Walking to New Orleans

by: Fats Domino

Of all the early rock & rollers, Fats Domino gets a short shrift. Too easygoing for rockers, too popular for New Orleans R&B devotees, he fell into a middle ground -- a middle ground that was extremely popular at the time, but didn't give him the proper respect within hipster history, probably because his music is just so damn enjoyable. Few musicians have made good music sound so easy, so effortless as Fats, and that's best appreciated in an exhaustive compilation, such as EMI's 2002 box set Walking to New Orleans, because the sheer scope of Fats' accomplishment becomes stunning only at this scale. Sure, it's easy to appreciate the brilliance of Domino on a hits collection, even one as generous as a 20-track collection like My Blue Heaven, but the true scope of his accomplishments becomes clear on a set like this, since there's not a bad cut among these 100 tracks. Yes, some are greater than others, usually the hits, but the momentum never sags because the quality of the material is so strong. Of course, much of this was already heard on the great, seminal box set, 1991's They Call Me the Fat Man, and this collection follows the very flow, the very sequence, of that set to a tee; even the Imperial-aping artwork on the CDs and Jeff Hannusch's liner notes are replicated. There are a few song substitutions along the way, usually skewing toward R&B instead of rock & roll, but the ten or so songs that are different don't affect the overall feel of the box, which remains one of the greatest, most listenable box sets in rock & roll. The biggest difference is in the sound (remastered and bettered, but not so much so that most listeners will notice), the packaging (no longer boxed jewel cases; it's now the easy-to-wear book), and the artwork (based on the beautiful promotional photo of the original, but now uglified with an off-kilter, cartoony illustration), all attempts to modernize the set. These differences are so minimal that anyone who already has They Call Me the Fat Man need not bother with this set, but anyone who missed that should pick up this slightly inferior set since the music is so fresh and good, it transcends any flaws with the packaging. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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