Herb Hardesty & His Band

The Domino Effect: Wing and Federal Recordings 1958-61

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Just the first paragraph of the liner notes to this CD is enough to make you wonder why Herb Hardesty isn't in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the sideman category, as he played saxophone on numerous Fats Domino classics including "I'm Walkin'," "Blue Monday," and "The Fat Man" (as well as Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy"). He also did some recordings on his own, with this anthology collecting 20 tracks he cut between 1958 and 1961. The first dozen have never been heard before this compilation, as they were recorded in 1958 (with a lineup including fellow New Orleans sax legend Alvin "Red" Tyler) for an album for Mercury's Wing subsidiary that never came out; the others appeared on obscure singles between 1959 and 1962 (though the final one, "Just a Little Bit of Everything," is an alternate take, as the master tape for the original 45 is lost). All are instrumental, with the exception of a couple songs featuring vocals by Walter "Papoose" Nelson.

Although Hardesty was undeniably a first-rate talent -- one listen to the sax on any of the aforementioned hits by other artists will confirm that -- these recordings are ordinary R&B/rock instrumentals, sometimes with a pronounced Latin feel. They'd be OK for background listening or warm-up dancing in a club, but they really don't have much going for them as interesting compositions (all were written or co-written by Hardesty, though he sometimes gave the credit to his son Michael). As generic music capturing the atmosphere of the time, they do fill the bill, whether it's the smoky sax on the ballad "Soft Lights," or the walking beat on more uptempo party numbers like "Feelin' Good." "Bouncing Ball" in particular echoes the arrangements on Fats Domino hits like "I'm Walkin'," though things usually tend toward a slightly jazzier, less rock-oriented mood. The thorough liner notes give a good account of Hardesty's career as a whole, not just the period covered by the material on this collection.

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