Monday, October 3, 2011

Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Hits

Review # 45
Artist: Chuck Berry
Title: Chuck Berry's Golden Hits
Format: LP
Label: Mercury
Year: 1967
Songs: 11

If you like rock music at all, it's hard to imagine not liking Chuck Berry or the songs on this record. This is a collection of classic Chuck Berry tunes, like "Memphis," "Maybellene," and of course, "Rock and Roll Music" and "Johnny B. Goode." These are classic songs by a man who deserves substantial credit as one of the creators of rock music. The fast pace, backbeat, and relentless guitar of Chuck Berry's best songs are the heart of rock and roll. It's hard to know what popular music would have become without Berry's music. There almost certainly never would never have been anything called punk rock.

All of that said (and I didn't realize this when I bought it), this record doesn't feature the original 1950s versions of these classic songs. In fact, the only song featured here in it's original version is new song Berry recorded for the record called "Club Nitty Gritty." Not coincidentally, this is the only song from this record I'd never heard before. All of these songs were re-recorded for Mercury Records in 1967 specifically for this release. The original stand-up bass has been replaced by an electric one, and they've also added some tambourine. What's missing is some of the energy. Don't get me wrong, these are still some peppy songs, and I wouldn't call the recordings bad by any means, but some of the magic that makes Berry's music so enduring is missing from these versions. I wouldn't quite say they feel forced, but I could imagine it being very hard to have the same enthusiasm for recording a song ten years or more after the original recording sessions, and I think the lower enthusiasm levels show here. The new bass lines are also more complex and a little higher in the mix, and sometimes distract from the songs.

If I'd known these weren't the original versions of this, I might not have bought this record. It's not that it's bad, but I would have rather spent the money on the originals.

I misspoke in the last review: I actually have one more record that was pushed to the back that I'll need to review before we cross back into punk rock territory after several weeks away.

Total songs listened: 574

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