[10 June 2014]
Stamping a “Jr.” on the end of a famous name almost instantly implies a lesser version, a sub-par rendering of an icon who could never possibly live up to the original name preceding it. It’s a somewhat egomaniacal thing to do, even more so in the case of entertainers. For the average person, it allows their name to live on through their children. For an entertainer, and a famous one at that, it often sets an impossible standard to which the younger could never possibly hope to exceed (see: Frank Sinatra Jr).
With his second album, Blow, Louis Prima Jr. seeks to replicate the sound and feel perfected by his more famous father in the 1950s. While things start off promisingly enough with the instrumental title track, featuring a wild lead from saxophonist Ted Schumacher, they quickly descend into a pale imitation of the work of Prima Sr. The band (here dubbed the Witnesses, also the name of his father’s band) is able enough and willing to take on a decent big band-style swing tune, but the album’s overall slick production and even slicker playing buffs the raw energy of the elder Prima’s most popular recordings to a glossy shine.
Beyond that, Prima Jr.’s singing voice often oddly resembles Louis Prima doing David Lee Roth doing Louis Prima circa Diamond Dave’s Crazy From The Heat. It’s rather jarring at times and, when the original Louis Prima does make an appearance on the album in a duet with his son (“That’s My Home”), he more than ably outshines the younger performer and leaves the listener wanting more of that wild-style for which he was famous. While the tunes are by no means weak (“Someday”, one of several showcases for Keely Smith stand-in Leslie Spencer, is a particularly fine bluesy number), they have the unmistakable feel of regional dinner theatre: a watered down distillation that, while pleasant and vaguely familiar, is no substitute for the original.