Those of us old enough to remember the antics of trumpeter, vocalist, and clowning entertainer Louis Prima, his wild sax-playing sidekick Sam Butera and the rest of the Witnesses, those of us who remember the impassively stone-faced Keely Smith doing her best to ignore the Prima horseplay, may well find the best thing on Blow, the new album from Louis Prima, Jr. and his version of the Witnesses, the fifth track, “That’s My Home.” That’s because on that track, one of the voices you’re going to hear, one that you can’t help but recognize, is that of the man himself. It is Louis Prima in one of those posthumous duets (à la Natalie and Nat) with Junior through the magic of sampling. And for old timers, this one track is enough, you really don’t need the rest of the album.
That’s not to say there isn’t some good listening. Louis Prima, Jr. is a professional and he’s got a talented group of musicians to work with. It is simply that, for the old-timer in me, Louis Prima is special. Put it down to nostalgia; put it down to Disney’s The Jungle Book. Put it down to whatever you like, Louis Prima may not have been best trumpeter around, he would certainly have had to take a back seat to another gravel-voiced Louis, but if you wanted to see a performer filled with the joy of performing, Prima was primo.
Louis Prima, Jr.’s album captures something of the Prima vibe, but not quite the same level of good time joy. Blow’s 11 tracks include six originals by Louis and members of the Witnesses and one from the album’s producer. They open with the title track, which gives saxophonist Marco Palos an opportunity to explode on the stage with a big tenor solo. Although running only something over two minutes, it may well be the most exciting track on the disc. “Go Let’s Go” offers up a good time New Orleans sound. The later track, titled “New Orleans,” has a catchy hook in the tradition of the best of the New Orleans tunes. “Fame and Glory” has something of a gospel feel. And “Someday” is a soulful ballad for vocalist Leslie Spencer, who is also featured on “I Just Wanna Have Fun.”
They do covers of Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” and Prima senior’s “Robin Hood” from 1944. The Witnesses can swing; they can rock. But for this listener, if I had to make one of those Sophie’s Choices, give me the vintage Prima.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00IZDWZ7K]