Little Richard – Southern Child – The Never-Released Reprise LP
Little Richard had a tentative run at Reprise Records. The Rill Thing (August 1970) with “Freedom Blues,” broke the Billboard Top 50, however, despite good reviews, & other singles charting the great LP did not.
The King of Rock & Roll followed (Oct. 1971) but wasn’t as well-received. Apparently, the singer who showed up was the TV personality & not the rock pioneer. I thought there were some cuts that were worthy but it was ignored.
The 3rd Reprise The Second Coming (Sept 1972) was a conjoining of 50s/70s musically. It didn’t chart. Reason? Over-produced. Maybe. I suspected a big label like Reprise didn’t understand a flamboyant artist like Little Richard. There were keepers on this LP, but Reprise marketing never kicked in. It didn’t chart.
Recorded in LA in 1972 the final LP, the 14-cut (with bonus tracks) Southern Child (dropped Nov 27 – Omnivore Recordings) was shelved by Reprise. The Second Coming released instead. Southern found Little Richard in a country groove. While it won’t kick you out of your sneakers it is a well-recorded effort. The title track “Southern Child,” cooks nicely. Would country radio greet Little Richard in 1972? We’ll never know.
The back woodsy Richard Penniman penned tune “In the Name,” (Version 3) has a tinge of gospel & Richard shines as a country singer. Just brilliant. Little Richard really puts a spit shine on this with slide guitar (Sneaky Pete Kleinow), solid bass foundation, & beautiful harmonica. Excellent. 3 bonus versions appear at the end of the CD. Version 4 take 1 is acoustic. Richard’s vocal balladry is stunning. None have a “Little Richard” feel in the titles. It’s mature, creative. Lee Allen (tenor sax), Jim Horn (sax), Earl Palmer (drums), & Michael Deasy (slide guitar).
While vocals at times reach & crack on “Over Yonder,” it has fire & the harmonica soars. Impressive. “I Git a Little Lonely,” is country Richard with rocker Richard. What was Reprise thinking? This is one of Little Richard’s finest vocals. They felt his audience wouldn’t follow him into country music. Nice assumption. It happened in 1982 to twist king Chubby Checker. He released a major label MCA LP The Change Has Come. Blaring saxes ala Bruce Springsteen-like Clarence Clemmons, slicing guitars. Checker’s exceptional rock vocals on “Running,” & “Burn Up the Night.” 10 brilliant cuts. No marketing. Sunk like a stone.
Novelty-oriented “Puppy Dog Song,” is a powerful country-funk tune & Richard’s in fine voice with acoustic guitars, sharp lead guitar, deep bass tones, saxes, steady drums.
A missed opportunity for Reprise. Richard departed soon after. He released low-budget LPs, live shows, religious LPs, children’s songs with Disney, & a hack-job studio LP “Lifetime Friend.”
Produced by R.A. “Bumps” Blackwell. Reissue produced by Cheryl Pawelski.
The 52-minute CD: Available at Discogs & https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/southern-child/