Chuck Berry After School Session (Remastered)
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- Released: March 23, 2004
- Originally Released: 2004
- Label: Chess
- $1.29 on iTunes1.School Day (Ring Ring There Goes The Bell)
- $0.99 on iTunes2.Deep Feeling
- $1.29 on iTunes3.Too Much Monkey Business
- $1.29 on iTunes4.Wee Wee Hours
- $0.99 on iTunes5.Roly Poly
- $1.29 on iTunes6.No Money Down
- $1.29 on iTunes7.Brown-Eyed Handsome Man
- $0.99 on iTunes8.Berry Pickin'
- $1.29 on iTunes9.We'll Always Be Together
- $1.29 on iTunes10.Havana Moon
- $1.29 on iTunes11.Downbound Train
- $0.99 on iTunes12.Drifting Heart
- $1.29 on iTunes13.You Can't Catch Me
- $1.29 on iTunes14.Thirty Days
- $1.29 on iTunes15.Maybellene
Song previews provided courtesy of iTunes
Personnel includes: Chuck Berry (vocals, guitar, steel guitar); Otis Spann, Johnnie Johnson (piano); Willie Dixon (bass); Fred Below, Japer Thomas, Ebby Hardy (drums).
Recorded in Chicago, Illinois. Originally released on ChessLP (1426).
Personnel: Chuck Berry (vocals, guitar, steel guitar); Jimmy Rogers (guitar); Johnnie Johnson, Otis Spann (piano); Fred Below, Jasper Thomas, Ebby Hardy (drums); Jerome Green (maracas).
Recording information: Chicago, IL (05/21/1955-01/21/1957).
Chuck Berry's first album boasts a picture of him lifted from his appearance in the 1956-vintage rock & roll movie Rock, Rock, Rock -- it's a daring pose if you look closely, the singer/guitarist/songwriter captured at his most animated, in what was a pretty bold pose for a black artist in an interracial movie, strutting and duck-walking across the screen with his guitar at full...exposure. That said, bold as the movie appearance was and the pose that was reflected in its cover, After School Session came out fairly late, given that his first hit, "Maybellene," dated from the summer of 1955. This was partly owing to the sheer novelty of rock & roll LPs -- during that period, only a relative handful reached the public, and a significant portion of those were the work of Elvis Presley or Bill Haley, whose associations with the gigantic RCA Victor and Decca labels, respectively, put them in virtually a separate universe from everyone else in the field, especially Berry, recording for the tiny independent Chess label. Chess Records hadn't even issued its first LP until the end of 1956, and that album, the soundtrack LP Rock, Rock, Rock, had included "Maybellene." After School Session was only the label's second-ever long-player, and its timing was predicated on the fact that, after "Maybellene," the rock & roll legend hadn't charted another major pop hit in almost two years (though he had generated some serious R&B hits, which are included here, among them the blues "Wee Wee Hours" -- which was what Berry originally purported to represent as his sound -- and the more rhythm-oriented "No Money Down" and "Brown Eyed Handsome Man").
It was the release and hit status of "School Day" in the early spring of 1957 that yielded this album, which is a brilliant compendium of the range, depth, and breadth of Berry's music across his first two years as a recording artist. The sounds ranged from the pounding, jargon-laden teen-oriented beat of "School Day" through those R&B and blues classics to the moody instrumental "Deep Feeling"; the Latin-flavored, Calypso-influenced "Havana Moon"; the slow, romantic ballad "Together (We'll Always Be)," which showed Berry working in a '40s R&B-pop mode similar to the music of the Ink Spots, and attempting a Nat King Cole style of soft singing; his more successful effort in that ballad vein, "Drifting Heart"; and the mysterious, ominous, darkly shimmering "Down Bound Train," which could almost have been Berry's (and black music's) answer to "Ghost Riders in the Sky." The 2004 reissue of After School Session includes three bonus tracks that greatly extend the range of the original album -- the driving rocker "You Can't Catch Me" (whose lyrics would greatly complicate John Lennon's life when he cribbed them for the opening of "Come Together" late in the Beatles' history); the even more pounding "Thirty Days"; and his debut hit, "Maybellene." All of it (including the rest of the original album's contents) shows off a glorious remastered sound that lets you hear the room ambience at Chess Studios and make out the exact spatial relationship between Berry and his backup singers on "Thirty Days." It puts the original CD to shame sonically, and boasts superior historical notes as well. ~ Bruce Eder
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