Time Life presents
Fats & Friends (1986)
"Jambalaya, crawfish pie, filé gumbo
'Cause tonight I'm gonna see my cher amio
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar, and be gay-oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou."- Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles, on the chorus of Hank Williams' Jambalaya
Stars: Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles
Other Stars: Paul Shaffer, Ron Wood
Director: Len Dell'Amico
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 00h:58m:27s
Release Date: 2007-03-06
DVD ReviewIf you can judge a man by his friends, Fats Domino is just about the finest guy around. (The same could be said if you were to judge a man by his musical ability.) This brief 1986 concert film, produced originally for Cinemax, brings together arguably the three best rock and roll pianists of all time, and it's simply a delight to listen to them put some of their greatest hits through their paces.
The concert was shot in a New Orleans bar, and your host is Paul Shaffer, in full unshaven Late Night glory. Domino kicks it off, and the intimate venue brings out the best in him—he gets the audience to sing along on one of his signature songs, Blueberry Hill, and he delivers a great, cheery version of Shake, Rattle and Roll as well. It's ahistorical, obviously, but post-Katrina, there's a new poignancy to Walking to New Orleans, especially from this son of the Crescent City. And Shaffer leads the able backup band, featuring Rolling Stone Ron Wood.
Fats gives way to the Killer—Jerry Lee Lewis's set opens with a lukewarm newer song called I Am What I Am, and then rips into his two best-known tunes, Great Balls of Fire and Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On. How could you not love this stuff? Shaffer and Wood then lead the band in a throwaway number, followed by an abbreviated set from the Genius—it's Ray Charles, going uptempo with I've Got a Woman, and a bit more downbeat with Drown in My Own Tears.
You're sort of waiting for them all, then, to get together, and they do—though the finale is Swanee River Rock, the apex of the set is probably Hank Williams' Jambalaya, which they had all recorded, and on which they each take a verse. The concert is shot unobtrusively, though it feels a little truncated—the only real quibble with this DVD is that the running time isn't longer.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: An adequate if unremarkable transfer; contrast is high and the resolution could certainly be better.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Not a lot of dynamic range—Domino's stride style of playing produces some awful buzz—but the music sounds all right, which is certainly the point.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 20 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Paul Shaffer has been newly interviewed for a set (51m:06s) of eight featurettes, which is little more than assembled rehearsal footage padded out with Shaffer's reminiscences. (He really is looking and sounding more and more like Dr. Evil all the time.) It's great to see the musicians talking shop, but we don't actually get to hear much of it; a lot of the footage is little more than them milling around, doing sound checks, and so on.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsIt doesn't last all that long, but it's a jumping hour of greatest hits from three legendary figures in popular music. Bring your own po'boys.
Jon Danziger 2007-03-05