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|Chuck Berry||Primary Artist, Guitar, Steel Guitar, Vocals|
|Andy McKaie||Reissue Producer, Reissue Liner Notes|
Posted October 1, 2010
While this wasn't recorded as a purpose-built album (what was in 1957?), it provides a terrific look at Berry's earliest recording sessions. The original issue sported 5 charting singles, and Geffen's digitally remastered 2004 edition adds three contemporaneously recorded tracks ("Thirty Days," "You Can't Catch Me," and "Maybelline"), each as good as the original dozen. The resulting collection captures nearly all of Berry's output from his first eighteen months as a recording artist. It's difficult to think of many other artists who recorded such classics and broke such new ground in as short a period of time, especially at the beginning of their recording career. ¶ Berry's guitar playing provides the soundtrack of rock 'n' roll being born with signature licks of "School Day" and "Maybelline," and the instrumental picking of "Deep Feeling" and "Roly Poly." Berry's guitar shouts with invention: partly blues, partly R&B, partly hillbilly, but all rock 'n' roll. Pianist Johnny Johnson provides texture, for barrelhouse blues like "Wee Wee Hours," and back-beat heavy instrumentals like "Berry Pickin." ¶ Beyond the obvious roots, Berry shows off broad musical taste that includes Calypso ("Havana Moon") and sophisticated Latin-ized ballads ("Drifting Heart"). Most impressive of all is Berry's lyrics, which move dialogue into rhyme with a fluidity (and vocabulary) unmatched by his contemporaries. The car and travel songs (e.g., "No Money Down" and "You Can't Catch Me") speak to dreams of freedom that were pitch-perfect for the Eisenhower era. ¶ If Berry's influences were the ground on which the house of rock 'n' roll was built, then the sides that comprise this album are the cornerstones of the foundation. ¶ 4-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.