The apple may not fall far from the tree but every once in a while it bounces a little. Louis Prima Jr. has just released his debut album, which would have made his famous dad proud.
Louis Prima was a larger than life entertainer who was an energetic performer and recording artist who sold tens of millions of records. He fused big band and jazz music into a unique mix and, with and without vocalist Keely Smith, produced a sound that was perfect for the Las Vegas stage.
Prima Jr. has now taken a number of his father’s best known songs and combined them with a few deeper tracks from his dad’s extensive catalogue of music to form the basis for his first album. He is supported by a tight band that is the product of years of touring. In addition, he is wise enough to complement his own vocals with Sarah Spiegel, which gives it a Keely Smith dynamic.
The album’s title, Return Of The Wildest!, pays homage to his father’s 1956 Grammy Hall Of Fame album The Wildest. He does not just reproduce the music note for note but instead updates it. While the brass is still present, the bass, drum, keyboards, and guitar add a rock element to the mix. It all adds up to a modernized Prima sound.
Right from the opening track, the energy is present. “Oh Babe” was written by his father and here the sax and guitar mix supports his vocal as it builds to a crescendo of what can best be described as swing rock. The old classic, “Night Train,” succumbs to a slowed down and bluesy interpretation.
The tracks that feature Spiegel as a vocalist lend an added dimension to the music. Her voice is a clear and powerful instrument that can be both rock and sultry at the same time. “A Sunday Kind of Love,” “I Want You to Be My Baby,” and “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me” all demonstrate her importance to the overall sound.
The final two tracks, “Jump, Jive an’ Wail” and “Just a Gigolo-I Ain’t Got Nobody” would be equally at home in the Vegas casino or in the smoky speakeasy. Like many of the tracks, they were recorded just about live in the studio and are a fine presentation of his stage act.
Thirty-four years after Prima Sr. passed away, his son has revitalized his legacy with a reimaging of his music. It will make you want to dance, jump, jive, and wail.
Article first published as Music Review: Louis Prima Jr. – Return Of The Wildest! on Blogcritics.