Review : The Many Sides of Chuck Berry

Posted on: Tuesday, Jan 9, 2007

“The Many Sides Of (You Came A Long Way From St. Louis)”
Chess 9842428

This excellent cd, released last year to celebrate the great man’s impending 80th birthday, rounds up some lost gems from the vast back catalogue – featuring some singles from the 50s and 60s, album tracks – and as Peter Doggett says in his notes – “several off-the-cuff recordings that capture Chuck and his band at their spontaneous best.”

With a stonking 31 tracks on this single disc the diversity of the music is quite staggering – of course loads of great rock ‘n’ roll, some fine blues and touches of jazz, soul and funk. As you would expect the guitar work is classic Chuck, with his faithful lieutenant Johnnie Johnson bashing those ivories for all he was worth!

To go through everything would take for ever and a day so I will just touch on a few of my favourites to give a flavour of this release.

Some classic rock ‘n’ roll kicks it off with “Reelin’ & Rockin”, this version being the flipside of “Sweet Little Sixteen” from 1958; the Elmore James guitar riff is visited on “She Was Once Mine, recorded in London in 1965; a most unusual, almost bossa nova take on “Route 66”; and the great “Thirteen Method Question” – an unfinished master from way back in 1957.

Chuck Berry was a master of recycling the same riff – indeed, if it ain’t broke, why fix it – and many of the tunes sound familiar, but with another name! An example is “Go Bobby Soxer” – which has the guitar intro from “Johnny B Goode” and the song structure of “Little Queenie”.

Although having a reputation as a grump of the highest calibre, there is no doubting Berry’s influence on popular music and as such, and at his grand old age, we should savour him while he is still with us. Check this out, a great compilation with lovely digi-back and notes from the afore-mentioned Peter Doggett.


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