MIKE ZITO AND FRIENDS ‘Rock’n’Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry

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Chuck Berry, the artist, was a genius. We owe just about everything great about rock and roll to Berry (and his pianist/collaborator, Johnnie Johnson). Singer/guitarist Mike Zito pays tribute to the artist on Rock ‘n’ Roll – A Tribute to Chuck Berry.

Zito says the album originated from his time living in St. Louis, Berry’s hometown, where he got to know Berry’s drummer and son. Zito also hoped to introduce Berry’s music to younger fans, who might not be familiar with many of these classic songs. Similarly, Zito features an impressive array of guests across the album, using this as an opportunity to promote lower-profile artists (although there are also big names, like Joe Bonamassa and Luther Dickinson).

Despite the stunning number of guests, Zito is never lost. His vocals and guitar are present on every track, gracefully allowing his collaborators to shine, but also not deferring to anyone. Zito never lets the songs stray too far from the Berry originals, but provides space for different takes on material that is canonically seared into the minds of many.

This album is timeless music respectfully presented by talented artists. Zito uses his visibility not just to honor Berry, but to also re-introduce him to a generation (or two) of fans who might not be familiar with his work, which still stands up remarkably well, all those decades later. Adding on to the good deed, Zito also uses this as an opportunity to showcase contemporary artists who might not be as well-known as they should be (and many of whom have been produced by Zito, like the criminally good Albert Castiglia, who performs Berry’s “30 Days”). Great music and great intentions makes for a beautiful tribute.