Fats Domino, They Call Me the Fat Man…The Legendary Imperial Recordings (EMI Records)

Any attempt to review Fats Domino’s material in the conventional sense (“Mr. Domino’s failure to address the needs of urban youth, coupled with his advocacy of seeking ‘thrills’ on hills, is troublesome”) would be preposterous. His music has been lauded since before this writer was born; it is universally regarded as one of the roots from which all pop music stems, and Fats has already been inducted into the un-built Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Instead, the boxed set must be judged as a contemporary documentation of Domino’s vast contributions. As such, it works.

Because the material on the four CDs is arranged chronologically by recording date, the listener is able to follow the progression of studio technology. “The Fat Man,” Domino’s first single (released in 1950), sounds as if it were recorded on one track (according to the liner notes, it was). By the time “Ain’t It A Shame” was laid down in 1955, vast improvements had been made: a brighter, richer, bigger sound quality is obvious. All the major hits are here, but as the 100 songs (most of them in the two minute range) roll by, lesser known gems, such as the rave-up instrumental “Swanee River Hop” and the ragtime-ish “When I See You,” turn up.

Since the original 45s have accumulated 30 years of dust and scratches by now, the laser technology is a welcome relief from the static. But it also begs the question: how much better would this stuff be if it were recorded today? The answer is probably not much. It was born before rock inevitably grew up and developed a conscience and an attitude. It was simple and fun. And Fats was the man.