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IMPERIAL 5114; FEBRUARY 1951

 
 

 

It’s been just over one full year since Antoine “Fats” Domino exploded onto the national scene with a massive trendsetting hit.

Since that time he’s kind of regressed.

He’s definitely regressed in terms of widespread appeal, with only one of his subsequent singles hitting big outside his home state of Louisiana where he’s remained a star of the highest magnitude.

But he’s also regressed artistically a little, though when you fall off after one of the greatest debuts in rock history you still probably aren’t releasing much that could be called worthless.

This release won’t reverse either of those trends and though it remains fairly good what it shows is that forging a musical identity, even for someone as unique as Fats Domino, is never quite as simple as it may appear.
 

 

Ain’t No Days Like That
There’s a few landmines in that opening section – and in the review to follow – that I’m sure the Domino contingent (of which I am one, lest there be any doubt) might take umbrage with, so let’s sort that out first so nobody focuses on what they THINK is being suggested with what actually is being said.

Domino’s 1950 releases were, on the whole, just slightly above average for the day, at least according to our admittedly subjective metrics (5.5 average score). Yet four of them were certainly good enough to be legitimate hits and since he had just five releases for the year that is a great ratio and which matters a lot more in terms of perception than tallying up all of the B-sides to pull the overall grade back down.

Yet for some reason after The Fat Man seemed poised to make him an indisputable star from coast to coast he was having a bit of trouble stirring sustained interest outside of New Orleans, a city which always had a strong allegiance to home grown acts. Only his last release of the year, Every Night About This Time, managed to make the national charts.

So as 1951 began – not having any idea of what was to follow of course – you wouldn’t be considered a skeptic or too harsh a critic for suggesting that (unfair though it might be) maybe Domino was destined to be primarily a big local act with only sporadic national interest.

It would happen to a lot of his peers after all – Smiley Lewis most prominently – and so what you’re desperately hoping for this time around (hell, what I’M hoping for, even though I already know the eventual outcome of his career) is that Domino re-states his credentials for stardom loud and clear so that the end result is inevitable rather than still uncertain.

Unfortunately Tired Of Crying is most assuredly not it. In fact, though it isn’t bad, in many ways it’s a giant step backwards when it comes to trying to establish Fats’s stylistic persona.

Without that crucial element in place the chances for a sustained breakthrough on a national level will remain elusive for awhile longer.
 


 
 

Your Turn To Cry For Me
The concept of this record is a little deeper than many of Domino’s first outpouring of songs which were largely built around just a vocal hook with bare bones lyrics to flesh them out.

By contrast Tire Of Crying features a poignant story that has subtle depth to it in regards to presenting a realistic state of mind. While some of the lyrics and their flow are kind of choppy you never lose sight of his meaning.

He’s hurt by the mistreatment of his girlfriend or wife and while he’s not vowing any type of vengeance he is promising her that he’s going to start acting the same as she has and not feel any remorse over it.

Essentially it’s a “let’s see how you like it” response and while simplistic and maybe a little childish, it’s also something that’s easy to relate to. The pain in his voice is palpable and there’s a mixture of hurt and sadness even as he’s trying to regain the upper hand in the relationship that makes this connect emotionally more than it may appear to on paper.

All of it decent enough on its own. But where it gives back some of that is in its advancement of Domino’s career.

Though Fats handles this well, wrote it himself and embodies the character well enough, it’s not a record that plays to his particular strengths. Normally that’s not the worst thing for an artist to do somewhere along the way, especially when it comes to trying showcasing their diversity, but one of the most crucial elements of this entire project is found in the way it’s laid out – chronologically.

Songs aren’t cherry picked here, they’re presented in the order they were released for a reason… and that reason is context.

In early 1951 Domino was someone who had yet to solidify his standing as a commercial artist, assuring Imperial that he was someone who would be guaranteed a consistent response with each subsequent release which would be less contingent on the individual components of every single, but instead would be based in large part on the widespread expectation that this was someone worth seeking out.

But he’s not at that stage yet and this record, downhearted and with a greater emphasis on guitar than piano and horns, only confuses matters for listeners still unsold on his potential.
 


 

Gotta Reap Just What You Sow
We get the familiar piano opening, left hand triplets and a simple right hand progression, along with some lightly droning horns behind him, but it’s Papoose Nelson’s guitar’s accent notes that are far more prominent in the arrangement than we’d expect.

Not necessarily a bad thing overall if it was added to a more dynamic track, but everything is locked into such a rigid and basic formula that there’s nothing to focus on BUT that guitar, especially when it gets the solo which itself is pretty basic and uninspiring.

What makes Domino’s records stand out – and what gave them the greatest chance TO stand out in this landscape – was how intoxicatingly complex they usually were, even as their surface appearance was one of straightforward simplicity.

The interlocking pieces, the vibrant horn flourishes and solos, the rollicking piano, the undertow bass and addicting back beat are all absent on Tired Of Crying because of the type of song it is. They weren’t wrong to downplay those elements with this material, but rather the material wasn’t up to snuff for the A-side of a single when Domino was still hit or miss in the marketplace.

It’s a missed opportunity and though we know that Domino won’t lack for more opportunities in the future, at the time that was hardly a sure thing. His own labelmate Jewel King saw her career end abruptly despite a catalog that was – to this point anyway – more or less equal to his. We tend to just assume that Fats Domino’s stardom was never in doubt but there were no guarantees in any of this and so each single had to maximize their chances at continuing this ride for as long as they could.

This would’ve made for an ideal B-side to an uptempo rocker, a chance for Fats to show he was more than a single note performer. But it’s a bad choice for what this single needed to accomplish at this stage of the game, both in a commercial sense as well as a creative one.

Certainly good enough to admire for what it does reasonably well, but not nearly enough to elevate his standing which remains shakier than we’d like to see for someone so talented.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUANCY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Fats Domino for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)