Lee Fields & The Expressions ‘Special Night’ LP/CD (Big Crown) 5/5

lee-fieldsIt is no surprise that we are big fans of Lee Fields here. With two interviews already in the archive – one in 2012 here and one in 2014 here, and several live performance reviews too, the new album was always going to be an eagerly awaited moment, as anything from Mr Fields is snapped up and always hammered big time.

His last 3 albums for Truth & Soul are wonderful listens. “My world”, “Faithful Man” and “Emma Jean” are epic soul adventures into every facet of life, but what of his latest release? Well I’m happy to say although he’s switched to Big Crown Records the sound and the voice are intact. I’v been a fan of this great voice for 50 odd years, and have a healthy collection of both 45’s and albums including the hideously rare 1979 ‘Angle 3’ album “Let’s Talk It Over” [Perhaps a reissue should be on the cards].

His voice has evolved slightly, with a little more grit. Singing, as he does, about real life, which is what soul men do. Adding in 2016 the likes of Charles Bradley and a small number of other soul exponents proves once again that they are ambassadors for what has gone before with the likes of Stax, Atlantic, Fame, Goldwax and a myriad of other small labels that presented the grits and gravy type of our music, unlike Motown over in Detroit who aimed their sound straight at the white masses and for chart position.

But what of “Special Night” I hear you ask… Well as usual there are some dark moments on here in the promotional blurb; Fields tells us that this album reflects conversations he has had with his wife, again dealing in real life. The first track to take over my head is the 60’s influenced “I’m Comin Home” with its rolling bass, horns trying to get in on the act, simply stunning. A very special mention must go to “Work To Do” (not The Isley Brothers’ song) in which he’s trying to balance work and family life with drinking too much and trying to hold it all together – tell me you don’t know someone like that!

For me the album standout is the cavernous “Never Be Another You”, a beating drum, tinkling piano, an insidious rhythm, and then in he comes, just so so infectious, mid tempo madness, and when played loud, it really does grab you. The furiously funky “Make This World” will rip up funky dance-floors like no other. “Where Is The Love” will light up modern soul rooms with its timeless feel. Incidentally, I’m going to be spinning some records in the modern room at an all-niter shortly and at 4am I’ll be playing this – it will sound amazing. With its churchy pleading “Let Him In” is deep soul personified and I can guarantee several of the Sweet Soul rooms that have surfaced in recent times will jump on this to contrast the sweeter rhythms. “Precious Love” has it feet in several camps, just a lovely soul tune and a great way to end an album that will be on replay for me for weeks to come. Musically its heavy percussion, plenty of base and stabbing horns is all a music lover could wish for. It’s out on the 4th November on both Vinyl and CD – I’ll be the guy at the front of the queue for the vinyl, and that’s a fact!

Brian Goucher