Of all the early rock & rollers, Fats Domino was the easiest to take for granted, since he made it all seem so easy. Even when it rocked hard, his music was so relaxed, so friendly that it sounded effortless and natural, which was part of the reason that his classic recordings for Imperial in the '50s were so consistently enjoyable. All the hits, many of their flips sides, and most of his album cuts were flat-out fun – maybe not as revolutionary as work by Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and the Everly Brothers, but his body of work for Imperial not only stands proudly next to theirs, but is just as influential. This much is clear after years of hindsight, but in the late '60s he was as passé as any of his peers, even if there were legions of new rockers, from the Beatles to Randy Newman, who were raised on his music.
This box set delivers both a little more and a little less than it promises – though the packaging is so cryptic that it's difficult to say precisely what it does promise. Billed as The Pye Album Collection, it contains ten nicely packaged mini-LP sleeves (each with an appropriate inner sleeve to protect the CD – are you listening, Sony Classical, Rhino Handmade, and Hip-O Select?) representing the group's ten original albums for Pye Records.
Mahal's stint with Warner Bros. was not among his most artistically productive, documenting an era in which he become preoccupied with fusing his brand of blues with Caribbean rhythms and steel drums. This double-CD set contains the entirety of three 1976-1978 LPs for the label, in addition to some unreleased material. Those three LPs – 1976's Music Fuh Ya (Musica Para Tu), 1978's Evolution (The Most Recent), and the 1977 soundtrack to the little-known film Brothers – form most of what's on this compilation. There's a sameness to Mahal's easygoing blues-on-the-beach approach, and a sometimes irritating reliance on Caribbean steel drums for color, that wears down the listener's attention span in such a large dose.