An argument can be made — and a darn fine argument at that — that without Chuck Berry, rock & roll as we know it may never have existed. One of the all-time great songwriters, guitarists and performers, the 88-year-old Berry had dozens of hit singles throughout the 1950s and early ‘60s.
The folks at Acrobat have cobbled together a treasure trove for fans of early rock & roll. “The Complete Chess Singles A’s and B’s 1955-61” is a jaw-droppingly good collection of 50 tunes spread over two CDs. Clocking in at more than two hours, the set features everything Berry recorded for Chess Records during his heyday.
From 1955’s “Maybelline” to 1961’s “Go-Go-Go,” Berry shines throughout. All the essential tunes are here — “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” “School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell),” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “You Can’t Catch Me,” “Little Queenie,” “Back in the U.S.A.,” “Run Rudolph Run” — along with some lesser known B-sides (Round and Round,” “Memphis, Tennessee,” “Reeling and Rocking”) that could have been hits themselves. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. (Jeffrey Sisk)