Monday, 27 July 2009

"You Never Can Tell - The Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966". A Review of the 2009 Hip-O Select 4CD Box Set.

“…Now If You Want To Hear Some Boogie Like I’m Gonna Play…It’s Just Down The Road Apiece…”

"You Never Can Tell..." is the eagerly awaited second volume of Chuck Berry’s Chess recordings (his initial output for the famous label was released in 2008 as “Johnny B. Goode – The Complete 50’s Recordings”). This February 2009 US-only Hip-O Select 4CD set has 108 tracks housed in a slightly oversized 4-way foldout digipak that is itself tied with a string on a lapel on the front. It’s not numbered, but is a worldwide limited edition of 5000.

The 24-page booklet on recycled paper is in colour and features an informative and affectionate article by FRED ROTHWELL - author of the 2001 book "Long Distance Information - Chuck Berry's Recorded Legacy". There's also detailed track-by-track annotation and the whole set has been transferred and remastered by Universal's ERICK LABSON - a sure sign of quality (he has over 800 mastering credits to his name including almost all of the massive Chess catalogue). The sound quality is wonderful, especially on the STEREO mixes – full of punch and detail…

Each of the discs is coloured to reflect a different era in the Chess label while beneath the see-through trays are 4 albums pictured in colour - “Chuck Berry On Stage”, “Bo Diddley/Chuck Berry – Two Great Guitars”, “Chuck Berry In London” and “Fresh Berry’s”. Across each of the foldout flaps are colour shots of Chuck, which are beautifully reproduced – really classy looking shots.

The booklet has some sloppy mistakes in it – quoting “No Particular Place To Go” as Chess 1848 when its 1898 – the singles discography forgets “You Never Can Tell” on Chess 1906 (the title of this box for God’s sake!) – and worse – other than the pictured albums, there’s no LP discography whatsoever. You can be damn sure that if Bear Family had been handling his box, the booklet would have been done with care and pictured stuff from worldwide sources to thrill fans rather than make them yawn (see my reviews of their Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent box sets). The packaging and booklet are nice – they are - cute even – - but for such a major release on such a seminal artist, it should have been so much better…

And then there’s the price – as it’s a USA-only issue, American fans get a reasonable deal – others do not. I saw this on sale in a UK megastore as an ‘import’ for just under Sixty-Five Pounds – about 120 dollars! What!!

Back to the music - most dedicated fans will have the 3 “Rock & Roll Rarities” releases from 1986 and 1999 and the unreleased stuff on the 4CD 1988 “Chess Box” – what they won’t have is the 23 PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED tracks surfacing here for the first time anywhere. They’re a mixture of outtakes, instrumentals and an unheard concert. My heart always sinks when I hear it’s live (too much filler), but if anything the 11 on here are more lively than some of the studio stuff and capture the essence of the man and his music much better. It’s from a gig in Walled Lake Casino In Detroit, Michigan in October 1963 and accompanied by good taping and an appreciative audience, Chuck’s on rare old form – cracking jokes – playing the crowd like he does – launching into “Almost Grown” like he was 18 and his life depended on it – it’s really great stuff…

A good set which compliments their Muddy Waters and Little Walter Chess boxes to a tee. I would have liked better presentation, but it’s the tunes and the great man’s spirit I’ll return too. Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll Indeed!



All of the following 7” / LP /Box Set catalogue numbers are USA….

Disc 1 (77:30 minutes)
1. Drifting Blues
(“Rockin’ At The Hops”, 1960 USA LP on Chess 1448)
2. I Got To Find My Baby
(August 1960 7”single on Chess 1763, A-side)
3. I Got To Find My Baby (Stereo Mix)
(“More Rock ‘n’ Roll Rarities”, August 1986 LP set on Chess 9190)
4. Don’t You Lie To Me
(“New Juke Box Hits”, 1961 LP on Chess 1448)
5. Worried Life Blues
(April 1960 7” single on Chess 1754, B-side of 7)
6. Our Little Rendezvous
(October 1960 7” single on Chess 1767, B-side of 11)
7. Bye Bye Johnny (April 1960 7” single on Chess 1754, A-side)
8. Bye Bye Johnny (Stereo Mix) (as per 3)
9. Run Around (as per 4)
10. Run Around (Stereo Remix) [Previously Unreleased In The USA]
11. Jaguar And Thunderbird (A side of 6)
12. Diploma For Two
(April 1963 7” single on Chess 1853, B-side of “I’m Talking About You”)
13. Little Star
(February 1961 7” single on Chess 1779, B-side of “I’m Talking About You”)
14. The Way It Was Before (as per 4)
15. Away From You (as per 4)
16. Down The Road Apiece (as per 1)
17. Down The Road Apiece (as per 3)
18. Confessin’ The Blues (as per 1)
19. Sweet Sixteen (as per 4)
20. Thirteen Question Method (as per 4)
21. Stop & Listen (as per 4)
22. I Still Got The Blues (Applause Overdubbed)
(“Chuck Berry On Stage”, 1961 USA LP on Chess 1480)
23. I’m Just A Lucky So And So
(“The Chess Box”, 1988, 6LP/4CD Set on Chess 80001)
24. Mad Lad [Instrumental] (B-side of 2)
25. Surfin’ Steel (Cryin’ Steel) [Instrumental] (as per 22)
26. Route 66 [Take 10] (as per 4)
27. Route 66 (Alternate Take 11) (as per 3)
28. I’m Talking About You
(1961, 7”, A-side of Chess 1779 [1st issue]
[2nd issue is 1963 on Chess 1853 – see 12])
29. Rip It Up (as per 4)
30. Come On
(October 1961 USA 7” on Chess 1799, B-side of “Go Go Go” (2 on Disc 2))
31. Come On (Alternate Stereo)
(“Rock ‘n’ Roll Rarities”, March 1986 2LP set on Chess CH2-92521)
32. Adulteen [Previously Unreleased Commercially]
33. The Man And The Donkey (as per 22)

Disc 2 (77:03 minutes)
1. Go Go Go (Alternate Take) [Previously Unreleased]
2. Go Go Go (October 1961 7” single on Chess 1799, A-side)
3. Trick Or Treat (as per 22 on Disc 1)
4. Brown Eyed Handsome Man [Instrumental Version – Previously Unreleased]
5. Brown Eyed Handsome Man (as per 22 on Disc 1)
6. Brown Eyed Handsome Man (Stereo Remix) (as per 3 on Disc 1)
7. All Aboard (as per 22 on Disc 1)
8. Guitar Boogie (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
9. Let It Rock (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
10. Almost Grown (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
11. Chuck Berry Dialogue (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
12. Johnny B. Goode (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
13. Introduction / Instrumental (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
14. Sweet Little Sixteen (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
15. Wee Wee Hours (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
16. Chuck Berry Dialogue (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
17. Maybellene (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
18. Medley: Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight/Johnny B. Goode/Let It Rock/School Day (Live) [Previously Unreleased]
19. Nadine (Is It You?) (February 1964 7” single on Chess 1883, A-side)
20. You Never Can Tell (August 1964 7” single on Chess 1906, A-side)
21. The Little Girl From Central
(1990 LP on “Missing Berries, Rarities Vol.3” on Chess 9318)
22. (The) Things I Used To Do
(November 1964 7” single on Chess 1916, B-side to “Promised Land” (Track 5 on Disc 3))
23. I’m In The Danger Zone [Previously Unreleased Commercially]

Disc 3 (76:36 minutes)
1. Fraulein [Previously Unreleased in the USA]
2. Lonely All The Time (Crazy Arms) (as per 23 on Disc 1)
3. O Rangutang (Unfaded Instrumental) February 1964 7” single on Chess 1883, B-side of “Nadine”)
4. Big Ben (Blues) (as per 21 on Disc 2)
5. Promised Land (November 1964 7” single on Chess 1916, A-side)
6. Brenda Lee (B-side of 20 on Disc 2)
7. No Particular Place To Go (July 1964 7” single on Chess 1898, A-side) [miscredited in the booklet as Chess Lonely School Days1848]
8. You Two (B-side of 7 on Disc 3)
9. Liverpool Drive [Instrumental]
10. Chuck’s Beat [Instrumental]
11. Bo’s Beat [Instrumental]
(9 to 11 are on the 1963 LP “Bo Diddley/Chuck Berry – Two Great Guitars” on Chess 2991)
12. Little Marie (September 1964 7” single on Chess 1912, A-side)
13. Go, Bobby Soxer (B-side to 12 on Disc 3)
14. Lonely School Days [Slow version] (March 1965 7” single on Chess 1926, B-side to “Dear Dad”)
15. His Daughter Caroline
16. Dear Dad (A side to 14 on Disc 3)
17. Want To Be Your Driver
18. Spending Christmas [Previously Unreleased]
19. The Song Of My Love
20. Butterscotch [Instrumental]
21. After It’s Over [Instrumental]
22. Why Should We End This Way
(15, 17 and 19 to 22 are on the 1965 LP “Chuck Berry In London” on Chess 1495)

Disc 4 (78:44 minutes)
1. You Came A Long Way From St. Louis
2. She Once Was Mine
3. Jamaica Farewell
4. My Little Love Light
5. I Got A Booking
6. St. Louis Blues
(1 to 6 as per 15 on Disc 3)
7. Shake, Rattle & Roll [Previously Unreleased]
8. Wee Wee Hours [Instrumental] [Previously Unreleased]
9. Honey Hush [Previously Unreleased]
10. Run Joe
11. It’s My Own Business
12. One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
13. Every Day We Rock And Roll
(10 to 13 are on the 1965 LP “Fresh Berrys” on Chess 1498)
14. My Mustang Ford [Previously Unreleased]
15. My Mustang Ford
16. My Mustang Ford (Stereo Remix) (as per 3 on Disc 1)
17. Merrily We Rock And Roll
18. Vaya Con Dios
19. Wee Hour Blues
(15 and 17 to 19 as per 10 to 13 on Disc 4)
20. It Wasn’t Me (September 1965 7” single on Chess 1943, A-side)
21. It Wasn’t Me (Stereo Remix) (as per 31 on Disc 1)
22. Ain’t That Just Like A Woman (as per 10 to 13 on Disc 4)
23. Right Off Rampart Street (as per 10 to 13 on Disc 4)
24. Welcome Back Pretty Baby (B-side to 20)
25. Sad Day, Long Night (as per 23 on Disc 1)
26. Ramona Say Yes (June 1966 7” single on Chess 1963, A-side)
27. Ramona Say Yes (Alternate Mix) (as per 23 on Disc 1)
28. Viva Viva Rock ‘n’ Roll (on the 1971 LP “San Francisco Dues” on Chess 50008)
29. His Daughter Caroline (Fast Version) [Previously Unreleased]
30. Lonely School Days (Fast Version) (B-side of 26 on Disc 4)

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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