Album Review: Faithful Man, Lee Fields & The Expressions, March 2012 (Truth & Soul)

First, a brief history of retro soul

I started noticing “retro soul” or “soul revival” when the distinctive music from the 60s starting emanating from unlikely and modern sources. Most notably, German electronic music production team, Jazzanova, released Of All the Things in 2008 (Sonar Kollektiv). Ten days later, Seal released the aptly titled, Soul (Warner Bros.) featuring a cover of Sam Cooke’s 1964 tune, “A Change is Gonna Come,” which dovetailed almost purposefully with the Obama ’08 campaign.

Then, like a car you never notice on the road until you buy the same model, retro soul was everywhere. Hip-hop giant Raphael Saadiq had released The Way I See It (Sony BMG) the same year. Earlier in the decade, the Daptone Records label landed on us like a time machine from 1968. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings looked and sounded like a 60s soul/go-go band with all the rhythm, horn, and sass of the best of that era.

Lee Fields & The Expressions, Faithful Man

lffmHalf a century after soul music pioneers like Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin gave us this music, Lee Fields & The Expressions have released an album that feels more real than retro.

Unlike the modern-day tributes mentioned above, Faithful Man has an authenticity in the music, the vocals, and yes, the soul. Arrangements are stripped down, tight, and unassuming. The rhythm section is solid but not overdone.

Wish you were here and the title track are painfully good. Walk on through that door is a rock-steady groove with classic studio backing vocals. You’re the kind of girl is a hit, pure and simple. All the tracks are strong and they don’t render this album a one-trick pony, unlike most genre tributes. The reason is the vocals.

Lee Fields is not just an aspiring singer mimicking a style he heard on some old records (he actually recorded his first 45 rpm record in 1969). This album is new but Lee Fields himself is vintage. His vocals take a hold of you. They evoke the yearning of Otis Redding, the faith of Sam Cooke, and the coolness of Ray Charles.

Whether you are a fan of the classics from 50 years ago or caught on to the revival in the last decade, Faithful Man will quickly slip itself into one of your musical mainstays.

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