This 2004 Universal CD reissue gives us all 12-tracks of Chuck Berry's much-loved debut album on Chess Records released in the USA in May of 1957, Chess LP 1426. (The UK had to wait until 1958 for an album debut in the shape of "One Dozen Berrys" on Chess HA 2132).
"After School Session" was like a lot of albums in those early pioneering days of rock `n' roll, a collecting together of the A and B sides of market-tested seven-inch singles with some new tracks thrown in to tempt fans and newcomers alike. All 15 tracks here have been remastered for this new reissue, upgraded to their best-ever sound quality from the 1st generation Mono master tapes by Erick Labson of Universal. And a typically bang-up job has been done. Its bonus tracks are 3-sides of three singles in and around the release of the American LP.
The exclusion of "Roll Over Beethoven" as a bonus track is a damn shame especially as there was ample room to include it. Still, with sequencing, the bonus tracks and album now allow you to line up and play both sides of his first six 7" singles on Chess as follows (excluding "Roll Over Beethoven" of course):
1. Maybellene/Wee Wee Hours (1955, Chess 1604)
2. Thirty Days (To Come Back Home)/Together (We'll Always Be) (1955, Chess 1610)
3. No Money Down/Down Bound Train (1956, Chess 1615)
4. Roll Over Beethoven/Drifting Heart (1956, Chess 1626)
5. Too Much Monkey Business/Brown Eyed Handsome Man (1956, Chess 1635)
6. You Can't Catch Me/Havana Moon (1956, Chess 1645)
The booklet exactly reproduces its famous front sleeve on Page 1 with its rear sleeve on the last page of the inlay - a nice touch. In between is a new essay on the album by ANDY McKAIE with the original liner notes also reproduced on Page 9, sessions details etc
The house band for most cuts reads like a roll call of rhythm `n' blues giants; JOHNNIE JOHNSON on Piano, WILLIE DIXON on Bass with FRED BELOW and EBBY HARDY alternating on Drums. OTIS SPANN contributed piano work on "Roly Poly", "No Money Down", "Berry Pickin'" and "You Can't Catch Me". JIMMY ROGERS played chugging-on-the- train-tracks guitar on "Down Bound Train". There are three instrumentals on the album, "Deep Feeling", "Roly Poly (aka Rolli Polli)" and "Berry Pickin'".
It should be noted that even with a remaster, this album is not exactly an audiophile's wet dream! Produced in Chicago, Leonard and Phil Chess laid down these tracks rough and ready! It was all done live of course and more about `feel' than precision. What is wonderful though is to hear these songs again in their original inspiring form and realise what an astonishing influence for good Chuck Berry and his music has been. When you think of every garage band, every bedroom poser, every guitar maestro on the planet and how they all cut their teeth on Chuck Berry songs at some point in their careers - his influence has been little short of World changing. The brevity, the wit and cleverness of the lyrics, the infectiousness of the beat - it's all here! Take "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" for instance - utterly irresistible - 52 years on in some pub somewhere, it's still bringing a smile to punters faces and will see them take to dance floor unable to help themselves!
A fantastic listen then - and an important and timely reissue. Start your journey to the dark side here children - and remember - best not tell your parents the reason for said joy - ROCK 'n' ROLL!!
PS: A few words on the "ROCK 'N' ROLL 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION" Series in general:
It should also be noted that this issue is part of the above named series issued in 2004 by Universal. 'Rock 'N' Roll 50th Anniversary Edition' is a secondary series title and is displayed vertically on the side inlay beneath the see-through tray of each release, but unfortunately, if you try to search the Amazon database for ANY titles under this moniker, it doesn't recognize the 'name' at all.
For those interested in a visual, I've placed a full list of all seven titles in LISTMANIA called "Rock 'N' Roll 50th Anniversary Edition Series". The other six titles are:
1. "Buddy Holly" by BUDDY HOLLY (1958 1st solo LP on Coral, see REVIEW)
2. "Rock Around The Clock" by BILL HALEY & HIS COMETS (ground-breaking 1956 LP, see REVIEW)
3. "The Chirping Crickets" by THE CRICKETS (their debut LP featuring BUDDY HOLLY, see REVIEW)
4. "St. Louis To Liverpool" by CHUCK BERRY (1964 STEREO LP on Chess, see REVIEW)
5. "Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger" by BO DIDDLEY (1960 STEREO Chess LP, see REVIEW)
6. "Rock, Rock, Rock! - Original Soundtrack" by VARIOUS (Chuck Berry, The Flamingos and The Moonglows) (1956 Chess 'Rock'n'Roll Movie Soundtrack LP, see REVIEW)
I bought all 7 of these titles and I can't recommend them enough - each album remastered to superb sound quality, colour artwork lovingly restored and each bolstered up with 3 or 4 relevant single releases from the time (some previously unreleased). Fans of Haley, Holly, The Crickets, Berry, Diddley and Rock'n'Roll in general should quickly acquire all of these exemplary CDs. They make for the best basis of a collection in a minefield of lesser compilations. Enjoy!