Mike Zito has done something very special for his 16th album. to be released on Ruf Records November 1. He invited 21 guest ll guitarists, to join him on Rock N Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry 111One of the guests is Charles Berry III, Chuck Berry’s grandson. Other guests include Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales, Walter Trout, Robben Ford, Sonny Landreth, Luther Dickinson, Albert Castiglia, Anders Osborne, Tinsley Ellis, Ally Venable, and other talented folks. Even Alex Skolnick f from Testament and Richard Fortus of Guns ‘n Roses play parts!
The album includes 20 tracks of Berry’s biggest hits and a few less well-known songs, such as “Downbound Train” and Havana Moon.” But for the most part, any Chuck Berry fan will recognize and love every song.
The album was produced by Zito himself at his own Marz Studio. The basic tracks were recorded and then sent to the guest artists, who gleefully added their own parts and sent them back. The whole process took a year, but the results were certainly worth it! It sounds like one big party.
It all starts out with Charles Berry III playing and singing with Zito on “St. Louis Blues,”, sounding just like his granddad. Then come two major favorites,” Rock and Roll Music “featuring Joanna Connor and a blazing “Jonny B. Goode” with Walter Trout, before Joe Bonamassa absolutely tears up his part on the lesser-known “Wee, Wee Hours.” making it a real album highlight.
Then it’s back to the well-loved “Memphis,” with Anders Osborne and Zito sounding great together before Ryan Perry helps rock out “I Want to Be Your Driver.” “Robbin Ford adds power to the delightful “You Never Can Tell and”Eric Gales helps out on a great version of “Back in the USA”.
“No Particular Place to Go” is such a great song, perfectly suite to Zito and Jeremiah Johnson. Luther Dickenson joins Zito to make “Too Much Monkey Business” sound very Dylan-y while SonnyLandreth adds to the tropical feel of Havana Moon” with its fabulous steel guitar. Next, just hearing that iconic Berry beginning to “Promised Land” is going to make a lot of people smile, and Zito and Tinsley Ellis sound wonderful together and seem to be having such a great time that this one is another feel-good highlight!
“Downbound Train” is lesser-known and unexpected, with its dark tone, so it’s appropriate that it has an unexpected guest, Alex Selnick of thrash metal band Testament provides the perfect accompaniment. Then, Richard Fortus of Guns and Roses proves he can rock out Berry-style on the classic “Maybelline!”
Ally Venable has just the right young blues voice and hot guitar playing for “School Days.” Then, not one but two guests teach a little history with Zito on “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.'” Reelin’ and Rockin;” is a blast with Tommy Castro joining the party with Zito. Next, get ready to “Let it Rock” as Jimmy Vivino, leader of Conan’s house band, guests.
Choosing Albert Castiglia to guest on “thirty Days” was a stroke of genius. The pure joy that shines through as Zito, Castro and a chorus of others perform this song makes it a pleasure , making sure you’re smiling and prepared for the irrepressible “My Ding-a-Ling,” on which Kid Anderson, Zito and the chorus of grown men all sound like extremely talented and gleeful little boys! I defy you not to laugh.
With this album, Mike Zito and his friends do exactly what Chuck Berry did: Deliver an album that wows listeners not by technology but by skill, a lot of laughs, plenty of chances to boogie, and boundless enthusiasm. Chuck would be so proud!