For a while, Louis Prima Jr. resisted the call of the wild. The only son of the celebrated Vegas headliner, Prima Jr. fronted a locally successful rock outfit in his 20s and continued to dabble in music while building a career in Sin City’s food and beverage trade. It wasn’t until 1995 that the trumpeter and vocalist, then 30, decided to focus fulltime on recapturing the colossal showmanship of his late father. Seventeen years later, having formed his own band of Witnesses, he made his recording debut with Return of the Wildest!, comprising mostly covers from his dad’s repertoire. Blow is fresher, bolder and braver, its playlist dominated by sharp, rowdy originals.
Prima Sr. was a master of controlled chaos. While Prima Jr. captures his old man’s frenetic, party-all-night ethos ably, his sound is more loosely explosive with distinct rock underpinnings. His voice barely hints at Sr.’s barbequed foghorn, remaining much closer in tone and timbre to Huey Lewis. Papa Prima had two secret weapons: Keely Smith and Sam Butera. In Marco Palos, Prima Jr. has a sax ace every bit as ferocious as Butera. Vocalist Leslie Spencer sounds nothing like Smith (who ever could?) but is an impressively soulful stylist, gutsy and powerful.
Prima invades his father’s songbook just twice, for a rollicking “Robin Hood” and a blistering, from-the-grave duet with Louis Sr. on “That’s My Home.” Side-by-side with his father, Louis Jr. proves how worthy an heir he is to dad’s King of Cool mantle.