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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Chuck Berry

The Complete Chess Singles As & Bs 1955-61

Review by Gary Hill

The new compilation, as the title suggests, is exhaustive in terms of the music released in the particular time period covered. As such there are a lot of classic Chuck Berry songs. The thing is, Chuck Berry often repeated himself, basically reworking the same songs over and over again with different lyrics. There are some real surprises here, though. The truth of the matter is, even though Berry often lacked originality, he made it work. This fifty song, two CD set proves that, for sure. It should be noted that I previously reviewed “Merry Christmas Baby” on a compilation disc. That track review is taken from there for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD 1

   
Maybelline

One of Berry’s best known numbers, this is a fun little rocker.   

Wee Wee Hours
This is a slow blues grind. There’s some honky tonk piano, and the piece is especially cool.     
Thirty Days (To Come Back Home)
There is a lot of country music in the mix. In a lot of ways, though, it reminds me of “Maybelline” in terms of the song structure and melodies.
Together (We Will Always Be)
This is almost like a jazz ballad kind of approach. I’m not crazy about this one really. It has its moments, but just seems to miss the mark overall.
No Money Down
Here’s a song that’s definitely an old time rock and roll standard based piece. It’s a lot of fun.
The Downbound Train
A rather unusual tune, this feels a lot like some jazz. It’s an energetic cut with a somewhat stripped down arrangement. It’s fun.         
Roll over Beethoven
Here’s another of Berry’s best known cuts. It’s a fun early rocker.
Drifting Heart
This is a full on jazz piece as far as I’m concerned. It’s also a great song.             
Brown Eyed Handsome Man
Here we have another fun rock and roller. It’s a classic for sure.
Too Much Monkey Business
This is a pretty standard old time rock and roll cut. It’s fun, though. I like the guitar solo a lot. The hooks are catchy, too.
You Can't Catch Me
This is an energized and fun old time rock and roll song. The Beatles nicked a line or two for “Come Together.”
Havana Moon
This is mostly about the vocal performance. The song is bouncy and rather fun. It doesn’t work as well as some of the rest here, though.   
School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell)
I love this rocker. It’s another of Berry’s better known tunes. It’s just a lot of fun.
Deep Feeling
This instrumental has a lot of a Hawaiian music vibe to it. I like it a lot.  
Oh Baby Doll
Although not the most unique thing here, this is fun stuff. I love the guitar solo at the end.
La Jaunda
This has a Latin, island kind of vibe. It’s a bit of variety, but not one of my favorites. 
Rock and Roll Music
Now, here we have another of Berry’s best known cuts. It’s one of my favorites of his, though. It’s fun stuff.
Blue Feeling
This instrumental is more in keeping with the old time rock and roll vibe. It’s another strong cut.
Sweet Little Sixteen

Another classic Berry hit, this is fun. It has great energy and solid hooks.

Reelin' and Rockin'
I’ve always loved this classic Berry number. It’s bouncy and just plain cool.
Johnny B. Goode
Arguably one of Berry’s best known cuts, this thing still holds up quite well. It’s been covered so many times by so many people (from Marty McFly to Judas Priest). It’s still a strong cut after a all these years.
Around and Around
This old time rock and roller doesn’t work as well for me as some of the rest of this does.    
Beautiful Delilah
There is a lot of country in the mix here. It’s a little raw, but quite cool.
Vacation Time
I like the piano and guitar on this killer old school rock and roll tune.   
Carol
This rocker isn’t all that original or unique. In fact, it has a lot in common with “Johnny B. Goode.” That said, it’s a lot of fun.
CD 2
  
Hey Pedro

In some ways this reminds me a little of the band War. It’s not the best thing here, but it does lend some variety.

Sweet Little Rock and Roller
This is very similar to “Rock and Roll Music.” It’s a fun cut for sure. I like the tone on the guitar solo a lot.
Jo Jo Gunne
An unusual rock and roller, this is strange, but quite entertaining. I like it a lot.
Run Rudolph Run
This is basically “Roll Over Beethoven” reworked as a Christmas song. It’s fun.
Merry Christmas Baby
A bluesy rock piece, from the master, this one works quite well.
Anthony Boy
Here we get a fun rocker. This is not quite by the numbers Berry. It’s solid.        
That's My Desire
Island music and jazz are both part of the concept here. This is playful, but not one of my favorites.            
Almost Grown
This bouncy little rocker is a lot of fun. I love the backing vocals and the guitar solo.
Little Queenie
Here we have a “by the numbers” Berry tune. It’s fun, but nothing earth shattering. It is very much derived from “Johnny B. Goode.”
Back in the U.S.A.
This energetic rocker is definitely a Berry classic through and through.       
Memphis, Tennessee
This old time rock and roller is classy stuff.    
Broken Arrow
Although a little odd, this is effective.
Childhood Sweetheart
Here we get a doo wop styled old time rock and roller. There’s nothing Earth shattering here, but it’s solid. 
Let It Rock
Another tune built on “Johnny B. Goode,” I love the guitar soloing here. The piano is tasty, too.
Too Pooped to Pop
This is a fun old time rocker.  
Bye Bye Johnny
Here’s another cut built on “Johnny B. Goode.” This one is a true sequel in terms of the lyrics.
Worried Life Blues
This is another solid old time rocker.
I Got to Find My Baby
I like this old school rocker a lot. The horns add a lot to it. The sax solo is particularly noteworthy.
Mad Lad
This is a fun little instrumental that has a little bit of a surf guitar vibe mixed with jazz and old time rock and roll. I like the slide guitar.
Jaguar and Thunderbird
This is a fun drag racing cut.
Our Little Rendezvous
An effective old school rocker, I dig the guitar on this.
I'm Talking About You
The guitar soloing on this is cool, too. It’s another great rocker.
Little Star
A slow moving cut, this combines old time rock and roll and jazz. I don’t like the backing vocals on this at all. To me, it makes the piece a “skip” number.
Come On
Nothing new, this is another effective Berry rocker.
Go-Go-Go
This is another Berry rework, but it’s an effective tune.
 
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