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Review: Chuck Berry’s ‘Chuck,’ His First LP Since 1979, Is Another Casual-Sounding Classic

Our take on the late rock architect’s ‘Chuck’

Chuck Berry Publicity Photo

'Chuck' is the late Chuck Berry's first LP since 1979.

Danny Clinch

It took 38 years and sounds like it could have
been knocked off last Sunday in the time it takes Dominos to deliver. Good, bad
and otherwise, Chuck Berry’s first album since 1979 is a classic as he always
made them, with knockoffs of his own inventions (“Wonderful Woman”
updates “Little Queenie” for his long suffering wife of 68 years,
Themetta, with guest riffs from Gary Clark Jr.; “Big Boys” retrofits “Roll
Over Beethoven” with Tom Morello adding some motorvation), blues filler,
even a live goof delivered with one of those raised-eyebrow vocals. All of rock
& roll would have crawled on its hands and knees to St. Louis to record
with Berry, yet Chuck makes do with a gleeful bar-band stomp. Could he
have found a better drummer? As sure as Charlie spells his last name W-A-T-T-S.
The real story, then, is the sound of a man who kept on keeping on, choosing a
different legacy: his family. His son Charles Jr. plays guitar throughout; his
grandson Charles III adds guitar on “Wonderful Woman” and “Lady
B. Goode”; and his daughter Ingrid shadows his vocals with loving support
on the country ballad “Darlin’,” which counts the sundowns gone since
her 16th birthday with the knowledge that far fewer are left. Of all the rock
dreams his music made possible, the most poignant and unexpected is enacted on
this album: that we may have at 90 the ability to do the things we used to do
in our 20s. As always, Keith Richards is taking notes.

In This Article: Chuck Berry

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