“I still got it!”
Five minutes into his triumphant 2012 release “Faithful Man,” Lee Fields declares what many soul-music aficionados have long known.
Not only has he still “got it,” the singer, whose career began in 1969, is getting better with age. On Tuesday, Fields & The Expressions return to Neumos for their second appearance this year.
Back in the ’70s, Fields toured with Kool & the Gang and recorded for no less than a dozen small labels. Releasing singles such as “Bewildered,” “Gonna Make Love,” “Let’s Talk It Over” and “The Bull is Coming,” Fields sold records out of his trunk as he toured, earning a strong reputation with die-hard funk fans, though never hitting it big. In 1979, he self-released the album, “Let’s Talk it Over,” after record companies passed, but it didn’t take. Even as original copies of his singles fetched hundreds of dollars, especially among club DJs, Fields had to lay out for most of the ’80s.
Reviving his career in the ’90s, Fields hooked up with Desco Records, at the forefront of what would become the soul revival. Later joining forces with Brooklyn’s Truth & Soul Records, he has had two popular records and a steady diet of tour dates.
Originally known for a high-powered, James Brown-inspired approach, Fields has settled into a more laid-back soul feeling, brought on by his collaboration with Truth & Soul’s able house band, The Expressions.
It was 2009’s “My World” that sparked the change for Fields. Garnering critical acclaim, the album stayed true to a soul sensibility but slow tempos prevailed, enabling Fields to showcase his vocal nuance over the highly-orchestrated palettes set forth by his new band. Rolling bass lines moved along under wah-wah guitar, with organ, horns, and even strings taking turns at complementing Fields’ impassioned wails.
The lyrical content of these recent releases never strays too far from common territory: love, heartache, betrayal and desire. But Fields’ emotive delivery propels the expectedly masculine verses, as evidenced by the track simply titled “Ladies,” in which the singer repeatedly cries “lovely ladies, beautiful ladies, you’re so fine!”
Last year’s “Faithful Man” was an indication that the tireless Fields has no intention of slowing down. Marked by the driving rhythm of the title track, the album delivered another dose of throwback soul.
The late-life success of Fields inevitably draws comparisons to Charles Bradley, who recently delivered an emotional evening set at Bumbershoot. If you enjoyed (or missed) Bradley, you’ll want to make sure to attend Fields’ show Tuesday, and have your dancing shoes on!