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Rock - Released November 18, 2013 | Frémeaux & associés

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

Pop - Released January 1, 2006 | Geffen

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
There have been many, many Chuck Berry compilations released by Chess over the years, but as of the spring of 2006, there was no comprehensive single-disc set in print; there was the double-disc 2005 set Gold, which itself was a retitled reissue of 2000's Anthology, but the classic comp The Great Twenty-Eight was long out of print, and nothing had replaced it until the 2006 release of The Definitive Collection. This generous 30-track selection offers nearly everything that was on The Great Twenty-Eight and in nearly the same sequence -- "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" and "Roll Over Beethoven" are swapped, for instance, but it's not really a noticeable change. "Bye Bye Johnny" is the only song missing from The Great Twenty-Eight, which is not a huge omission, especially since it's been replaced with two great singles, "You Never Can Tell" and "Promised Land." "My Ding-A-Ling" is also here and, while it is a worse song than "Bye Bye Johnny," it was Chuck's only number one single, so its inclusion makes sense -- and it hardly sinks a collection that is by far the best, most comprehensive single-disc Chuck Berry set yet assembled. Sure, there are some great Berry songs that are absent, but all the major songs are here; plus, if you need more than 30 songs, turn to either Gold or The Chess Box. If you want a single-disc best-of collection of all of Chuck's finest, this is the one to get. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released August 13, 2012 | DMI


Rock - Released December 12, 2011 | 2 Hours


Film Soundtracks - Released January 1, 1987 | Geffen*

This is the soundtrack to a documentary film chronicling a concert held to celebrate Chuck Berry's 60th birthday. The band was led by Keith Richards and featured Berry's regular pianist, Johnnie Johnson, Richards' regular pianist, Chuck Leavell, Rolling Stones sax player Bobby Keys, bassist Joey Spampinato from NRBQ, and drummer Steve Jordan from Richards' solo band. The guests included Robert Cray, Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton, Julian Lennon, and Etta James. Berry was ragged-voiced but enthusiastic, the band had spirit, and the guests, even if they were sometimes unlikely, were sincere. The best way to hear Berry's music is to obtain the original recordings, of course, but as a souvenir of the Taylor Hackford film, this is an enjoyable romp through the catalog. ~ William Ruhlmann

Rock - Released January 1, 1967 | Island Records

Anyone spotting this album beware. It is not a compilation of hits, but consists of all-"new" (mid-'60s) recordings by Chuck Berry of his classic Chess hits for his then-new label, Mercury, with one new song added. The re-recordings wouldn't be a problem, except that Berry and whoever produced this record decided to update his sound, not only mixing it in stereo but also replacing the upright bass on the original hits with much flashier electric bass (played by Forrest Frierson) that screws up the solid rhythm section that's essential for any of this material to work. The addition of a saxophone, courtesy of Carey Enlow, is only a distraction on "Rock & Roll Music," and Berry's efforts at embellishing the lead guitar parts on "Memphis," "Maybellene" (where Johnnie Johnson makes the regrettable decision to play an organ), "Around and Around," and "Roll Over Beethoven" add nothing to the originals and are often downright annoying. "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" almost works in its more laid-back incarnation here, until the band seems to let the beat go completely for a moment. "School Days" also sort of works as a studio recording of the way he was doing it on-stage, and "Reelin' and Rockin'" is the one track that's 100-percent what it should be, dirtier than the Chess original and the one place where, stylistically, Berry transcends his original work. In one instance, "Back in the U.S.A.," he would have had another passable track but for his gratuitous addition of lots of unenthusiastic "yeah yeah yeah yeah"s between the verses. And based on nearly half the tracks here, one might also add that Berry even seems on this record to have lost any knack for knowing how to end a song. Finally, the one new composition, "Club Nitty Gritty," doesn't measure up to the least of the classics alongside which it appears, and whatever worth the album might've had is compromised by the stereo mastering, the excessively clean sound, and the echo that drenches Berry's voice. Except for the implicitly salacious "Reelin' and Rockin'" (which would sound dirty even if sung by a choir of nuns), nothing here approaches the in-your-face raunchiness of Berry's classic Chess sides. Golden Hits was a lousy inaugural effort for his new label. ~ Bruce Eder

Rock - Released November 9, 2012 | Delicacy Records


Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | Geffen

Following an unsatisfying three-year stint at Mercury Records, Chuck Berry returned home to Chess in 1969, just like Phil Chess predicted. Heading home didn’t necessarily mean retreating, as the four-disc Have Mercy: His Complete Chess Recordings 1969-1974 illustrates. During his time at Mercury, Chuck followed the kids wherever they went, aligning himself with the psychedelic ‘60s in a way none of his peers did. This shift is immediately apparent on “Tulane,” the very first song he cut upon his return to Chess. An ode to a couple of kids who dealt dope underneath the counter of a novelty shop, “Tulane” puts Chuck on the side of the counterculture, and over the next five years, he never strayed back to the other side of the fence, often singing about getting stoned, dabbling with a wah-wah pedal, rhapsodizing about rock festivals, cheerfully telling smutty jokes. All these elements, along with his propensity for playing with pickup bands -- he cut 1971’s San Francisco Dues with amiable garage rockers the Woolies outside of Lansing, MI, and roped Elephant's Memory into the studio to knock out much of 1973’s Bio -- defined the last act of Chuck’s career. But the big difference between the five years documented here and what came afterward is that Berry was still active as a writer and record-maker during the first years of the ‘70s, conscious of his legacy but not encumbered by it, still attempting to graft new fads onto his three-chord boogie while spending more and more time playing the blues and ballads of his youth. Have Mercy chronicles all of this and more, putting his final Chess recordings into CD circulation for the first time, and adding 22 unreleased cuts to the mix. If there are no major revelations among this unheard material there are at least minor ones in the form of a studio version of “My Ding-A-Ling,” which is lighter in touch and marginally more charming than the live hit, and the preponderance of loose, instrumental blues jams culminating in an extended studio version of “Turn on the Houselights,” the song he used to play toward the end of concerts. All these blues -- and there are many with vocals, too, including a very good take on Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” and a ripping live version of Big Joe Turner’s “Roll ‘Em Pete” -- find Berry coasting somewhat, preferring to rework standards instead of write new ones, which is a sentiment that also applies to how “My Ding-A-Ling” re-jiggers Dave Bartholomew’s song, but Chuck always did turn blues tropes into something of his own, so what’s new is how infrequently Berry was writing during this final stretch. The originals may not have flowed freely, but he did pen a handful of classics: “Tulane,” its slow sequel “Have Mercy Judge,” the dreamy spoken poem “My Dream,” and the cracking autobiography “Bio” all belong in his canon. But the thing about Have Mercy is that it proves that an artist as great as Chuck Berry has pleasures that lay outside the canon, that his sly touch invigorates classics from “Jambalaya” to “Swanee River Rock”; that it’s good to hear him just lay back and riff, that there’s a delight in hearing him affect an absurd Mexican accent on “South of a Border.” Sure, these are pleasures only for the committed, but in light of the lack of new recordings following this -- just 1979’s Rock It, which did produce the minor classic “Oh What a Thrill” -- it’s easier to cherish this music for the minor, yet lasting, pleasures it provides. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | Universal Records

Another long-player that was unique to England. Pye Records was raking it in with Berry's music, and generated yet another LP out of cuts that had appeared in the U.S. on various singles, plus St. Louis to Liverpool ("Brenda Lee," "You Never Can Tell," "Promised Land," "Things I Used to Do") and older cuts like "Reelin' and Rockin'" and "Around and Around," that were hot, thanks to EP releases ("Come On") and bands like the Rolling Stones and others starting to cover them. This isn't as strong as Pye's other patchwork LP, The Latest and the Greatest, relying a little too heavily on second-rate cuts such as "Diploma for Two" and "The Way It Was Before" (off of New Juke Box Hits), and marginal rock & roll numbers like "Little Girl from Central," a rewrite of "Sweet Little Sixteen," and what sounds like a hastily improvised rewrite of "No Particular Place to Go" entitled "Big Ben." ~ Bruce Eder

Rock - Released June 8, 2006 | Charly Records


Pop - Released January 1, 1984 | Geffen

This is the place to start listening to Chuck Berry. The Great Twenty-Eight was a two-LP, single CD compilation that emerged during the early '80s, amid a brief period in which the Chess catalog was in the hands of the Sugar Hill label, a disco-oriented outfit that later lost the catalog to MCA. It has proved to be one of the most enduring of all compilations of Berry's work. Up until the release of this disc, every attempt at a compilation had either been too sketchy (the 1964 Greatest Hits album on Chess) or too demanding for the casual listener (the three Golden Decade double-LP sets), and this was the first set to find a happy medium between convenience and thoroughness. Veteran listeners will love this CD even if they learn little from it, while neophytes will want to play it to death. All of the cuts come from Berry's first nine years in music, including all of the major singles as well as relatively minor hits such as "Come On" (which was more significant in the history of rock & roll in its cover version performed by the Rolling Stones as their debut release). The sound is decent throughout (surprisingly, except for "Come On," which has some considerable noise), although it is considerably outclassed by the most recent round of remasterings. In the decades since its release, there have been more comprehensive collections of Berry's work, but this is the best single disc, if one can overlook the relatively lo-fi digital sound. ~ Bruce Eder

Rock - Released December 7, 2012 | SINETONE AMR


Rock - Released December 7, 2011 | Gralin Music


Miscellaneous - Released January 5, 2018 | Milestones Records


Miscellaneous - Released January 5, 2018 | Milestones Records