American rock icon Chuck Berry died in March of this year at 90 years old. His first album of mainly new material in nearly 40 years, Chuck posthumously became his first UK TopÂ 10 chart entry since 1977, debuting at No.Â 9.
What we get with these 10 tracks is what we have come to expect from Berry; simple production, his clean (and at times also sloppy) guitar strumming and flick-a-flick leads with his perfect facility for rhyme.
Berry melds his guitar with Ingrid Berryâ€™s harmonica on opener, “Wonderful Woman”Â while the slow roiling blues of â€œYou Go to My Head” (not a Berry original) sees Chuck dueting with a strong lady singer. His seemingly live take of Tony Joe Whiteâ€™s “3/4 Time (Enchiladas)” is kind of a mess, but alive with lots of Chuckâ€™s vocal delivery personality. Itâ€™s the piano that keeps the tune together as best as it can be under “unique” leading.
“Lady B. Goode,â€ the sequel to Berryâ€™s classic â€œJohnny B. Goodeâ€ is most notable for Robert Lohrâ€™s boogie woogie piano, but the story/lyric is slightly weak and we really didnâ€™t need this sequel. The piano and stuttering beat (and Berry singing in a style we donâ€™t usually hear from him) informs â€œShe Still Loves You.â€
The best tune for me here is the story song that Chuck talks through with a consistent plucked guitar, â€œDutchman.â€Â Keith Robinson’s drums are stellar here as we get the full story told to us with a very simply guitar backing.
There is no new ground broken with Chuck, but then again Chuck Berry has been doing this kind of music, in just this way, all his life.