Monday, September 24, 2007

Fats Domino tribute released with two Robert Plant tracks

On a new two-CD collection produced both as a tribute to 79-year-old singer/songwriter Fats Domino and also to benefit the music culture in New Orleans, Robert Plant lends his vocals to two cover songs.

Domino, a New Orleans native who lost his home to Hurricane Katrina two years ago, has been recording since the late 1940s. He earned his first pop hit in the United States and England in 1955 with "Ain't That a Shame." John Lennon's cover version of the song, originally released 20 years later, now exists as the appropriate choice to open the tribute album released tomorrow in the United States.

As for Plant's involvement in the project, New York Times reporter Nate Chinen tells the story in an article published on Saturday: Plant had first agreed to contribute only one song for the compilation, a version of Domino's 1961 single "It Keeps Rainin'." However, one was not enough; he chose to record another, engaging in an impromptu recording session with a large vocal ensemble dropping in from another continent.

In April recording sessions attended in person by Domino, Plant committed both songs to tape during a three-day visit to New Orleans. For "It Keeps Rainin'," he was assisted by the Cajun sounds of the accordion-wielding Lil' Band O' Gold, a swamp-pop group from the southern Louisiana town of Lafayette. Plant and the band laid down their rendition on Thursday, April 19, according to Scott Jordan in a blurb for Lafayette's Independent Weekly and Keith Spera in a blog entry for The Times-Picayune.

Spera adds that following the recording session, Plant stopped by three New Orleans concert venues to take in some live performances. One of the acts he watched was Lil' Band O' Gold member Steve Riley's other band, the Mamou Playboys, performing at the Mid-City Lanes Rock 'n Bowl. Plant also listened to local mainstays The Trio at the Maple Leaf.

At Tipitina's, the top-billed act was not an area group but the 26-member Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa. During their stay, they were ushered into a recording studio with Plant to record an impromptu cover of "Valley of Tears." In the original version, released 1957, Fats Domino was assisted by a pop choir and saxophone solo. However, the only musical accompaniment in the new recording of that song comes from some light percussion. Plant provides two verses of restrained vocals in this track, which stretches just barely over two minutes in length.

While it might be construed as an atypical combination of forces to outsiders, at least one person familiar with the New Orleans music scene was quoted in the New York Times piece as declaring Plant's recording session with the Soweto Gospel Choir was commonplace. “So you have the Led Zeppelin guy with a South African gospel choir doing a Fats Domino song,” said Bill Taylor, executive director of the Tipitina's Foundation and executive producer of the double album. “It’s an example of what happens here musically every day.”

Plant and Domino met again in the afternoon on Saturday, April 21, before the British singer joined the Lil' Band of Gold onstage for a half hour at Tipitina's. They were reported to have played both "It Keeps Rainin'" and "Valley of Tears," in addition to a few Elvis Presley songs, the blues song "Hoochie Coochie Man" made famous by Muddy Waters, and snippets of Led Zeppelin songs.

Led Zeppelin fans may best know Domino as the author of the song "Blueberry Hill," famous for a performance as an encore at a single Zep show 37 years ago this month. An unsanctioned recording of the concert by an audience member was released in the 1970s without authorization of the band, making it one of the very earliest bootlegs of a rock concert ever produced.

The double album, Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino, is to be released Sept. 25 by Vanguard Records. It is not the first musical release for which proceeds benefit the Tipitina's Foundation. It is preceded by Domino's independently released 2006 album, Alive and Kickin'.

1 comment:

  1. Here are the full track annotations for Robert Plant's two songs, taken from the liner notes:

    Robert Plant with Lil Band O' Gold
    (Domino-Bartholomew-Guidry) EMI Unart Catalog Inc.
    Robert Plant - vocals
    Warren Storm - drums
    CC Adcock - guitar
    Steve Riley - accordion
    David Egan - piano
    Dave Ranson - bass
    Dickie Landry - alto saxophone
    Pat Breaux - tenor saxophone
    Derek Huston - baritone saxophone
    Produced by Robert Plant and CC Adcock
    Recorded by Mike Napolitano
    Mixed by Mike Napolitano and CC Adcock with great assistance from David Rachou and Chris Finney
    Recorded at The Music Shed and The Nappy Dugout, New Orleans

    Robert Plant and The Soweto Gospel Choir
    (Domino-Bartholomew) Travis Music Co. BMI
    Robert Plant - vocals
    Sipho Ngcamu - percussion
    Original Msimango - percussion
    Lucas Bok - Soweto Gospel Choir Director
    Produced by Robert Plant and Chris Finney
    Engineered by Chris Finney at The Music Shed, New Orleans
    Assisted by Mike Dorsey


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