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Fats Domino

• Various Artists

Antoine "Fats" Domino's inimitable piano style has been described as rollin' boogie woogie and southern fried stride. Whatever you call it, it's one of the sturdiest grooves of modern pop music--insistent triplets skating atop bluesy bass lines, with a shuffling syncopation that as irresistible as crawfish étouffée.

Thirty artists, from Paul McCartney to Lenny Kravitz to Norah Jones, have gathered on this two-disc set to celebrate all things Fats. The occasion is his upcoming 80th birthday, and more poignantly, Domino's return to post-Katrina New Orleans, after it was thought that he had perished in the flood.

Fats visiting with the Beatles in the '60s

After John Lennon's classic amped-up take of "Ain't That A Shame" pops the cork on the affair, the bluesy grooves pour forth in ivory-pounding, horns aplenty blasts by Tom Petty ("I'm Walkin'"), B.B. King ("Goin' Home"), Elton John ("Blueberry Hill"), Paul McCartney & Allen Toussaint ("I Want To Walk You  Home"), Randy Newman ("Blue Monday"--my favorite track on the album), Ben Harper with Skatalite ("Be My Guest"), and Willie Nelson ("I Hear You Knockin'").

There are a few cuts that never quite achieve lift-off (Neil Young's weirdly overwrought "Walking To New Orleans") and some unexpected surprises (Robert Plant with the Soweto Gospel Choir on "Valley Of Tears" and Bruce Hornsby's ripping solo take on "Don't Blame It On Me"), but mostly every artist delivers exactly what the Fat Man ordered. Really, these sturdy songs are pretty hard to mess up. For extra authenticity, fellow New Orleans musicians such as Dr. John, Art Neville, Irma Thomas and Marcia Ball and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band are on hand to keep the party jumping.

The only thing that would've made this better is to have ended it with Fats himself doing a song. • Bill DeMain

[On our Listen page, following the clips from this album, you'll find a few clips from recordings by Mr. Domino.]

younger Fats listen to clips
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