Tag Archives: Chuck Berry

Sound ‘Round: Chuck Berry / Low Cut Connie

I like that old time rock n’ roll

Chuck Berry – Chuck (Dualtone)

Chuck Berry is a musical monolith who was denied a vast outpouring of grief upon his passing because — sorry, kids — Uncle Chuck was a salty old perv. As significant as his music remains, his troubled personal history makes him a hard figure to like, never mind admire. So three months after Berry’s death at the age of 90 and 38 years since his last studio release comes this posthumous effort that gives us nearly everything we could ask for from a Chuck Berry album in 2017. The guitars sizzle and burn with typical punch and fervor, and his slight Midwestern tenor largely remains spry and playful. The noticeable difference is the songwriting. Berry’s hits of yore were neatly packaged stories about teenagers driving Coup de Villes, but the best material here finds the brown eyed handsome man making amends to his long-slighted wife. Though her husband was a rampant philanderer and spent time behind bars for voyeurism, Thermetta Suggs stood by her deeply flawed man until he made her a widow. Her magnanimity is so gracious and compelling it spurred Berry to go out swooning over her like a schoolboy.  These songs don’t erase his transgressions, but at least they prove he died saying sorry. She already forgave him a long time ago. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Wonderful Woman” / “She Still Loves You” / “You Go To My Head”

Low Cut Connie – Dirty Pictures (Part 1) (Contender)

They’ve rocked on bandstands in their native Philadelphia, P.A., been arrested deep in the heart of Texas and likely vomited into Frisco Bay. In just six years front man Adam Weiner (lol) has helped turn this group of bar crawlers into one of America’s most hell-raising live acts. They dig cheap thrills —drag shows to wet t-shirt contests — and extol the virtues of hedonism with the fury of Jerry Lee.  But even booze hounds are catching the blues these days, and Weiner’s got reasons aplenty to feel flaccid. First came the departure of co-founder and creative partner Dan Finnemore, a dapper Brit who moved back across the pond. Then came the devastating election and subsequent reign of the Buzzkill in Chief. “Everybody’s actin’ like an asshole,” goes the opening line on “Death and Destruction,” the rare party anthem that dares capture the zeitgeist. Weiner’s distaste for the alt-right is matched only by his deep affection for Prince’s corpse. Hence the sturdy rendition of “Controversy” and the penultimate song that once more pays homage to the Purple One. Last call will come for this band someday, but their belief in the power of the boogie, along with their self-effacing humor, makes them a must-see when they visit a town near you. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Revolution Rock n Roll” / “Dirty Water” / “Forever”


Sound ‘Round: Chuck Berry / Little Richard

The King is dead, love live the Queen

Chuck Berry – The Definitive Collection (Geffen/Chess, 2006)

Regarding his musical accomplishments, Chuck Berry was your average humble Midwesterner. To quote the dearly departed’s 1987 autobiography: “My view remains that I do not deserve all the reward directed on my account for the accomplishments credited to the rock ‘n’ roll bank of music.” Let the record — this greatest hits package in particular — show how wrong his self-effacing ways were. Rock wasn’t born from Elvis’ hip-shaking appropriations, rather a 29-year-old black man from St. Louis who attended cosmetology school before the guitar saved him from a life of hair dressing. From 1955 to 1959 he cranked out nearly 30 iconic singles that punched a hole in the future, revolutionizing American popular music by meshing blues swagger with country’s humorous storytelling to lay the foundation for everything that followed. He taught Lennon and McCartney how to write, and Jimi Hendrix learned to chop down mountains by listening to “Johnny B. Goode.” Prince’s red corvette can’t keep up with Maybellene’s coupe de ville, and Berry’s cross-racial appeal in the era of segregation is why we don’t bat an eye when Beyoncé does the same. Eighteen of these songs still roll Beethoven off a cliff. Eleven are minor miracles in their own right. The other is “My Ding-A-Ling.” C’est la vie, for the brown eyed handsome man. GRADE: A+

Key Tracks: “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” / “Roll Over Beethoven” / “You Never Can Tell”

Little Richard – The Georgia Peach (Specialty, 1991)

Never forget the first great showman to promote the devil’s music en masse is the gay son of a deacon whose signature song was a blatant reference to homosexual sex. But a line as obvious as “Tutti Frutti / good booty” was never going to fly during the closeted era of Eisenhower, so history will remember the neutered but just as infectious rewrite, “Aw, rooty.” That was Richard Penniman’s first charting single, released in October 1955 by Specialty Records, the label for which he recorded his most vital work. This 25-track best-of is sequenced chronologically up to 1959’s “Whole Lotta Shakin” and never lets up during its taught 57-minute run time. What Richard lacked in songwriting chops (he’s no Chuck Berry) he countered with visceral feeling and raw, uncontainable power. His fire breathing howl of a voice turns each of these anthems into tent pole revivals, and an obsession with driving, forceful brevity lays the groundwork for the punk rock of the future. Richard’s patented formula has become standard issue and replicated by the likes of Robert Plant, Axl Rose, Nicki Minaj and Young Thug — hedonism and the ways of the flesh above all. “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom!” remains utter nonsense, and that’s the point. Check your I.Q. at the door. Have some damn fun. GRADE: A

Key Tracks: “Long Tall Sally” / “Tutti Frutti” / “Lucille”