Chuck Berry’s final album found the 90-year-old still rocking


The album, titled “CHUCK,” was announced in October, five months before the rock pioneer’s death on Saturday at the age of 90. Wochit

“Chuck,” Chuck Berry (Dualtone)

Chuck Berry was one of the true architects of rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis Presley may have been called “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” for bringing black music to white America, but Berry was the black artist who actually broke through. From “Maybelline,” Berry’s first No. 1 R&B hit in 1955, probably no one else, other than Presley, did more to popularize rock ‘n’ roll across the board. He was as influential in his songwriting as his performance.

Berry, who hadn’t released an album of new material since 1979, was finishing up “Chuck” when he died on March 18 of this year at the age of 90. The finished product (set for release June 9) doesn’t sound like the work of a 90-year-old, though. Throughout the 10 tracks, Berry is in good voice and good humor.

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Eight of the songs were written by Berry, including “Lady B. Goode,” a follow-up to Berry’s classic “Johnny B. Goode,” nearly 60 years after the original was released.

Berry had been working on the disc for several years with the group he performed with regularly at a St. Louis club. The band included his children Charles Berry Jr. (guitar) and Ingrid Berry (vocals, harmonica), bassist Jimmy Marsala, pianist Robert Lohr and drummer Keith Robinson. Gary Clark Jr., Tom Morello, Nathaniel Rateliff and Charles Berry III (Berry’s grandson) also make guest appearances on the disc.

“Chuck” contains a little bit of all the things that made Berry special. There’s some classic Berry-style rockers, including “Wonderful Woman,” “Big Boys” and “Lady B. Goode.” There’s so slow groove blues with “You Go to My Head,” and a happy waltz (recorded live) called “3/4 (Enchiladas),” a sentimental number, “Darlin’,” and a recitation called “The Dutchman.”

None of the tracks eclipse the best work Berry has done in the past. In a sense, “Chuck” is simply Berry doing what he’s done since the late 1960s – recycling all the riffs he invented in the 1950s. There’s even a “Jamaica Moon” that mirrors his “Havana Moon.” But, hearing Berry sounding so good with a handful of new songs is a joy.

At 90, Berry lived a good long life with a lot of twists and turns, some of them dark. But “Chuck” is a good way to recognize an old master was still rocking without a chair.

“Make It Be,” R. Stevie Moore & Jason Faulkner (Bar None)

R. Stevie Moore has been a champion of do-it-yourself rockers for decades now. Moore, who is the son of legendary Nashville A-Team studio musician Bob Moore, gained notoriety early in his career by starting a monthly tape club in which he would record an hour’s worth of music each month and mail it to fans. It was eccentric. Some of the music was terrific. Some of it not so great. But, it was never less than interesting.

Since that time, Moore has become an outsider hero, collaborating with Jad Fair of Half Japanese, Dave Gregory of XTC, MGMT and many others.

Jason Faulkner is an almost perfect collaborate partner for Moore. Faulkner first proved his prowess for catchy power pop and thoughtful rock with the band Jellyfish and has since gone on to a cult-status solo career with his own self-made albums.

Faulkner and Moore share a love of Beatles-style rock ‘n’ roll and pop perversity and make it work throughout the new album “Make It Be.”

There’s a plenty of likeable rock, some electronic music, acoustic guitar noodling, moody instrumentals, a taste of Moore’s poetry and talk and plenty of nice melodies with not-quite-right lyrics.

Highlights include Moore singing the hooky “We Love Us” and Faulker interpreting Moore’s “Play Myself Some Music,” “Horror Show,” a particularly nice alt-rock, with a hint of psychedelia, and a loosey-goosey cover of the Huey P. Smith classic “Don’t You Just Know It.”

Moore has always been a star in his own mind and, over the years, he’s become at least a star in the eyes of a select group of people. “Make It Be” is another example that Moore’s opinion of himself wasn’t so far off the mark.

Wayne Bledsoe may be reached at 865-342-6444 or He is also the host of “All Over the Road,” midnight to 3 a.m. Saturday nights/Sunday mornings, and the “6 O’Clock Swerve,” at 6 p.m. Thursdays on WDVX-FM.

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