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You Never Can Tell: The Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966
     

You Never Can Tell: The Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966

by Chuck Berry
 
On the 1961 single "Go Go Go," a side that went nowhere on the charts, Chuck Berry sang that he was "Mixing Ahmad Jamal in my "'Johnny B. Goode'"/Sneaking Erroll Garner in my "'Sweet Sixteen'"/Now they tell me Stan Kenton is cutting "'Maybellene'" -- as always, Chuck is stretching the truth to fit his story.

Overview

On the 1961 single "Go Go Go," a side that went nowhere on the charts, Chuck Berry sang that he was "Mixing Ahmad Jamal in my "'Johnny B. Goode'"/Sneaking Erroll Garner in my "'Sweet Sixteen'"/Now they tell me Stan Kenton is cutting "'Maybellene'" -- as always, Chuck is stretching the truth to fit his story. Kenton never cut "Maybellene" but Berry did sneak some jazz into his rock & roll in the '60s, along with plenty of blues, country, and some folk, all evident on You Never Can Tell: The Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966, Hip-O Select's second volume of Chuck's Chess recordings. Of course, Berry never was stylistically pure -- he invented rock & roll by marrying hillbilly and the blues -- but on his '60s sides he had the opportunity to both stretch out and dig deep, sometimes cutting a set of blues, sometimes expanding with horns or backing vocals or cutting a Twist. The latter is pretty good evidence that some of these wanderings may have been reflections of the times, but as a whole body of work the four-disc You Never Can Tell -- which gathers all the master studio takes, adds some alternates to the mix, and unveils a previously unheard live date that presents the rarest of things: a full adult-oriented concert given by Chuck at a Detroit casino where he was backed by an uncredited group of Berry Gordy's all-stars -- feels like the work of a man who is fully aware of his strengths and abilities, able to subtly tweak them toward the times without losing his identity. Indeed, one of the striking things about the set is how vigorous Chuck Berry seems in the first half of the '60s, a time that did not treat all '50s rock & rollers particularly well. Of course, Chuck was not immune to the downward dip in rock & roll in the early '60s: he was arrested for a Mann Act violation in 1959 and spent the first years of the '60s embroiled in a legal mess leading to a five-year jail sentence of which he served roughly a year and a half. Before he entered prison, he recorded furiously: about the first disc and a half of You Never Can Tell dates from 1960 and 1961, as Chuck was laying down as many sides as he could, just in case he went away for a long time. Some of these sessions do seem a little hurried -- there aren't many originals, particularly in 1960 -- but this did give him an opportunity to record some very good blues-heavy sessions, where he was able to indulge in his fondness for Charles Brown, Nat King Cole, and Amos Milburn. And while there weren't many originals, those that were there were quite good, especially the "Johnny B. Goode" sequel "Bye Bye Johnny" and his latest car song, "Jaguar and Thunderbird." The 1961 sessions produced an even stronger crop of originals with "I'm Talking About You," "Come On," "Go Go Go," the "Junco Partner" adaptation "The Man and the Donkey," and "Trick or Treat," the latter two appearing on the excellent fake live album Chuck Berry on Stage (the cuts here being presented without the audience overdubs). Chess planned to launch Chuck's post-prison comeback with a genuine live album recorded at Walled Lake Casino in Detroit in October of 1963, but the record was scrapped, laying in the vaults unreleased until this set. The very reasons why the album was abandoned are why it's such thrilling listening now: the performances are rough and ragged, with Chuck lurching from mood to mood on the closing medley of "Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight," "Johnny B. Goode," "Let It Rock," and "School Day," and he spends an inordinate amount of time telling corny old jokes from the stage. It's hardly perfect, but it's a rare glimpse into Berry's on-stage charms and a vital live document of early rock & roll that's more interesting now than it might have been at the time. In any case, Chuck didn't need the boost from the live set: he came back stronger than ever in 1964 with the hits "Promised Land," "No Particular Place to Go," "You Never Can Tell," and "Nadine," all featured on his classic LP St. Louis to Liverpool, its title an explicit reference to how his music inspired the British Invasion. Discounting Elvis, who existed in his own category by that point, and the Everly Brothers, who continued to have hits, Chuck Berry was the only rock & roller who rubbed shoulders with his progeny, due both to his clear influence on the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and also his vigorous writing. Berry's mid-'60s work rivals his late-'50s work, perhaps not in terms of innovation but in sheer lyrical and musical might; this is plainly apparent in the aforementioned quartet of hits, each one as crisp and clever as "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" and "Johnny B. Goode," but he had plenty of unheralded gems during this stretch, including the dynamite "Dear Dad" (a song so compact and blazing that plenty of punks cut it about a decade later), "It Wasn't Me" (a song he revisited in the '70s), "My Mustang Ford," "It's My Own Business," and "Ramona Say Yes." Add to that Chuck's instrumental jam LP with Bo Diddley -- an album consisting of two tracks that ran well over ten minutes, a length nearly unheard of on a rock & roll record in 1964 -- and some additional blues, and Berry's '60s sessions amount to a truly remarkable run that deepens and adds new dimensions to what was already one of the greatest legacies of 20th century American music.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/31/2009
Label:
Hip-O Select
UPC:
0602517937833
catalogNumber:
001246502
Rank:
15728

Related Subjects

Tracks

Disc 1

  1. Drifting Blues
  2. I Got To Find My Baby
  3. I've Got to Find My Baby
  4. Don't You Lie To Me
  5. Worried Life Blues
  6. Our Little Rendezvous
  7. Bye Bye Johnny
  8. Bye Bye Johnny
  9. Run Around
  10. Run Around
  11. Jaguar and Thunderbird
  12. Diploma For Two
  13. Little Star
  14. The Way It Was Before
  15. Away From You
  16. Down the Road Apiece
  17. Down the Road a Piece
  18. Confessin' the Blues
  19. Sweet Seixteen
  20. Thirteen Question Method
  21. Stop and Listen
  22. I Still Got the Blues
  23. I'm Just a Lucky So and So
  24. Mad Lad
  25. Surfin' Steel (Cryin' Steel)
  26. Route 66
  27. Route 66
  28. I'm Talking About You
  29. Rip It Up
  30. Come On
  31. Come On
  32. Adulteen
  33. The Man and the Donkey

Disc 2

  1. Go Go Go
  2. Go Go Go
  3. Trick or Treat
  4. Browned Eyed Handsome Man
  5. Browned Eyed Handsome Man
  6. Browned Eyed Handsome Man
  7. All Aboard
  8. Guitar Boogie
  9. Let It Rock
  10. Almost Grown
  11. Chuck Berry Dialog 1
  12. Johnny B. Goode
  13. Introduction/Instrumental
  14. Sweet Little Sixteen
  15. Wee Wee Hours
  16. Chuck Berry Dialog 2
  17. Maybellene
  18. Medley: Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight/Johnny B. Goode/Let It Rock/Scho
  19. Nadine (Is It You?)
  20. You Never Can Tell
  21. Little Girl from Central
  22. The (The) Things I Used to Do
  23. I'm in the Danger Zone
  24. I'm In the Danger Zone

Disc 3

  1. Fraulein
  2. Lonely All the Time (Crazy Arms)
  3. O Rangutang
  4. Big Ben (Blues)
  5. Promised Land
  6. Brenda Lee
  7. No Particular Place To Go
  8. You Two
  9. Liverpool Drive
  10. Chuck's Beat
  11. Bo's Beat
  12. Little Marie
  13. Go, Bobby Soxer
  14. Lonely School Days
  15. His Daughter Caroline
  16. Dear Dad
  17. I Want to Be Your Driver
  18. Spending Christmas
  19. The Song of My Love
  20. Butterscotch
  21. After It's Over
  22. Why Should We End This Way

Disc 4

  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
  7. Shake, Rattle and Roll
  8. Wee Wee Hours
  9. Honey Hush
  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
  14. My Mustang Ford
  15. My Mustang Ford
  16. My Mustang Ford
  17. Merrily We Rock and Roll
  18. Vaya Con Dios
  19. Wee Hour Blues
  20. It Wasn't Me
  21. It Wasn't Me
  22. Ain't That Just Like a Woman
  23. Right Off Rampart Street
  24. Welcome Back Pretty Baby
  25. Sad Day, Long Night
  26. Ramona Say Yes
  27. Ramona Say Yes
  28. Viva Viva Rock 'N' Roll
  29. His Daughter Caroline
  30. Lonely School Days

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Chuck Berry   Primary Artist,Guitar,Steel Guitar,Vocals
Willie Dixon   Double Bass
Matt "Guitar" Murphy   Guitar
Johnnie Johnson   Organ,Piano
Jules Blattner Group   Guitar
Martha Berry   Vocals
Bill Bixler   Bass
Bo Diddley   Guitar
Neil Carter   Background Vocals
Louis Cennamo   Bass
Howard Jones   Drums
Odie Payne   Drums
Bill Armstrong   Background Vocals
Chester Lindsey   Bass
Chuck Bernard   Bass
Billy Downing   Drums
Jesse James Johnson   Bass
Ricky Green   Background Vocals
Bob Scrivens   Piano
James Robinson   Tenor Saxophone
Brian Cockburn Smith   Background Vocals
Paul Williams & His Hucklebuckers   Piano
Mike Boocock   Background Vocals
Roger Fairhurst   Background Vocals
Peter John Hogman   Harmonica
Brian David Kattenhorn   Drums
Jeff Krivet   Guitar
Ellis "Lafayette" Leake   Piano

Technical Credits

Michael Bloomfield   Guitar Overdubs
Charles Brown   Composer
Paul Butterfield   Harmonica Overdub
Willie Dixon   Producer
Chuck Berry   Composer,Producer
Jay McShann   Composer
John Benson Brooks   Composer
W.C. Handy   Composer
Bobby Troup   Composer
Harold Arlen   Composer
Walter Brown   Composer
Big Maceo Merriweather   Composer
Burgess   Composer
Bo Diddley   Composer
Calvin Carter   Composer
Leonard Chess   Producer
Phil Chess   Producer
Peter Doell   Remixing
Duke Ellington   Composer
Ellas McDaniel   Composer
Andy McKaie   Remixing
Johnny Mercer   Composer
Ralph Mooney   Composer
McKinley Morganfield   Composer
Don Raye   Composer
Bob Russell   Composer
Hudson Whittaker   Composer
Lawton Williams   Composer
Eddie Jones   Composer
Vito Picone   Composer
Don Bronstein   Cover Photo
Joe Josea   Composer
Robert "Bumps" Blackwell   Composer
John Marascalco   Composer
Fleecie Moore   Composer
Chuck Seals   Composer
Mack David   Composer
Lou Willie Turner   Composer
Joe Willoughby   Composer
Claude de Metruis   Composer
Charles E. Calhoun   Composer
Buddy Pepper   Composer
Inez James   Composer
Ryan Null   Photo Coordination
Michele Horie   Art Direction
Walter Merrick   Composer
Pookie Hudson   Composer
Fred Rothwell   Liner Notes

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