Johnny B Goode: His Complete ’50s Recordings by Chuck Berry

September 10, 2012

No one can definitely say who invented rock ‘n’ roll, but Chuck Berry was there at the beginning and probably contributed more to its early evolution than just about any other person living or dead.

He took a guitar sound, moved it out front as the lead instrument, and fused it with rhythm & blues. When he was finished, it was rock ‘n’ roll.

While his career has now reached the vicinity of six decades, it was his 1950s recordings that remain his best and most influential. Johnny B Goode: His Complete ‘50s Chess Recordings gathers all 102 of his 1950s tracks onto four discs. From 1955s “Maybelline” to 1959s “Too Pooped To Pop,” some of the most memorable songs in rock ‘n’ roll history are presented here .A booklet containing an annotated discography is also included.

The set can be a little long and overwhelming for anyone unfamiliar with the era or his music. There are five versions of “Sweet Little Sixteen” and three of “Reelin’ And Rockin,’” which may be a bit much for a lot of people. The studio conversation is more interesting than essential, plus the unreleased tracks really add little to his legacy.

When you get to the heart of his music, however, it just does not get any better. The sound is much clearer than on his previous releases. His guitar sound is crisp and the man is one of the best guitarists of his generation and the two that followed. His ability to write catchy melodies and hooks was always outstanding and his lyrics, while bawdy in places and somewhat dated in others, are always entertaining.

Songs such as “Maybelline,” ”Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock And Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Reelin’ And Rockin,’” “Memphis Tennessee,” and “Back In The USA” are flat out 1950s rock ‘n’ roll at its best. They may be somewhat simple by today’s standards, but his guitar playing is spectacular and the songs essential to the history of American music. The live versions of “Maybelline” and “Roll Over Beethoven” provide a nice look into Berry being able to perform his music in a concert setting as opposed to the studio.

Even some of his more obscure songs shine. “House of Blue Lights,” “That’s My Desire,” “Childhood Sweetheart,” “Do You Love Me,” “Almost Grown,” and others are somewhat more sophisticated than many of his big hits and he branched out musically to a blues sound and returned to this r&b roots.

There are a number of instrumentals included. They were intended as filler at the time of their release but today tracks such as “Berry Pickin’,” “Rolli Polli,” “Blue Feeling,” “Guitar Boogie,” “Rock At The Philharmonic,” and “Long Fast Jam,” demonstrate his guitar prowess as the limelight is squarely on his instrument.

His 1950s songs were not all masterpieces, but when taken as a whole, they form one of the most influential bodies of work in rock history.

He received a great deal of recognition and commercial success from these recordings as his singles sold tens of millions of copies and consistently crossed over to the white/mainstream pop charts.

Johnny B Goode: His Complete 50’s Chess Recordings includes music that has been essential to rock ‘n’ roll for over 50 years.

Promised Land 45 by Chuck Berry

September 10, 2012

Chuck Berry was one of the originaters of rock ‘n’ roll. His guitar sound was one of the connecters that moved rhythm & blues over to rock ‘n’ roll. He placed 25 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, 1955-1965. During The Beatles era his commercial fortunes would wane but he made a comeback during the early 1970s.

“Promised Land” was released during late 1964 and would peak at number 41 on the Singles Chart. It was another guitar infused up-tempo rock song. In fact most of his material was basically the same and if you liked one of his rockers, you will probably like them all.

Berry is now in his mid-80s and is still on the road performing his early hits.

Roll Over Beethoven 45 by Chuck Berry

April 23, 2012

Chuck Berry’s second chart hit may not have charted as high as his first “Maybelline,” which reached number five, but it was every bit as important to the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

“Roll Over Beethoven” first reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, June 30, 1956 and peaked at number 29.

The open guitar riff has rung down in rock history and the frenetic style of playing was similar to Jerry Lee Lewis’s piano playing on “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

The song was a statement by Berry that his music and indeed rock ‘n’ roll had now superseded that of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Can’t argue.

Maybelline by Chuck Berry

April 13, 2012

The old 78 rpm records were almost extinct by the time “Maybelline” was released during 1955. They were, however, still being pressed as “Maybelline” was issued in both a 45 and 78 format.

It really did not matter which as the song was one of the most influential in rock ‘n’ roll history. Chuch Berry was one of the first musicians to move the rhythm & blues sound over to rock ‘n’ roll and put the guitar out front. The riffs he created would be copied for decades as he influenced guitarists for the next half century.

It was the first chart single of Berry’s career and one of the first rock singles to become a hit single. Released during the summer of 1955, it would peak at number five on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

Now in he 80s, Chuck Berry is still performing “Maybelline.”

Johnny B Goode 45 by Chuck Berry

April 6, 2012

Chuck Berry wrote his ode to a poor country boy who was able to play the guitar like ringing a bell. It contained alot of autobiographical elements and became one of the classic and most covered songs in rock history.

Berry was one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock ‘n’ roll and some would say he was responsible for establishing the guitar as THE main instrument in rock music.

He was backed by bassist Willlie Dixon, pianist Lafayette Leake, and drummer Fred Below.

It was released during early 1957 and reached number eight on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart and number one on the Rhythm & Blues Chart.

Now in his mid-80s, Chuck Berry is still playing “Johnny B Goode” on stage and his guitar still rings like a bell.

Sweet Little Sixteen 45 by Chuck Berry

December 18, 2010

Chuck Berry was one of the original rock ‘n’ rollers and his influence on establishing the original rock format cannot be under estimated.

He was one of the first, if not the first, guitarists to move its sound away from blues, country and R&B to create what would become rock music. His series of hits, 1955-1964, were all guitar based and included some of the best playing of the era. The fact that he was black and managed to cross over onto to the pop charts is testament to his ability and creativity.

“Sweet Little Sixteen,” released during early 1958, is a celebration of the power of rock ‘n’ roll and an ode to being young in the late fifties. It reached number two on the BILLBOARD Pop Charts for three weeks and topped the R&B chart.

Over a half century after its release, it remains early rock ‘n’ roll at its best.