Lee Fields and the Expressions | My World

Truth and Soul (2009)
By GUSTAVO TURNER  |  June 16, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

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It's hard to dislike Lee Fields. He's an almost archetypal jobbing soul singer in the shouter/grunter/talker/improviser tradition of Otis Redding and James Brown, and he's currently undergoing something of a revival as a Sharon Jones collaborator and featured vocalist for Eurohouse hits. Fields's shows are by all accounts a lot of fun, and his obscure '70s singles have been championed by SoulSides and other exquisite arbiters of cratedigging.

On My World, the Truth & Soul production team use him as a vehicle to indulge their Thom Bell and Norman Whitfield fantasies, encouraged by a market that has rewarded the equally hard-working Jones for her Dap-Kings material. Although the producers have mentioned the Delfonics and the Stylistics as explicit models for the whole project, that vibe is mostly achieved in the instrumental tracks ("Expressions Theme," "Last Ride"), where the ad hoc Expressions get to paint sweet landscapes without the distracting rasp of the singer. Otherwise, Fields proves versatile within his limited range, essaying a Sly-esque ballad ("Honey Dove"), a Godfatherish lament over a budget Whitfield backing track ("My World"), and a thoroughly worthy Supremes cover ("My World Is Empty Without You"), where he effortlessly channels Jimmy Ruffin atop a clever Axelrodian arrangement.

The one problem here is that any familiarity with the material being paid homage only underscores Fields's lack of true star quality. You wonder, for example, what James Brown would have done with "Money I$ King" if the Truth & Soulers had become his Rick Rubins before he booked the great Apollo in the sky.
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