In the 1970s, Little Richard could still bring a house down on-stage; his riveting performances were a staple on the Richard Nader touring packages. Reprise Records should be commended for allowing Richard Penniman the opportunity to express his artistry through new music crafted with some old friends, including decent liner notes about what is truly an historic recording session. On The Second Coming, the man who "supervised all of the original legendary Little Richard hits, R.A. 'Bumps' Blackwell, reunites many of the musicians used on the first recordings." It's a funkier, thick sound with less of the rock & roll fury of the earlier masters, with a rearrangement of "The Saints" that's chock-full of saxes and groove. The liners claim that they used recording techniques from the '50s for songs and sounds of the 1970s, and the result is very slick for 1972. "The Saints" would have been great for urban radio of that time period, and Bill Hemmons' "Nuki Suki" could really have brightened up Top 40 radio with its innovation and suave musical movements. Jim Horn brings his baritone sax to the party alongside Hemmons and Lee Allen's tenor sax, and the album is rich with Blackwell's refined presentation. It's truly a team effort between Blackwell and Richard Penniman; they co-write five of the nine compositions, with both men credited as "producing and arranging" the affair on the label (the album cover credits only Blackwell for production and arrangements). There's not a bad track here, though there also isn't any one number which stands out as a bona fide hit. Any of these titles would've made you crank the car AM up a notch or two, the craftsmanship coming through loud and clear. Little Richard's screams in "Rockin' Rockin' Boogie" provide subtle thunder, the rock & roll abandon of his early sides replaced by a contained professional noise. But there's something eminently charming about it all, with Penniman advising to "keep on seeking and searching" in his wonderfully preachy "Prophet of Peace." The guitars wail underneath the bubbling rhythm; The Second Coming is a lot more serious than the very loud Dave Willardson cover photo of the singer. "Thomasine" dips back into the '50s and adds some fun to these precise recordings. All in all, a really special set of songs and performances that are ripe for rediscovery.
The Second Coming Review
by Joe Viglione