Fats Domino

The Legends of New Orleans: Fats Domino Live!

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Fats Domino was 73 years old when he headlined the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2001, a concert that is captured on the 2003 Shout! release Legends of New Orleans: Fats Domino Live! Listening to the album, that fact becomes all the more remarkable, because it hardly sounds like the work of a man in his seventies -- it is robust, lively, and giddy, sounding for all the world like the work of a man in his prime. The only audible drawback is the occasional shortness of breath -- he's not able to finish the last phrase on several songs, most notably on "I'm in Love Again," where each verse ends a cappella. But this is a very minor drawback given that Fats plays these songs at the same tempo and with the same gusto as he did in the '50s. Sure, it helps that he has a crackerjack support band that knows that the key to Fats Domino's music is that it rolls easy but is still earthy, yet the performance wouldn't work if he himself didn't sound engaged and as warm and friendly as he did at his peak. As soon as he starts singing on "I'm Walkin'," it's shocking to hear how little his voice has diminished over the years. It starts the album out on a high note and it never loses momentum. By the time "The Fat Man" arrives toward the end of the set, Fats is still playing with vigor, and his piano sounds as alive as his voice. Really, the worst thing about the record is the audible clipping of stage patter and downtime between songs, with each cut ramming into the next, but that's a minor problem, since the quality of the performances is so consistently good -- as consistent as Fats in his prime. This is truly a surprise, and a delightful one at that. There are a lot of musicians who are still active into their seventies, but few who perform songs at this tempo, or sound as close to their peak as this. Sure, it may not be the first record that you'd put on if you want to hear Fats Domino, but anybody who's been a fan can't help but be delighted by how good this sounds.

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