Friday, December 3, 2010

Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll. The Ultimate Collector's Edition - 4 DVD Set

Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll. The Ultimate Collector's Edition - 4 DVD Set
Antonio G. Pereira © 2010 Antonio G. Pereira

This is nothing short of a masterpiece! Expertly put together, well thought out, and obviously done with a real love and deep respect for the subject; Chuck Berry. How can you think of the United States, American Culture, and not think of Chuck Berry? Impossible!! Director, Writer and Producer Taylor Hackford (Ray, La Bamba, An Officer and A Gentleman), has done one hell of a job. The 4 DVD Set begins with the original theatrically released film, Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, digitally and beautifully remastered on Disc 1, with superb sound. Disc 2 contains some wonderful rehearsal footage of Chuck Berry jamming with the musicians that would comprise the backing band at the concert; everybody playing their asses off and enjoying themselves while doing it. (One thing which is very clear throughout this set is an obvious genuine friendship between Chuck and Keith Richards.) There is also an hour long documentary, 'The Reluctant Movie Star', in which Taylor Hackford relates the circumstances under which he had to work with Chuck. That is a story in itself, and much of it raises the hair on the back of one's neck, as well as makes you chuckle. Co-producer (along with Taylor Hackford and Chuck Berry) Stephanie Bennett (Producer and Founder of Delilah Films, who made this film, as well as "Endless Harmony" The Beach Boys Story, The Doors: Live In Europe 1968, The Compleat Beatles), discusses her stormy relationship with Chuck Berry during the making of the film. Taylor does some very good, very useful, and very informative introductions before each section on each DVD, to set everything up. Disc 3 begins with, Witnesses To History #1, a frank and fascinating discussion between Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley, about the conditions under which Black Rock Musicians had to work in 1950s America. This is followed by, The Burnt Scrapbook; Chuck reminiscing with Robbie Robertson (formally with The Band), while going through a giant scrapbook of photographs that cover his life and career. And finally on Disc 3 is, Chuckisms; which starts with Taylor Hackford giving examples of Chuck Berry's masterful use of lyrics, especially when singing about that great American favourite, cars. This is immediately followed by Chuck (still talking to Robbie Robertson, who now has an acoustic Folk guitar) discussing his love of poetry; as he begins to recite a gorgeous and deeply moving poem (with Robbie accompanying beautifully on guitar), 'This too shall pass away' by American Newspaper Editor, Poet and Abolitionist Theodre Tilton (This poem is among a collection of beautiful poetry in the final chapter of Chuck Berry's autobiography). Chuck Berry, being the wise sage he is, foresaw that in writing his own story himself, subsequent 'biographies' about him, would automatically be compared to his autobiography; and any shortcomings, ulterior motives, juvenile immaturity, or outright predjudices being masked as 'scholarship', would immediately become apparent. {Here is a link to the poem, which is located in a marvelous Poetry blog: } And finally, we have Disc 4, which begins with, Witnesses To History #2; a massive 3 and a half hour segment of individual interviews with, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, The Everly Brothers, Willie Dixon, Roy Orbison, Sam Phillips and Ahmet Ertegun. This is the crowning jewel of the Box Set. Interviews by Taylor Hackford with a large number of the major Artists, Songwriters and Producers of Rock and Roll, from it's inception in the 1950s. This will bring back memories for those who are old enough to remember, and will be very informative and valuable for those who are just learning about the Roots of American Rock Music, and how it all began. To end the 4 Disc Set, Taylor Hackford does a final Commentary, Taylor Hackford's Final Words; where he talks about his reasons for doing this set, and the aftermath of the movie, Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll. He also talks of his love for Chuck Berry, which is obvious. This is a wonderfully packaged set with a very colourful, almost three dimensional picture of Chuck Berry with his guitar on the cover. I find it rather ironic that Writer Michael Lydon, ended up doing the liner notes to this DVD Set, as he is an example of the type of 'Journalists' that Chuck Berry talks about in detail, in Chapter Twenty, 'Heros and No-Nos', in his book, Chuck Berry: The Autobiography. Published by Harmony Books/New York. And after all these decades, Michael Lydon still doesen't get it. (Read about his 1968 'encounter' with Chuck Berry, out at Berry Park; in Lydon's collection of writings, Rock Folk: portraits from the Rock 'n' Roll pantheon. Published by Delta Books/New York.) Chuck Berry is an American Treasure, and a true reflection of American Culture and everything it represents. In the end, it will be his historical influence that will inform, and Taylor Hackford's 4 Disc Masterpiece will be a major part of that.

Antonio G. Pereira

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