Though looked upon fondly under 30 years of hindsight, Little Richard's string of albums for the Reprise label in the early 70s sold so poorly that his fourth and final album, 1972's Southern Child, never saw the light of day. And what a shame, since this final LP was the most diverse and arguably the finest of the lot he recorded for the label. Paired with a campy, albeit very fitting cover photo of Richard milking a cow in the backyard of his own home, Southern Child was a collection that successfully fused the gospel rock of his early days with the gentle country ballads and spacious funk he'd been experimenting with throughout his Reprise series. The result is a triumph - a stylistic breakthrough that had been hinted at across a string of three LPs, and finally rises to the top here. The songs, all originals, are performed elegantly throughout, and find Richard at last freeing his voice from the constraints of self parody to deliver some of the most gentle and emotive performances of his long career. So different is his delivery, that throughout much of the album his vocals are hardly recognizable as his own. All of the tracks here are tremendous and the continuity of Southern Child is supreme, but its brilliance is illustrated most effectively by the second track "If You Pick Her Too Hard (She Comes Out of Tune)". If this LP had seen a proper release it would be the one Little Richard album in everyone's collection, but even with Rhino having included it as part of its King of Rock n' Roll: The Complete Reprise Recordings, the set's limited run of 2500 ensures this LP will stay off the radar for the foreseeable future. If you dug The Rill Thing, this one might just blow your mind.