Chuck Berry - The Very Best Of
Just on the off-chance that you, my reader, have not heard of and do not know who Chuck Berry is (and I presume you do because if you have found your way to this website you can't be THAT dumb), then I suggest you find this collection of his greatest tracks, a double CD collection issued by the Not Now label, a label which specialises in releasing compilations of some of the greats of music, some long dead, without whose music this website would be confined to rating the output of composers who had not yet had their work performed in public or assigned an opus number. Not Now are relative newcomers to the CD compilation scene and a welcome edition indeed. As an aside, similar double CD compilations exist by artists such as Leadbelly, Elvis Presley and Howling Wolf.
So, back to this CD. 50 tracks, all from the heyday of Chuck Berry when he was the leading exponent of rhythm and blues driven rock and roll. If you genuinely are so stupid that you do not know who Chuck Berry is, then I would venture that, after listening to this collection, you will recognise at least half a dozen songs as the originals of songs you already know. For example, I have lost count of the number of covers there are of "Roll over Beethoven." I know that "Carol" has been covered by a number of bands, including the Rolling Stones. Rod Stewart (and the Rolling Stones) have covered "Little Queenie" while "Rock and Roll Music" is probably one of Berry's most famous songs. And I have not yet mentioned "Johnny B. Goode" which has been covered by practically everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Peter Tosh and has probably featured in the repertoire of almost all bands comprised of school kids who have ever got together and thrashed out some music in someone's garage.
If you are still struggling, think "Back to the Future" and the scene where Marty McFly plays guitar at the prom. Berry even gets a name check in the movie.
If you still do not know who Chuck Berry is then, in my view, the human race is doomed to enact its fate as depicted in the cult movie Idiocracy and I want to leave this planet. Damn, even aliens in outer space know who Chuck Berry is because "Johnny B. Goode" was encoded onto the databanks of Voyager before NASA shot it out into space.
Like I said, Chuck Berry's music has formed the basis of so much of what we listen to today that we do not realise it. As you listen to this CD, that recognition will become fixed in your mind. OK, the production is pretty lousy, but we are talking analogue tapes, valves and the like - not even 4-Track for chrissakes! You went into the studio, you played your song, a tiny bit of manipulation was possible but if you had got the sound balance totally wrong (in which case you did it again, if you could afford it) and that was it.
And the music, well these days we might not see it as particularly complex. But at the time it was pretty close to as revolutionary as you will get. Chuck Berry bridged the blues with rock and roll. Most of the songs are written in standard 12-bar format which stretches right back to the days of Charlie Patton and Son House. Guitar solos are twangy and not at all like anything you may be used to if you have listened to Cream or Led Zeppelin (you DO know who they are, don't you?), but this was before the Marshall amp had changed guitar music for ever.
The more you listen to this, the more you realise. Without Chuck Berry there would probably have been no Beatles, no Rolling Stones. Without Chuck Berry, the guitar would forever have remained an instrument for rhythmic accompaniment, not the lead instrument it has so often become. Without Chuck Berry, rock and roll would probably have died along with Buddy Holly, Big Bopper, Richie Valens and Eddie Cochran in those plane crashes, or shortly afterwards, around the time Elvis got drafted.
So if you genuinely don't know who Chuck Berry is but want to close that gap in your astounding and embarrassing ignorance, go out and buy this album.
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