Given how wildly prolific Louis Prima was during a recording career that spanned five decades, calling any single-disc collection of his material "The Best" is a gusty move, and Fuel's 2010 Best of Louis Prima & His Orchestra is not the sort of comprehensive, cross-licensed collection that might justify such a title. This set features the 11 V-Disc sides that Prima and his band cut for distribution to the Armed Forces during World War II, along with three numbers Prima recorded for his own Robin Hood label in the early '50s and another 11 songs from radio broadcasts which aired between 1945 and 1950. The music on this disc doesn't bear much resemblance to the punchy small-band work Prima cut for Capitol in the '50s (and played for years in Las Vegas) that remains his most popular work. But as a sampling of Prima's big-band material, this set is good fun. Prima was always an irrepressible showman, and his full-bodied vocal work (leaning heavily on Italian dialect shtick) is in solid form here, as is his often underrated trumpet work, and the arrangements on these recordings are invariably tight and lively, even when the band is playing more subdued numbers like "I Was Here When You Left Me" and "A Sunday Kind of Love" (both featuring vocalist Lily Ann Carol; Prima's better-known singer and spouse Keely Smith appears here on three selections), while "The Blizzard" and "By a Waterfall" show Prima and his band in excellent and inventive form. And though Prima would revisit "Just a Gigolo (I Ain't Got Nobody)," "Angelina," "Felicia No Capecia," and "Zooma Zooma Bacalla" a number of times over the course of his career, the versions here prove he always did them right. Louis Prima was a man who was determined to entertain whenever he walked onto a stage or into a recording studio, and if this is far from his best music, it's good to great listening that swings like a batter bringing in a grand slam.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming