Wednesday, 28 December 2011

"Chuck Berry Rocks" aka "Rocks" by CHUCK BERRY (2011 Bear Family CD Compilation Of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"…Dancin' And Hummin' A Rock 'n' Roll Melody…"

With the US reissue label Hip-O Select having filled the marketplace with 3 x 4CD retrospectives in 2005, 2007 and 2009 covering 'all' of Chuck Berry’s Chess recordings – and with endless cheapo Universal double CD sets that will offer the same material and more - then this 2011 Bear Family single CD might seem superfluous to requirements. But I'm glad to announce that it isn't. The big draw here for collectors will be Bear’s top quality remastered sound and a thoroughly researched booklet. Here are the details…

Released November 2011 - "Chuck Berry Rocks" by CHUCK BERRY on Bear Family BCD 17139 AR (Barcode 4000127171399) stretches to a chunky 80:01 minutes and features 32 tracks. 

All bar one were Chess 7" singles - from his first "Maybelline" on Chess 1604 in 1955 to "Dear Dad" on Chess 1926 in 1965. The only exception here is "Betty Jean" which featured on the 1960 LP "Rockin' At The Hops". Most of the Fifties recordings are MONO while the Sixties stuff is in STEREO (neither the booklet nor the outer card wrap indicates which is which).

1
Maybellene
2:20
2
Thirty Days (To Come Back Home)
2:23
3
You Can't Catch Me
2:43
4
No Money Down
2:57
5
Brown Eyed Handsome Man
2:16
6
Roll Over Beethoven
2:24
7
Too Much Monkey Business
2:56
8
School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell)
2:42
9
Rock And Roll Music
2:32
10
Oh Baby Doll
2:36
11
Sweet Little Sixteen
3:03
12
Reelin' And Rocking
3:16
13
Johnny B. Goode
2:39
14
Around & Around
2:39
15
Beautiful Delilah
2:08
16
Carol
2:47
17
Memphis, Tennessee
2:14
18
Sweet Little Rock And Roller
2:21
19
Run Rudolph Run
2:43
20
Little Queenie
2:41
21
Almost Grown
2:21
22
Back In The U.S.A.
2:28
23
Betty Jean
2:30
24
Let It Rock
1:45
25
Bye Bye Johnny
2:04
26
Jaguar And Thunderbird
1:50
27
Go-Go-Go
2:33
28
Nadine (Is It You?)
2:33
29
You Never Can Tell
2:42
30
Promised Land
2:23
31
No Particular Place To Go
2:43
32
Dear Dad

"Chuck Berry Rocks" comes in Bear's now standard packaging for this series – a 3-way foldout card digipak containing a detachable oversized booklet inside (52 pages for this issue). The CD itself repros the "Around & Around" 45 on Chess 1691 with it's famous Blue label. Pages 5 to 40 feature an in-depth essay on the American Rock 'n' Roller by noted writer and musicologist BILL DAHL whose affection and awe of Berry’s influence seem to know no bounds (in a typically scholarly way he cites both book and internet 'sources' for his liner notes). Pages 31 to 49 have a full Discography on all 32 recordings by label boss RICHARD WEIZE with contributions from BILL DAHL and FRED ROTHWELL. The text is peppered with black and white photos of the great man doing his trademark 'duck walk' on Television and Live settings, some Tel-Mar Studio shots of recording sessions and one particularly tasty moment where he shares a 'Love You' card from two female British fans at the Lewisham Odeon in London in the Sixties. 

While it’s the usual classy act from Bear, I’d have to express extreme disappointment in not seeing any COLOUR photos of either those stunning album sleeves or Berry in action. Apart from one colour photo that begins the Discography – I’d confess that the endless black and white shots give the booklet a rather monotonous look that somehow undermines Dahl’s great written work. But that’s quickly forgotten once you start playing this baby…

I’ve raved about JURGEN CRASSER and his mastering work before (see my TAG for him and reviews for the astonishing "Blowing The Fuse" series (16 compilations) and the "Sweet Soul Music" series (10 discs). The best way to describe the sound here is 'clean' – Berry’s Chess recordings are for the most part notoriously 'lo-fi' – but here there is very little hiss on any of the tracks. The recordings are still suitably ramshackle and even crude, but there’s a power in them now that 'just' pips the otherwise superlative remasters Erick Labson did for those 3 Hip-O Select tomes (and Universal's "Gold" double CD set).

Another nice aspect to the sound achieved here is that Chuck’s in-house musicians gave his records a certain glorious Rock ’n’ Roll feel – and principal among them is the mighty JOHNNIE JOHNSON. His rattling and fabulous piano playing is now a little more to the fore – and what an audio treat that is (he passed away in 2005 – inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 as one the great sidemen).

Highlights – I loved rehearing the lesser-heard "Dear Dad", "Let It Rock" and "Sweet Little Rock And Roll" (lyrics above) which Rod Stewart covered so well on his underrated "Smiler" album in 1973. And the STEREO takes are particularly alive too – the Leroy Davis and James Robinson brass/Johnnie Johnson piano on "You Never Can Tell" and the wonderful "No Particular Place To Go" which still sounds so totally kicking ("…stole a kiss at the turn of a mile…") And on that point – the lyrics – witty, smart, full of cool Americanisms – he really did chronicle the teenage experience (and thankfully no dire "Ding A Ling" to pollute the proceedings).

The incomparable Bear Family folks – class and quality - they may cost you – but the best always does.

PS: The "Rocks" Series by Bear Family features the following artists:

1. Chuck Berry [see REVIEW]
2. Pat Boone
3. Johnny Burnette [see REVIEW]
4. The Cadillacs
5. Eddie Cochran
6. Bobby Darin
7. Fats Domino
8. Connie Francis
9. Don Gibson
10. Glen Glenn
11. Bill Haley
12. Roy Hall
13. Slim Harpo [see REVIEW]
14. Dale Hawkins
15. Ronnie Hawkins
16. Screamin' Jay Hawkins
17. Wanda Jackson [see REVIEW]
18. Sonny James
19. Buddy Knox & Jimmy Bowen with the Rhythm Orchids
20. Sleepy LaBeef
21. Brenda Lee
22. Jerry Lee Lewis
23. Smiley Lewis [see REVIEW]
24. Little Richard
25. Bob Luman
26. Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers
27. Carl Mann
28. Amos Milburn [see REVIEW]
29. Ella Mae Morse [see REVIEW]
30. Ricky Nelson
31. Carl Perkins
32. Roy Orbison
33. Lloyd Price
34. Piano Red (aka Dr. Feelgood) [see REVIEW]
35. Charlie Rich [see REVIEW]
36. Jack Scott
37. Shirley & Lee
38. The Treniers
39. Big Joe Turner [see REVIEW]
40. Conway Twitty
41. Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps
42. Rusty York [see REVIEW]

The Bear Family "Rockin' Rollin'" Series features:

1. Johnny Horton
2. Marvin Rainwater
3. Marty Robbins Vol.1
4. Marty Robbins Vol.2
5. Marty Robbins Vol.3

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc