Louis Prima - The Wildest (1956), 7/10

As the descendant of freshly immigrated Italian Americans from the forties and fifties, I was already familiar with Louis Prima and his antics before re-visiting this record, but my respect for his performance on this album and as an entertainer has increased substantially. The swing style of the band supports his eccentric delivery and (his wife of 22 while he was 43) Keely Smith's accompaniment throughout. No wonder Louis was such a popular nightclub performer. Prima and Smith were the most popular act in Vegas at the time, capturing a very specific personality and charisma in their performances that could not be duplicated. Rarely has there been an LP with such a successful capturing of a unique performance style such as this. The back and forth interplay along with the dichotomy of Smith and Prima’s vocal styles, Louis’ raw raspy swing and trademark gibberish juxtaposed against Keely’s refined delicate tonality, make for a unique listen. That being said, ambient blues tracks such as “Body and Soul” and the more enticing “Night Train” do little more than slow down the momentum of an otherwise full-force steaming train of performances. They are decent but especially “Body and Soul” seems to stop things dead in their tracks at the front end of the record. It may add to the nightclub aesthetic, but the record would be tighter without them or with a stronger set of blues-infused trumpeting tracks. This album does a stellar job of transporting you to one of his intimate performances along with the comedy and interplay that made him famous. His playing isn't half bad either, he really does play with body and soul. I'm not really interested in belittling the value of the album by interpreting Prima's performances as adopted or contrived, they are simply fun and entertaining, so much so that this proves to be a genuinely moving set of songs. Of course it is worth mentioning its ironic appearance during Raging Bull’s club scene. King Louis has earned his classic status and The Wildest! exemplifies his style at its zenith.