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Fats DominoWith skinny singers like Elvis Presley and hyperkinetic guitar heroes like Chuck Berry competing for the public's attention, it was perhaps inevitable that Fats Domino would get short shrift when the history of rock 'n' roll was written. And he has. Fats was a pioneer of rock as much as those sexy and svelte rockers, but just because he didn't (or couldn't) leap off his piano stool like Jerry Lee Lewis, he seldom makes the highlight reel of rock. More than anyone (save his producer and songwriting partner Dave Bartholomew), Fats was responsible for creating the rollicking New Orleans sound, and he racked up dozens of lubricious, piano-pounding hits during the late 1950's. But, that was a long time ago, and Fats was an old man by the time he recorded his first (and only) Christmas album.

A genuinely disappointing album, Christmas Is A Special Day (The Right Stuff, 1993) was apparently cut by the usually irrepressible Mr. Domino during a severe episode of narcolepsy. "Somnambulant" hardly describes the lack of energy herein, and after two mildly entertaining original numbers ("I Told Santa Claus" and the title song), Antoine dives into an altogether predictable program of holiday standards. Even worse, the entire album are marred by the cheesiest synthesizers this side of Wisconsin. Seriously - most of it sounds like it was recorded on a Casio SK-210 that Fats picked up on a lark in the early 80's.

Fats Domino According to the album credits, actual people played actual instruments (guitars, horns, drums) on the record, but the plonky keyboard sounds and robotic drum tracks had me believing otherwise. Fats produced the album himself (Bartholomew was long dead), so he has only himself to blame. Add to that stubbornly unimaginative arrangements (by Wardel Kazen) and Fats' own drowsy vocals, and Christmas Is A Special Day is finally swamped by its own inertia.

Now, I love Fats as much as anyone - truly, I do. Songs like "Blue Monday" and "I'm Walking" are true pillars of rock 'n' roll. But, simply put, Christmas Is A Special Day is worth owning only if you're a completist maniac... like me.

By the way, the album was rechristened Christmas Gumbo when reissued by Right Stuff (a Capitol Records subsidiary) in 1999. The front and back cover shots were transposed, and the liner notes were truncated, but the track listing remained the same. Another song, "Every Heart Is Home At Christmas," showed up as the b-side of a 1997 single ("Frosty The Snowman") extracted from the album. In 2006, the album was reissued yet again, this time by CSP Records under the original title with a new cover. [top of page]

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  • Christmas Is A Special Day
  • I Told Santa Claus

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