Two Particular Ways to Go
Chuck Berry: The Chess Box (Chess '88)
Starting at age 29 in 1955, Chuck Berry recorded plenty, mostly for Chess in Chicago, a spin in the Caddy from his St. Louis home. Many of these recordings were epochal, others pretty great. But quite a few fell short. In the golden age of Top 40, his albums were afterthought product, filled out with autopilot instrumentals, threadbare covers, wan novelties, and temperate lounge blues. So Chuck Berry's natural longform is the best-of, compelling fans to buy his classics over and over. This 71-track threefer from the innocent days when box sets meant something slackens slightly on the back half of disc two by indulging Berry's blues dreams. But disc three documents the renaissance that followed his release from an 18-month bid on a trumped-up prostitution charge in late 1963. The unsatisfied "No Particular Place to Go" and the pot-dealing action thriller "Tulane" aren't iconic like "Johnny B. Goode," but their artistry, invention, and humor are unsurpassed, and "Tulane" led directly to "Have Mercy Judge," the only important blues he ever wrote. A
Chuck Berry: The Definitive Collection (Geffen/Chess '06)
Greatest Hits. Golden Decade. The Great Twenty-Eight. Fans bought each vinyl comp as its predecessor wore out, but in the uncharted swamp of CD-era Universal reissues they may have missed the best best-of of all. Starting with the motorvating 1955 game-changer "Maybellene" and then fleshing out Berry's double persona‑-sly brown-eyed handsome man, a projection, and happy-go-lucky lil' 16, an invention‑-it adds two of Berry's very greatest songs to the formerly definitive Great Twenty-Eight: the completely grown "You Never Can Tell" and the sub rosa history of the Freedom Rides "Promised Land." Half of its 30-tracks-in-75-minutes‑-terse fellow, Chuck Berry‑-are pop songs as monumental as "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The rest are various shades of excellent. Long-suffering Johnnie Johnson on piano and big boss man Willie Dixon on bass provide essential support. Every song here except the worthy "I Wanna Be Your Driver" is on The Chess Box. But this one's so intense. A PLUS
I didn't think he had to apply for family mebership.
As this thread ends, it must be said --
Send More Chuck Berry.
A firm believer in Groucho's maxim on membership, I've resisted doing this for quite a while, but
Ryan's exegesis of Cattle and Cane on One Week, One Band was um, loverly.
Thing is, I hadn't checked up on him in quite a while and I'm afraid he might be a bit too busy --
Those sneaky Brits get there early.
GOOGLE: guardian caspar llewellyn smith bob dylan tempest
Had that date circled in ink for months! On a separate note, just downloaded Young's "Decade" for just 5 bucks on A******n. RIP my vinyl copy. You gave me decades of pleasure.
Notes on some previous EW entries --
Khaira Arby, Tchini Tchini --
much more like live and a more forceful presentation overall than the previous release. Still find her a tad abstract and remote without a lyric cheat-sheet. Rarely had that problem with Oumou Sangare. Still, pulling for Arby to persevere.
And two heart-rates-up for Madonna MDNA as a workout soundtrack -- and general romp. Elton John should clip his lip (but that's been true since ... pretty much forever). As with St. Etienne, however, there's an inescapable retro cast to some of MDNA's moves. Of course she's right about the healing effects of radio -- but only in memory. The Madonna albums I keep are the ones that seem more energetic and jokey - the skips become more serious and philosophical.
For sure I'm going to the NYC show. Philly show too. My train from Philly gets in around 1PM so I get to play tourist for a few hours. Haven't been to NYC since 1990. Luckily my hotel is two blocks from the venue. If anyone knows of a nearby place to grab food and drinks before, I'd love to meet up. Most can contact me through FB, or email is jcsmall63 at g mail dot com.
So who is going to see Low Cut Connie and Wussy this weekend at the Mercury Lounge? I should buy tickets and go, right? Should I use the 'will call' service or should I have tickets delievered?
My nephew who lives in Brooklyn just tipped me off that Patti Smith will be doing a reading and book signing at the Community Book Store in Park Slope. 7PM tomorrow (Monday 8/6/12).
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.