You know Louis Prima's music whether you realize it or not.
Before you argue with me, think back to watching The Jungle Book
as a child. Remember "I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)"?
That wasn't just any monkey singing it; that was Louis Prima. But
even if you aren't familiar with that song - and shame on you if you
aren't! - Prima's music has shown up in some of the most unlikely
places. When David Lee Roth crooned "Just A Gigolo/I Ain't
Got Nobody", he wasn't just singing his own words. Oh no, that
was Prima, too.
This new 26-song Prima collection is filled with more than enough
music to form a proper introduction to the man's work. Like Louis
Armstrong, Prima was both a singer and a trumpeter. But whereas
Armstrong leaned heavily on traditional New Orleans jazz sounds, Prima
music swung with a large dollop of Italian cultural sauce. For example,
"Angelina/Zooma Zooma" speaks about a guy who gets fat on
Italian food just to spend more time with a pretty waitress.
Everything Prima sings swings, whether it is a standard like "That
Old Black Magic", "Pennies From Heaven", and "Just
One Of Those Things", or something more traditional, like "St.
Louis Blues". Many times, Prima is helped out by wife/vocalist
Keely Smith. In some cases, she even sings the trumpeter's
praises, as with "The Lip" where she trades vocals with
Prima's horn playing.
In addition to being a scary talented musician, Prima also had
a great sense of humor. "Civilization (Bongo, Bongo, Bongo)",
about a native who prefers the jungle to city life, is packed with
musical silliness, including crazy voices.
If you have never seen The Jungle Book and have avoided exposure
to David Lee Roth (the latter is forgivable), you nevertheless ought
to do yourself the favor of picking up this fun compilation. Even
if you don't like big band music, Prima is a category all to himself
and goes far beyond just being a big band player/singer. Besides,
your life don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.
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