What's the best Chuck Berry album
Unfortunately, when new albums by dead pop stars are released posthumously, they often belong in the iniquity heap. Just think of "Michael", Michael Jackson's last album, which was pieced together in 2010 by umpteen producers from poor song sketches of the King of Pop, or better: forget it again. The fact that in April a district judge in Minnesota stopped the release of a new Prince EP, which a former sound engineer of the late funk genius had compiled from unauthorized archived recordings, was exactly right against this background.
There is always a great deal at stake when something is added to a great pop oeuvre without the master being able to approve it himself. In addition, one expects far too much at once from pop-icon-sends-last-greetings-from-the-afterlife albums. On the one hand, such a work should contain everything for which the pop star was originally adored, on the other hand it should prove that he continued to develop interestingly until the end. You want the old, the surprising, you want reliability and experiments right through to the end. In other words, you want the impossible.
"Blackstar", David Bowie's last album, magically fulfilled all these claims anyway - probably because Bowie had been able to finish the album himself shortly before his death. Lo and behold: "Chuck" (Dualtone), Chuck Berry's last album, now satisfies all of these demands.
When the rock'n'roll pioneer, who once hopped one-legged across the stage in the knee-breaking "Duckwalk" and was feared as a great spoiler for his teenage turtle lyrics, turned 90 last year, he already announced the album. When he died in March it was finished, only the mastering was still pending, i.e. the final sound polishing of the recordings. It was now supervised by his son Charles Berry Jr.
The song jewel of the album is the quasi-reggae "Jamaica Moon"
In the reviews of "Chuck" it has so far been emphasized that some of the ten songs that Berry recorded between 1991 and 2014 are updates of his old hits. "Lady B. Goode", for example, uses the same chords and the same shrill guitar to tell the story of "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), who, as is well known, was sent into space by NASA on the Voyager mission in order to destroy the aliens to inform about rock'n'roll. This time, however, the piece is told from the eyes of the girlfriend of the "country boy" from New Orleans, who is becoming a big star with his guitar. She, the "little teen queen", sees his story filmed in the cinema, and everyone is happy that she has had a baby from him. That's not sensational, but why shouldn't the change of perspective convince, especially if Berry's voice doesn't sound like that of an old man here, but like that of the eternally pubescent? Which means that the item "Maintaining the familiar (with a few twists)" would be ticked off.
The New York Times However, in her review she noticed that something completely new happened on the album, namely that Berry had an almost feminist view of the world in the last piece. "Eyes Of Man" is the name of the slowly trudging blues song in which he sings in almost biblical imagery about the fact that men proudly erect domes, bridges and towers according to their will, but also destroy them again and again, while women tend to quietly and in a more peaceful way are the actual "builders of nations" - which the men do not appreciate.
This is a nice, rather unexpected end to this album, which also ends this great pop career. The real gem on "Chuck" is the quasi-reggae "Jamaica Moon". Chuck Berry and Reggae? Yes, Berry moved his song "Havana Moon" from 1956, which at the time probably didn't really become a hit because of the US embargo against Fidel Castro and which Berry himself apparently loved very much to the end, in the direction of Jamaica. With almost perfect fake patois, he sings about how he is sitting on the island, drunk with rum, waiting for his bride from New York. She should get off the ship soon: "So long maybe dee wait until dee boat she come." In addition, the percussions slosh and the steel guitar sways, it's not one hundred percent reggae, but a piece that shows that Berry must have heard reggae many times at an advanced age (reggae has only existed since the late sixties).
All that's missing is a stripped-down, bass-heavy dub remix by Mad Professor or Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Berry would even have another summer hit.
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