Fats Domino

The Fat Man [Disky]

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This is a great yet maddeningly frustrating triple-CD set from Holland's Disky label, which has made a habit of licensing odd, unusual, and forgotten parts of various star performers' catalogs (for example, their Hollies best-of is about the cheapest and easiest way of obtaining the 1973 single "The Baby"). Sixty-one of the 63 tracks here represent Fats Domino's complete output on the ABC-Paramount label. Anyone reading this who isn't aware that Fats was on ABC-Paramount can be forgiven for not knowing. He was signed to the label from 1963 through 1967, not exactly prime years in his career, and given all of the activity going on elsewhere in music during those years, one would had to have been the biggest New Orleans music freak going to follow his output that closely. What makes this so tragic is that the Fat Man was delivering music that, for the most part, note for note and nuance for nuance, was every bit the equal of his best work for Imperial Records. The material is in stereo, and it's more opulently produced than his classic work, with female choruses backing him up in a few places where he doesn't need them. But the man at the center of the songs is the same. One of the many delights here is "Land of 1000 Dances," with the words intact, and it's pretty cool to hear it sung properly for a change (the "naa-na-na-na-naaa-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-naa" was a result of a cover band forgetting the lyrics). The poppy "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" may not be a high point in the man's recording career, but he makes up for it on the next song, "You Know I Miss You." And "Fats on Fire," the instrumental title track from his second ABC-Paramount album, is a good dance tune. "Land of Make Believe," an attempt to do a latter-day "Blueberry Hill," works beautifully despite the overproduction, and the next number, "Old Man Trouble," brings us back to the Fats Domino of the 1950s -- and that's pretty much the spirit of this collection. The bad news is that Disky, in keeping with its budget-priced mentality, has put this material out without a single word of annotation, a session date, or even an attribution of the original release dates. It's still the perfect addendum to the Bear Family box Out of New Orleans, covering the period immediately adjacent to that multi-disc set's contents. Licensed directly from Fats Domino, the ABC material comes with a pair of bonus tracks, "I'm Walkin' 1990" and "Blueberry Hill 1990." Dating from 25 years or more after the bulk of the material here, they show a darker, weaker voice, but with the style still intact.