Thanks to Eric to an excellent review of Fields’ new CD, My World. I have a couple of pieces on Fields being readied for NPR but they don’t appear until later this month. In the meantime, I had a few “leftovers” that I thought folks here would enjoy.
Here’s the thing you must understand about Fields – he is far, far, far more prolific than you can imagine. Even someone like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – who have an impressive catalog – pale in comparison to the volume of music that Fields has put out. People who think of Fields as a primarily retro-soul guy don’t even realize that this constitutes the minority of his output. Peep the discog. Fields is a monster in the Southern soul/blues scene and while retro-soul fans probably would blanch at the sonic style of that music, there’s no denying that Fields has as many fans – if not more – in that regional, thriving scene as he does amongst listeners who like him for his throwback style.
Moreover, even within the retro-soul circles, Fields has been a straight up monster when it comes to output. Peep the track record – he is, by far, the most recorded singer in that community, having worked with: Desco, Soul Fire, Truth and Soul AND Daptone, which doesn’t even include all his other contemporary projects.
I assembled a small sampling of Fields work, from his first album through some more current material, though heavy on songs that many probably haven’t heard since most of them were only on vinyl 7″ or compilations.
Lee Fields: Flim Flam
From Let’s Talk It Over (Angle 3, 1979)
This instrumental cooker is off of Fields’ debut album back in 1979 but the date is a bit misleading since he had been recording throughout the ’70s; he just didn’t release a full-length until ’79. I don’t know for certain but “Flim Flam” certainly sounds like something recorded earlier in the decade though given how hard “Little J.B.” rode that ’60s raw funk vibe, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was his attempt at recapturing some of that magic, even in the heart of the disco era.
Lee Fields: Steam Train
From Let’s Get a Groove On (Desco, 1999)
Along with Sharon Jones, Fields was the perfect vocalist for Desco back in its heyday. He just had “that sound” that went with their house musicians, most of whom would end up in the Dap-kings. “Steamtrain” came out on 7″ as well as the big “comeback” retro-soul album, Let’s Get a Groove On. I really dig how the rhythm section here recreates the feel of a rolling train.
Lee Fields & The Dap-Kings: Give Me a Chance Pt. 1
From Daptone 7″ Singles Collection, Vol. 1 (Daptone, 2006)
Speaking of the Dap-Kings, Fields ended up recording with them too (as well as the Sugarmen 3) for a few singles with the then-nascent Daptone label. This colalbo churned out yet another uptempo funk burner.
Lee Fields: Honey Dove (OG Version)
From Problems (Soul Fire, 2002)
“Honey Dove,” without a doubt, is my favorite Lee Fields song but while most people have heard his version with The Expressions, the original version of the song came out on his 2002 album, Problems recorded for Soul Fire (the other label, besides Daptone, that came out of Desco’s dissolution). Personally, I think the Expressions improved on this song considerably but I wanted people to hear the OG to get a sense of the song’s evolution.
Martin Solveig: I’m A Good Man
From Sur La Terre (Defected, 2005)
I didn’t even realize this until very recently, but Fields drew the attention of French DJ/producer Martin Solveig around the same time he was recording with Soul Fire and that’s turned into a very fruitful partnership as the two men have recorded (I believe) four songs together thus far, which doesn’t include a ton of remixes, especially for their first song together, “I’m a Good Man.” The song strikes a fine balance between obviously club/electronic-oriented but Fields helps ground it with his vocals.