur Brown

#28. Various Artists – Red Hot & Blue: Col Porter Tribute

#29. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Global a Go Go

#30 – Jeff St John’s Copper Wine – Joint Effort

#31 – John Lee Hooker – Boogie Man

#32. Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane

#33. Various Artists – The Ultimate Guitar Survival Guide

#34. Muddy Waters – The Real Folk Blues / More Real Folk Blues

#35. Dave Hole – The Plumber

#36. Sly & The Family Stone – Stand

#37. The Pretty Things – Latest Writes [The Best of]

#38. Fats Waller – Aint Misbehavin’

#39. The Kinks – The Ultimate Collection

#40. Ross Wilson – Now Listen (The Best of)

#41. New Riders of the Purple Sage – The Best Of

#42. Spirit – 12 Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus

#43. Women of Blue Chicago – Various Artists

#44. The Grateful Dead – American Beauty

#45. Skyhooks – The Skyhooks Tapes

#46. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – [Self Titled] Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

#47. Salif Keita – Amen