Separate reissues – The 54-minute Second Coming (1972) & 50-minute Lifetime Friend (1986) drop Oct 23rd from Omnivore Records.
Featuring good energetic rock (“Mockingbird Sally”) with sax Little Richard’s Reprise LPs never lacked dynamics. These 2 didn’t rehash oldies — they had more funk, ego, preaching & yeah, rock n’ roll.
Little Richard was in fine voice. The 9-track Second Coming — with 4 bonus cuts produced by R.A. “Bumps” Blackwell & Little Richard (Penniman) had Blackwell playing it safe when he enlisted some of the original session men from earlier LR LPs.
Earl Palmer (drums), Lee Allen (sax), Bill Hemmons (sax), David T. Walker, Adolph Jacobs & George Davis (lead guitars), Chuck Rainey (bass), Paul Humphrey (drums), Mike Deasey (multi-guitar), Sneaky Pete Kleinow (pedal steel guitar), Jim Horn (sax/woodwinds) & Little Richard (electric piano/clavichord/ piano).
Impeccable work came from these 2: I would’ve put “The Saints (Go Marching In)” on a B-side but Little Richard’s electrified performance & arrangement with hot saxes, creative drums & funky guitars — I see why it had to go on the LP.
Little Richard isn’t always playing the role either & on “Nuki Suki,” with its sensuous saxes, Penniman’s seductive vocal easily something Sly & the Family Stone would smile at. Everything is anchored in a solid rock base holding tight to the reason Little Richard was Little Richard. No veering from formula but tweaking the recipe.
Little Richard can still light a fuse as he does with verve on “Rockin’ Rockin’ Boogie.” It ignites from the first notes, with sparks off the piano. A little Isaac Hayes inspired “Prophet of Peace,” & Richard goes into preacher mode. As for catchiness, none have that classic edge of “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Tutti Frutti,” or “Long Tall Sally” urgency.
One bonus is the well-played funky cut “Money Is” written & arranged by Quincy Jones for a film “$” & “Do It – To It,” — filled with Little Richard inflections & every trick in the book. But Quincy’s no rock songwriter. It’s cliched, repetitive & faceless. If I were able to advise Little Richard, I would’ve told him to pass.
This was his last Reprise LP. “Southern Child,” was never released by Reprise. But ironically, the next studio release 14-years later was issued by Reprise’s parent company Warner Bros.
Lifetime Friend is a 10-cut (+2 bonus’) LP with Gospel/Rock heavy songs with an early rap reference. Guitarist Travis Wommack joins musicians imported from the States & joined producer Stuart Colman in England.
Little Richard (grand piano), Billy Preston (organ), Jesse Boyce (bass), James Stroud (drums) & the L.A. Horns & voices dubbed back in L.A. Few songs were written wholly by Little Richard & was a collaborative effort. Some mainstream prominence especially in the UK. “Great Gosh Almighty,” (co-written with Billy Preston & re-cut for a film nearly cracked the Top 40).
The mistake? Recording outside London no one suggested recruiting English musicians like Paul McCartney, (Richard already had Billy Preston). Then the LP would’ve gained notoriety that Jerry Lee Lewis’ London sessions had.
Vocals are recorded well, even the more falsetto “Somebody’s Comin’” & the slower ballads, “One Ray of Sunshine” – sound fresh. But Richard wasn’t walking in the path of that era’s cookie-cutter radio fodder. So, a 3rd coming eluded him — again. Surprisingly, there are many good cuts: “Lifetime Friend,” “The World Can’t Do Me,” the superb “Destruction,” & “I Found a Way,” — retain excitement.
“Big House Reunion,” with harmonica, blaring horns & smoking Penniman piano spike an infectious groove. A deeper toned mature Penniman voice seldom used is a highlight. A great closing spiritual/rocker. One of the best….ever.
Rock became spiritual when Little Richard became incendiary. It’s here — bring a fire extinguisher. RIP
Reissue produced by Cheryl Pawelski & available at https://omnivorerecordings.com/product-tag/little-richard/