Sunday, October 19, 2014

21 The Great Twenty Eight (1982) Chuck Berry

1. Maybellene
2. Thirty Days
3. You Can't Catch Me
4. Too Much Monkey Business
5. Brown Eyed Handsome Man
6. Roll Over Beethoven
7. Havana Moon
8. School Days
9. Rock and Roll Music
10. Oh Baby Doll
11. Reelin' and Rockin'
12. Sweet Little Sixteen
13. Johnny B. Goode
14. Around and Around
15. Carol
16. Beautiful Delilah
17. Memphis
18. Sweet Little Rock and Roller
19. Little Queenie
20. Almost Grown
21. Back in the U.S.A.
22. Let It Rock
23. Bye Bye Johnny
24. I'm Talking About You
25. Come On
26. Nadine (Is It You?)
27. No Particular Place to Go
28. I Want to Be Your Drive

There are many who feel Chuck Berry deserves as much credit for starting Rock and Roll as Elvis and listening to the Great twenty eight it's impossible to deny they've got a hell of a point. Berry is one of the first great guitar heroes and proved to the world that you could be a great showman with an instrument around your neck. He sang his own lead vocals, not just because he could but because there wasn't a singer in the world who would want to compete with Berry the guitarist. The guy was truly dynamic.

Unlike a lot of other great artists in this countdown who forged their career in the fifties, Berry is well served by a perfect representation of his work. The Great Twenty Eight is exactly the right amount of Berry. It has literally all the hits and none of the misses. Later compilations would try and be exhaustive in their inclusiveness and throw in alternate takes, lesser songs and run throughs but the Great Twenty Eight is pure gold from start to finish.

While it's true Berry was a brilliant artist, he was also kind of repetitive it has to be said. There are those who claimed his entire career was basically rewriting Johnny B Goode, and while that's a bit of a harsh accusation there is definitely more than a smidgen of truth in the statement. Berry revisited the title character another thirty times in his career and each new composition wasn't really light years away from the original.

But Berry was a lot more than just his most famous track. Rock and Roll Music, Around and Around, Carol, Too much Monkey Busines and Reelin and a Rockin are all fantastic rock songs which might rely heavily on an opening riff but have enough distinction that nobody would think they were the same song reworked. The Great Twenty Eight also features songs like Maybellene, his first hit and No Particular Place to go both of which are outstanding tracks that you wouldn't describe as a ballad but slow the tempo down enough to provide some much needed variety.

Every song on this album, without exception, has been covered at least once by a big name somewhere. Berry's cannon of work is so influential he's put his stamp firmly on rock and roll and people will still be covering his music decades from now. But even though you could assemble a complete version of this album with tracks covered by The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, ACDC, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, Elvis, The Beach Boys, MC5, The Animals. Jerry Lee Lewis and many more besides, it would never fully supersede the original in my expectations. There is something about a Chuck Berry song performed by Chuck Berry which gives it an immediate charm that I'd miss, even in a version with superior soloing and double the energy. His singing style is infectious and his guitar slinging is so clean and punchy it really does suit the song perfectly. Many others have proved they can play his riffs faster and louder but Berry proves that it's not about speed or volume as much as it's about style and substance. And he definitely has both.

Berry is one of those early rockers whose performance will last as long as his legacy. While many of his contemporaries (Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters etc) will probably be overtaken by those they influenced, Berry's performances will continue to impress people for decades to come. Especially since they can be enjoyed in the most comprehensive but filler free compilation on this countdown.

I can't recommend The Great Twenty Eight enough. It's timeless rock and roll which sounds like it was made in the fifties but hasn't aged a day. Berry's music still has the ability to move and groove you and it still rocks after all these years. This would be fantastic even if it the only good song was Johnny B Goode, whose magnificence alone is enough to justify its position on the countdown. But there's so much more than just Rock and Roll's national anthem to enjoy. Put it in your CD collection now.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Wonderful cd. Great song after great song. Chuck Berry's hit parade! 28 stars!"

-Yeah that sums it up nicely.

So is this a great 28 or average at best? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. Listen to this

    Berry Lifted off the riff to make "Roll over beethoven", "Johnny B Goode" and other stuff.. I do love his other songs like rock n roll music and maybelline, but the reason he goes down in history is that riff. and it hurt me a LOT when i found out he nicked it from a jazz sax intro