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Album Review: Chuck Berry – Chuck
Chuck Berry's final album is a respectful celebration of an iconic career, Matt Hooper reviews.
The final bow of Chuck Berry is an interesting one. After the death of the Rock ‘n’ Roll icon, his final album, Chuck, was released, featuring a collection of songs written by Berry from 1991 to 2014. Whilst the album never reaches the heights of ‘Johnny B. Goode’, ‘You Never Can Tell’ or ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, it does act as a tribute to the genre of Rock and Roll and celebrates what Chuck Berry created over his career.
There are particular songs that stand out straight away and are instantly recognisable as Chuck Berry on this album. ‘Wonderful Woman’ features modern blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. accompanying Berry’s classic rock guitar licks and harmonica interludes by his daughter, Ingrid Berry. The song itself is classic Berry and as an opening track, ‘Wonderful Woman’ just makes the listener want to dance along.
“The melody of the track shows the incredible range Berry had in his vocal performances, even towards the end of his career.
The second track, ‘Big Boys’ is perhaps the best of the album, featuring the trademark opening rock riff that Berry is recognised for in his long, successful career. The melody of the track shows the incredible range Berry had in his vocal performances, even towards the end of his career. The same shuffling, twelve-bar-blues riff is prominent with guitar licks and solos from Berry, Nathaniel Rateliff, and Rage Against the Machine guitarist, Tom Morello. Berry’s influence is demonstrated perfectly in the first two tracks where all featuring artists maintain their own styles but conform to Berry’s rocking style of playing, showing the level of respect held for him.
More relaxed songs on the album include ‘You Go To My Head’, ‘Darlin’ and ‘She Still Loves You’. These tracks are still respectable songs in their own rights, but nowhere near as strong as the classic Berry songs and the recognisable style that comes across on the rest of the album.
The highlight of the album comes half-way through with ‘Lady B. Goode’, described as the sequel to the classic song Berry is known for. The song features the same elements of ‘Johnny B. Goode’, but tells the tale of a woman in love with a man. The song bursts open with the guitar riff and the same vocals of ‘It was down in Louisiana in New Orleans’. It acts almost as a tribute to the original song and perhaps indicates what the song would have sounded like if Berry had released it in a time with better quality recording equipment.
“Chuck should not be compared to Blackstar but it should serve as a reminder of what Rock ‘N’ Roll is about.
Nevertheless, the song fits in with the rest of the album, serving as a fun but respectful tribute to Berry and Rock ‘N’ Roll. For final albums, Chuck should not be compared to Blackstar but it should serve as a reminder of what Rock ‘N’ Roll is about, and who had such a massive impact on the genre. This comes through by including Gary Clark Jr. and Tom Morello, demonstrating that the current generation of musicians in the genre are well-informed as to who had the biggest impact on them, and how to keep the music alive.