Review Summary: “Is On Top” is frothing with musical splendor and Chuck Berry is the sugary topping that every rock band can trace their influences back to and indulge in.
6 of 6 thought this review was well written
This is the pioneer of music as we know it. We can't say he started the first rock sound-well he pretty much did, actually. No other figure stands out as much as Chuck Berry in his spotlight until the Beatles and Elvis Presley took over nearly half a decade later. Though he served jail time for an armed robbery in 1944, he went on to become the most well known rhythm and blues artist in history, and his signature opening riff is unmistakable to generations of people. Ladies and gentleman, Chuck Berry.
Originally printed in 1959, this compilation features nearly every necessity from Berry. All of the oldest rock classics are here, Roll Over Beethoven, Johnny B. Goode, Almost Grown, Carol, Maybellene, et cetera. Chuck Berry was the first to lead the way into the modern sound, fusing jazz rhythms with a lead guitar that would belt out (among his patented intro riff) unique and original guitar solos in simple time, fastening the buckle on his fame and creating one serious whip on the musical industry. While the majority of musically oblivious people would consider this “jukebox” music, they would still understand and recognize the characteristic Chuck Berry riff and its subsequent effect of earworm syndromes.
Every song here is a standalone classic. While they may not have the linear strength to form a cohesive album, all of these greatest hits are all pieced together, making this invaluable. There are many versions of the record, some of which sadly omit the holiday common “Run Rudolph Run”, a Christmas song used favorably in media and movies. Its structure and chords are identical to a previous hit Little Quennie, save for the original lyrics She's too cute to be a minute over seventeen…come on Queenie, lets get with it. Another undisputed masterpiece “Roll Over Beethoven” would be a underrated classic until expanded upon by the Electric Light Orchestra nearly 20 years later. The original version only marked the Billboard chart at 42, but its status and figure to replace classical music into rock and roll became the theme of the century. Its structure is similar to Johnny B Goode, with lyrics that perfectly emulate a fifties diner scene. As long as she got a dime, the music will never stop [die]
Around and Around is the jumpy dance motif of the album, there's also the ethnic humor of Hey Pedro, the casual bar instrumental Blues for Hawaiians and other tracks like Almost Grown and the jungle themed Jo Jo Gune that are all upbeat and warm jazzy numbers. Anthony Boy stole a traditional old folk theme and molded it into a humorous piano honky-tonk of a guitar strumming song. Of all the original hits, the most well known song in history is Johnny B Goode. It’s also quite possibly the greatest song ever made. From its Chuck Berry riff it also has the memorable line “But he could play a guitar just like a ringing a bell.” That very sentence would signify Chuck Berry himself. Its linear progression of band covers aims through the Beatles, Elvis Presley, AC/DC, Judas Priest, even NOFX and Bad Religion, not to forget Michael J Fox’s Marty McFly cover in Back to the Future. From any standpoint, Chuck Berry Is On Top is the epitome of original rock and roll. What we have here didn't only prepare the way for rock and roll to evolve, it inspired nearly every shade of rock music seen today.
i really liked this review. its nice to read a piece where the reviewer understands rock n roll, its influences, and the long reach of guys like Berry, Richard, Presley, Lewis, and of course more. if a person can understand this music they can go just about anywhere else with their own, no matter if its the rock genre(s) or otherwise. the spirit of the music is as important as its licks imo
for those who may not have seen it, the film "Hail Hail Rock 'n Roll" is a great film which chronicles chuck in all his temperamental glory getting ready to honor himself for a 60th Birthday gig. keith richards gets the call as arranger and bandleader, and chuck just won't have any of it. chuck is a pro and has played it his way all his life, but keith is more a pro in the discipline of being a musician playing with others, and giving musical space and consideration. as a guy who tours alone in his car, pops his guitar out of his trunk, and takes the stage with a band of strangers he never met in each town, chuck will have none of it. he is chuck berry, and he plays his way and everyone else follows.
well, not this time. and the clashes between he and richards are glorious, as richards wants to kick the butt of his biggest influence as a guitar player and all time hero, and chuck would like to do the same. its as real as it gets
good music all over this film, and its an interesting look into what it takes to prepare a band in a short time for a gig and shows how even this "simple" music played by a band of professionals takes time, dedication, and most of all a certain undefinable spirit to get it right. here is more for those interested. take time and read the user reviews if you doubt me...