Monday, April 06, 2009

Ol' Man Mose

Like many people my age, my first exposure to the wonders of Louis Prima was hearing his performance as King Louie in Disney's "The Jungle Book". I was seven years old, and smitten with the whole film (it remains my favorite Disney film), but no part more than the King Louie scene. The soundtrack to the film was undoubtably the first album I ever owned.

Later trips through my parents records introduced me to his amazing rendition of "That Old Black Magic", with then-wife Keely Smith (she recently took part in a truly abysmal performance of the same song with Kid Rock, a man who clearly has not found something - anything - that he's good at, yet) (well, apart from proving true, yet again, an old saying often attributed to P.T. Barnum...).

That led to his "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody" medley, which is so great that not even David Lee Roth could screw up.

Anyway, a series of recent events has had the side effect of giving me a reason to go through a bunch of my 45's, and one of the first I came across was a favorite Louis Prima performance. While I'm sure it's far from unknown, it's also not exactly well known. But it has a sound and an energy that I just love.

It's a version of a Louis Armstrong tune, "Ol' Man Mose". I really enjoy the interplay with the backing group (Sam Butera and the Witnesses, as always). The typical Prima record had a lot more combo jazz on it - it's almost completely absent here, with the instrumentation being limited to bass and drums for almost the entire song, but it really works, and focuses the song on some fairly amazing lyrics. As I said, the song is attributed to Louis Armstrong, but the version I found from Armstrong doesn't even have half of these lyrics, so someone added quite a few new twists and turns to the story. Have a listen:

By the way, the other side of the record was a fairly lifeless reading of the number one hit, "Wonderland By Night", putting this record's release around 1961 or so.

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