Chuck Berry



Aug 08, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

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Many latter-day offerings from pioneers of rock and roll left indelible impressions on our collective psyches. The greatest elegiac piece in the once revolutionary genre, David Bowie's 2016 swansong Blackstar, concluded an influential body of work from the likes of an artist that we will never see again in our lifetime. Johnny Cash's American Recordings continues to remind us that even though rock and roll belongs to the youth, artists who shaped the genre created the template for making lasting music before entering the grave.

Chuck Berry's posthumous release, Chuck, attempts to not just say one last thing before he meets many of his faithful acolytes in the afterlife, but produce one last impactful work to ring as eternal as "Johnny B. Goode." Faced with mortality's diminished returns, Berry seized a few remaining moments to venture into the realms of the unknown while revisiting the moments that defined the music of risk, the music of shock, the music of revolt.

At 90 years young, "Wonderful Woman" opens with the backbeat that remains rock's defining rhythm. Shades of "C'est La Vie" haunt the song's spirit, but the three guitar solos with one of the most distinct guitar tones says more by playing less. "Big Boys" features Berry's signature lick and the album's most distinct single which became Berry's first-ever music video. "3/4 Time (Enchiladas)" showcases Berry's stage persona. A live track, he lets the audience know that "No one gets out of here alive," while hoping to find a woman to soften life's most violent blows.

The video for the album's most nostalgic track, "Darlin," reminds us that our gods bled, wept, laughed, loved, and wondered. The family photos are reminiscent of Cash's "Hurt" video; yet, they celebrate life's little events: spending time with his children, friends, and countless loved ones. He appears approachable, far from the incurable and ornery portrait of a performer who would just shout out to his backing band what key he felt like playing "Rock and Roll Music."

Chuck falls short of the power of albums with emphatic famous last words. What Chuck does instead is persuade us to pay closer attention to the totality of an artist's work instead of revering their peaks. (

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