Personnel: Chuck Berry (guitar); Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers , Owen McIntyre (guitar); James Robinson , L.C. Davis (saxophone); Dave Kafinetti, Johnnie Johnson, Lafayette Leake, Otis Spann, Paul Williams (piano); Nic Potter (electric bass); Reggie Boyd, G. Smith, Willie Dixon (bass guitar); Fred Below, Odie Payne, Jr., Robbie McIntosh , Jasper Thomas, Ebby Hardy (drums); Jerome Green (maracas); Band Chorus, Etta James & The Marquees, Martha Berry (background vocals).
Audio Remasterer: Erick Labson.
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