Various Artists
" Goin' Home: A Tribute To Fats Domino "
Vanguard Records

NOLA Artists Score, Stars Train Wreck, (01/09/08)

NOLA Artists Score, Stars Train Wreck, (01/09/08) Fats Domino donated the sales of his Alive and Kickin' CD to the Tipitina's Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that has dedicated itself to the preservation of musical and cultural legacy of the New Orleans, Louisiana, area. The Tipitina's Foundation decided to return Fats' favor, thus Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino is a two-CD set filled with an all-star cast of musicians. Fats has long been considered a cultural icon of New Orleans history and it was no surprise that a bevy of artists jumped on board to cover the Fatman's classic tunes.

On the negative side are the international stars like Elton John, who does an awful cover of "Blueberry Hill"; Paul McCartney, who does not make the cut with his take of "I Want To Walk You Home"; and, Neil Young, who sounds so inappropriate trying to make "Walking To New Orleans" sound meaningful. Willie Nelson's take on "I Hear You Knockin'" is listless, Tom Petty sounds lost on "I'm Walkin,'" and Toots and the Maytals sound way out of place on their attempt to make "Let The Four Winds Blow" into a Reggae song.

Those who fare much better are the delightful coupling of Taj Mahal with the New Orleans Social Club on "My Girl Josephine" And speaking of the Social Club, George Porter Jr. is reunited with Zigaboo Modeliste, along with the great Herbie Hancock, on "I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday," which works far better than I expected. Big Easy stalwarts the Dirty Dozen Brass Band are joined by fellow Louisiana guitar great Buddy Guy and the young Joss Stone on a nice cover of "Every Night About This Time" and B.B. King mostly fits in with Ivan Neville's dumpstaphunk on "Goin' Home."

The two main highlights come from different geographic regions as the Los Angeles-based Los Lobos delivers a powerful rendition of "The Fat Man" that will bowl you over. The other sort of comes from the city limits of New Orleans with a little bit of a horn and vocal twist, as Trombone Shorty's previous boss Lenny Kravitz funks real hard through "Whole Lotta Loving" with Troy Trombone Shorty and the Rebirth Brass Band in tow. Plus for an extra measure of solid Funk, the producers had the great sense to add to the mix the JB Horns of Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, and the illustrious Maceo Parker, making this the killer track and absolute standout of this entire two-CD set. Now, here's a thought, with Jazz Fest 2008 looming how cool would it be if Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis put this band together for this year's festivities? As this unique band genuinely mixes various cultural artists (Lenny Kravitz and the JB Horns) with Big Easy mainstays (Rebirth and Trombone Shorty) and what is so important is that they maintain their Crescent City horn Funk authenticity. Could be sweet for Jazz Fest and damn funky, too!

The CD closes with one of New Orleans' many anthems, "When the Saints Go Marching In," with New Orleans legend Walter "Wolfman" Washington, the Preservation Hall Band, and Theresa Andersson, which makes for an appropriate finale for this very diverse box set.

I guess there is a little of something here for everyone to enjoy, especially the positive tracks I mentioned, and even though the mega-stars mostly fail to deliver the real goods, at least they will help turn on a larger audience to the legacy of Fats Domino and the great music of New Orleans. Plus the proceeds of Goin' Home will be distributed to the very good folks at the Tipitina's Foundation who will, without doubt, appropriately spread the proceeds to those in need.

Bob Putignano: