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Documentary looking back at the birth of rock 'n' roll with specific reference to Fats Domino and his band.
Following Capitol/EMI's last Fats Domino CD compilation (Fats Domino Jukebox: 20 Greatest Hits the Way You Originally Heard Them) by five years, 2007's Greatest Hits: Walking to New Orleans betters that comp in terms of sheer numbers (as it does 1990s My Blue Heaven) by ten tracks and this is a case when more is indeed more. Ten tracks is enough to offer depth, particularly in his earliest sides but also with a couple lesser-known hits from his rock & roll prime, turning this into a joyous overview of one of the greatest musicians of the '50s. It's nice to have this hit the pre-rock & roll and R&B a bit harder -- "Ain't That a Shame" doesn't roll around 'til track six, then it's another ten before "Blueberry Hill" kicks off the string of crossovers -- because it illustrates how hard this rocker, who often gets pigeonholed as merely a genial piano player, really rocked. And though he cut other great material during his Imperial Records stint, it is surely one of the most consistent bodies of work in rock & roll/R&B, heard to full effect either in the four-disc Walking to New Orleans or the complete Bear Family box: for those who don't want or need to delve that deeply, or are just beginning to explore, this is nothing less than essential. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
UK reissue from EMI Gold. This collection showcases his inimitable boogie-woogie piano style through 20 of his best known and most successful tracks. Features rare photographs and extensive sleevenotes. 2004.
A generous 32-track single-disc overview of Fats Domino's first six years of recording, Fat Man's Frenzy stops just short of "Blueberry Hill," the song that sent Domino to international stardom in 1956. What's immediately obvious about these Imperial recordings, which reach back to "The Fat Man" from 1949, is how uptempo most of them are. The easy sliding, midtempo Fats style of "Blueberry Hill" and "Walking to New Orleans" hadn't quite codified yet, and most of these tracks move along briskly on Domino's stripped-down Big Easy piano playing and producer Dave Bartholemew's loose-limbed and sympathetic arrangements. While a little of the familiar Fats comes through in his laconic Creole vocals on cuts like "Little Bee" and "Blue Monday," most of what is collected here isn't exactly laid-back, and a couple of the instrumentals, like the title tune and "Swanee River Hop," are downright freight trains at full throttle. "Ain't That a Shame" (called here by its original title, "Ain't It a Shame") is here, a song that is almost as much a signature for Domino as "Blueberry Hill," and it remains a New Orleans R&B classic. This set doesn't make an ideal starting point for listeners interested in Fats Domino simply because his later, better-known hits aren't here, but it is still a wonderful collection, and no Fats fan will be disappointed by it. ~ Steve Leggett
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