Lee Fields & The Expressions – Special Night (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 42:38 minutes | 424 MB | Genre: Soul
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Big Crown Records
Legendary retro-soul veteran Lee Fields celebrates close to 50 years making music with this album, a master class in soul past and present. Produced by Leon Michels and Thomas Brenneck, “Special Night” was written, recorded, mixed and mastered entirely to tape in three weeks. That sense of urgency and equal parts fun and inspiration were the driving forces during the sessions. Whether tackling a tune about love lost, found, or broader topics like the state of humanity, Lee’s unique and honest perspective is on display with each unforgettable performance.
For most of his five-decade career, soulman Lee Fields has been reveling in the good foot funk of his inspiration James Brown, and the grooves offered by labels like Stax, Volt, Goldwax, and Hi. On Special Night, those references remain abundant, but the singer’s focus is different. The set was co-produced by the Expressions’ Leon Michels and Thomas Benneck. Their willingness to add special embellishments like reverb and psych effects add dimension to these songs. The album was recorded in three weeks direct to analog tape. Fields shifts his own M.O. by channeling his inner lover man here. The title-track opener is a sultry babymaker, wrapped in a nearly cascading, nearly Baroque-sounding B-3, undulant horns, in-the-pocket drums, and an in-your-face bassline. Fields expresses gratitude for the enduring love of his partner, sensually celebrating her presence in his life as a transformational force. The Goldwax Records-styled horn chart on “Work to Do” is structured like a vocal backing chorus. Up front, the protagonist declares regret at messing up his life with drink. Fields lays bare his emotions. The narrative details not only his failures, but his lover’s threat to leave him unless something changes. His commitment to the lyrical and what it embodies is total. The humility in his voice doesn’t beg, it affirms – it relays the truth of a willingness to go to any lengths for redemption and the preservation of his family. In “Lover Man,” his desire for his beloved is portrayed as a nearly physical ache. His pleading, fantasizing, cajoling, and desire are framed by jazzy horns, a spiky wall of guitars, bumping bass, and steady-rolling snare and hi-hat accents. Fields doesn’t leave the funk completely off the record, however. The burning, uptempo jumper “Make the World” – complete with strutting J.B.’s-esque brass – is a squalling anthem with all instruments on stun and the singer offering his best Edwin Starr growls. “How I Like It” is grimy uptown funk that employs juxtaposing fuzzy guitar and basslines with the straight-up fingerpopping drums and horns. But even with all the sweat and grease on display, it’s still a love song: Fields revels in his beloved’s qualities simply because they’re hers. The organ breakdown is tasty, adding an exclamation point. Set-closer “Precious Love” is a summery bubbler with punchy, lyrical horns, spidery guitar, popping snare, and an urgent bassline; they all surround Fields’ affirmative testament to love’s power as a force of nature: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Special Night may not be radically different, but it is deeper, wider, and more varied in composition, production, and arrangement. Fields & the Expressions’ performances, as always, are nothing less than remarkable, making it a must for fans of retro soul.
01 – Special Night
02 – I’m Coming Home
03 – Work To Do
04 – Never Be Another You
05 – Lover Man
06 – Make The World
07 – Let Him In
08 – How I Like It
09 – Where Is the Love
10 – Precious Love