Expectations can be a tricky bitch. English poet Alexander Pope likely summed it up best when he said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Wise words from a smart man, but unfortunately for Mr. Pope, expectations are unavoidable. We stroll through life constantly prepping our minds for the next pitch, taking the curve balls in stride and reacting as best we can.
I had great expectations for Lee Fields’ latest release Faithful Man. Fields and his backing band, The Expressions, hit heavy on my pleasure points on their 2009 release My World. The album catered to all of my guilty pleasures, unleashing a powerful blend of soulful vocals, addictive key strokes and the type of sultry horn lines that will keep a bedroom rocking until sunrise. Better still, My World accomplished all of this effortlessly, without the material ever feeling forced or reaching for something bigger than it was.
This month, Lee Fields & The Expressions are back with Faithful Man. The album opens with the title track. Here, Fields leads the listener down the familiar path of admirable intentions and less than admirable behavior. A motif as old as the blues, yet as relatable as the morning headlines. The vocals are strong but feel pushed to the brink, with Fields’ voice breaking as he struggles to compensate for a cluttered production. I am also irked by the production on the backing vocals, where the singers wind up closer to The Chipmunks than The Chiffons.
Next up on the track list is “I Still Got It.” And that ain’t no lie. Even at 61 years young, Fields still has an edge. He’s still catching panties from the third row and moving crowds with the best of them. The song showcases the cocksure delivery that led hip-hop artists to resurrect Fields’ career a few years back. Unfortunately, this album appears to reach for those moments rather than let them fall where they may.
For me, the mellowed out tracks “Still Hanging On” and “Moonlight Mile” are where Faithful Man hits its stride. This is classic soul, and Fields sounds at ease. Elegant, shimmering keys and a simple snare line lead the way on the latter. Here, the band builds around Fields rather than on top of him.
For all of my griping, I still dig this release. More than that, I would stand in line for hours to see this band live. I have no doubt that Fields and The Expressions would bring the house down. Faithful Man may lack that stand out, home-run track that I was looking for. But be sure, that it avoids any stand out failures just the same. Play it for your parents. Play it for your lover. Both will be grateful.
Check out Lee Fields & The Expressions in a video for “Faithful Man” below, where the band offers up the type of restrained focus that I was hoping for throughout this release. Enjoy the bit of dialogue on the front end of the video where Fields reminds us that he is still “the coolest motherfucker to ever sing words into a microphone.”
Connect with Lee Fields & The Expressions via Facebook
Written by Rob Peoni