Little Richard: The Second Coming

LittleRichard_SecondComingLittle Richard’s final album on Reprise finds New Orleans funk ‘n’ roll

After the Muscle Shoals swamp-rock of 1970’s The Rill Thing and the misfire mélange of ‘50s rock and ‘70s R&B on 1971’s King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Richard third’s and final album for Reprise splits the difference. The rock ‘n’ roll sides, recorded with many of the New Orleans players who backed Richard’s 1950s sessions, are shorn of the dated neo-disco touches H.B. Barnum added to the preceding album, and though the grooves never cut as deep as the earlier Muscle Shoals session, there’s a good helping of funk here. Lee Allen provides fat sax tone, and Earl Palmer anchors the second line beats with greatest of ease.

Producer Bumps Blackwell’s work is more huskhy here than on his and Richard’s seminal mid-50s sides, mixing the funky jazz sounds of New Orleans with a bit of Stax soul. As on the Muscle Shoals sessions, Richard sounds comfortable, if not always as energized. “When the Saints Go Marching In” is ignited by Richard’s revival-pitch vocal and superb playing by both Palmer and Allen, and the funk continues on the mostly instrumental “Nuki Suki,” with Richard’s clavinet and the saxophone’s yelps giving way to short, lascivious vocal breaks.

A wah-wah-and-bass groove provides the foundation of “Prophet of Peace,” and the closing “Sanctified, Satisfied Toe-Tapper” is a seven-minute instrumental. The album’s most unusual track is a co-write with Sneaky Pete Kleinow, “It Ain’t What You Do, It’s the Way You Do It,” featuring Kleinow’s steel guitar. Richard and Blackwell’s original rock ‘n’ roll grooves show themselves on “Rockin’ Rockin’ Boogie” and “Thomasine.” While this isn’t as inventive or forward thinking as The Rill Thing, it’s a great deal more solid than King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and deserved larger commercial success at the time. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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