Enough Reelin’ and a Rockin’ To Bring Out The Marty McFly In All of Us.
It’s always up for a drunken discussion as to who actually invented Rock & Roll; but even the pedants among you have to admit that Chuck Berry has to be a contender; and it’s a given that Johnny B Goode is the greatest actual Rock & Roll song of all time…..FACT! It’s even in a capsule on the moon and who can forget the bit in Back To The Future when Marty did a ‘duck walk’ playing a Gibson ES-345 and the guy made a phone call to ‘cousin Charles’?
So, any new album from Mr. Berry has to be worthy of our attention here at RMHQ, hasn’t it?
The opening song on Berry’s first album since 1979 (!), Wonderful Woman is a whole lot better than I dared to expect and a whole lot more Bluesier too. The vocals and guitar are trademark Chuck Berry, but the delightful ‘loved up’ lyrics, wailing harmonica, honky-tonk piano and the funky back-beat had my toes tapping and lips mouthing the words while I played air-guitar along with three generations of Berry men are pure Chicago Blues.
Track #2 is the single Big Boys that was coincidentally scheduled for release the week the week Berry died; and would have been a world wide hit regardless of the timing. Boom-Boom-Boom….. this is a saucy Chuck Berry song with a Twinkle in its eye, in the same way that My Ding-a-Ling is still my ‘guilty pleasure.’ A quality dance tune of the finest order and one that genuinely sits up there with his legendary hits.
I have to take a deep breath here, as not every track here is any where near that high quality threshold; the pop-Reggae of Jamaica Moon and live recording of 3/4 Time (Enchiladas) in particular could and should have been left in the studio. Sorry, but it’s true.
But; when Berry is good he is great…….Lady B Goode uses ‘that’ melody for a lively response song to Johnny B Goode and who would deny Chuck Berry the opportunity to regenerate his classic beat?
There are plenty of pleasant surprises here too, with Berry slowing things down on the lip smacking and hip grinding She Still Loves You; and on Dutchman he regales us by narrating a ‘talking Blues’ worthy of Robbie Robertson or David Olney.
I keep using the word ‘surprised’ here and I have been, many times as this is a whole lot better than it has any right to be after all these years and at Berry’s age while writing and recording; which brings us to the two songs which tie for the ‘Favourite Song’ title; first there is the soulful and melancholia of Darlin’ where Chuck writes and sings his own epitaph in a way I would never have expected in a hundred years; then there is Eyes of a Man which closes the 10 song album. A slow Gospel infused Blues that reduced me to tears the first, second and third times I heard it and while his Classic, bouncy Rock & Roll dance songs will be how he will be remembered; this song is a man coming to terms with his life and how I will now remember Charles Anderson Edward Berry 1026-2017 RIP.
PS #1. Great artwork on the cover and the booklet is worth the admission price alone.
PS #2 Thanks to Markus Rill for the Marty McFly reference 😉
Released June 16th 2017