Chuck Berry’s long-gestating final studio album “Chuck” has been set for release on June 16, and the first track, “Big Boys,” featuring guests Tom Morello and Nathaniel Rateliff, is available to give listeners their first sample of the forthcoming work.
The cut opens with a quintessential electric guitar riff echoing Berry’s signature song “Johnny B. Goode” and is propelled by a rollicking rhythm track supplied by the band that had been backing him for much of the last two decades while he was still performing in his hometown of St. Louis.
In his lyric, Berry reflects on feeling left on the outside by older mates while growing up and engages in some of his charactersitic wordplay, exploring the “where, what, when and why” and “ifs, ands or buts” of his dilemma from long ago.
Berry, who died Saturday at 90, wrote eight of the 10 songs on “Chuck” and produced the album, which will be released by Dualtone Records. The label announced the project last fall to commemorate Berry’s 90th birthday on Oct. 18.
Singer-guitarist Gary Clark Jr. also has a guest appearance on the album that also features Berry’s son, Charles Berry Jr., and grandson, Charles Berry III.
“Working to prepare the release of this record in recent months and in fact over the last several years brought him a great sense of joy and satisfaction,” Berry’s family said in a statement issued on Facebook this week.
“While our hearts are very heavy at this time,” the statement continued, “we know that he had no greater wish than to see this album released to the world, and we know of no better way to celebrate and remember his 90 years of life than through his music.”
He had begun work on the album in the 1980s and continued until health issues forced him to quit touring and recording in 2015, his family said.
Among the final songs he wrote is “Lady B. Goode,” a sequel to his early rock hit. In a statement last fall, Berry said the album is a tribute to his wife of 68 years, Themetta Berry, adding to the family-affair flavor surrounding the project.
“This record is dedicated to my beloved Toddy,” Berry’s statement said, using her nickname. “My darlin’ I’m growing old! I’ve worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!”
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