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Review: Chuck Berry’s ‘Chuck,’ His First LP Since 1979, Is As Classic As Always

It took 38 years and sounds like it could havebeen knocked off last Sunday in the time it takes Dominos to deliver. Good, badand otherwise, Chuck Berry’s first album since 1979 is a classic as he alwaysmade them, with knockoffs of his own inventions (“Wonderful Woman”updates “Little Queenie” for his long suffering wife of 68 years,Themetta, with guest riffs from Gary Clark Jr.; “Big Boys” retrofits “RollOver Beethoven” with Tom Morello adding some motorvation), blues filler,even a live goof delivered with one of those raised-eyebrow vocals. All of rock& roll would have crawled on its hands and knees to St. Louis to recordwith Berry, yet Chuck makes do with a gleeful bar-band stomp. Could hehave found a better drummer? As sure as Charlie spells his last name W-A-T-T-S.The real story, then, is the sound of a man who kept on keeping on, choosing adifferent legacy: his family. His son Charles Jr. plays guitar throughout; hisgrandson Charles III adds guitar on “Wonderful Woman” and “LadyB. Goode”; and his daughter Ingrid shadows his vocals with loving supporton the country ballad “Darlin’,” which counts the sundowns gone sinceher 16th birthday with the knowledge that far fewer are left. Of all the rockdreams his music made possible, the most poignant and unexpected is enacted onthis album: that we may have at 90 the ability to do the things we used to doin our 20s. As always, Keith Richards is taking notes.

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