Lee Fields / Lee Fields & the Expressions

It Rains Love

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He first made his name as a James Brown-inspired soul shouter in the '70s, but since Lee Fields became one of the leading figures on the retro-soul scene in the 2000s, he's subtly been evolving into a more nuanced performer, one who can still sing with grit and force but also brings the heart and passion of a Bobby Womack or a Wilson Pickett to his material. 2019's It Rains Love shows just how good Fields has gotten at putting a thoughtful lover's heart behind the expressive fire of his delivery, and it ranks with his best work, a combination of great songs and sterling performances that bring out their best qualities. Fields can plead on numbers like "Love Prisoner" or "Two Faces" and make his heartache vividly real, or celebrate the love of his life on "Blessed with the Best" and the title cut and sound every bit as convincing. (He can also handle more serious matters on "God Is Real" and "Love Is the Answer" and sound every bit as commanding.) And while Fields & the Expressions can cut a lean, sensuous groove throughout, this is music for both dancing and romancing, blending the quiet storm with sweet, understated funk. Fields can hit these songs hard without making his performances sound too theatrical, and he sings along with this band like a true master; unlike many folks in the retro-soul game, Fields doesn't sound as if he's evoking the past so much as adapting a classic style to music that's still powerfully effective in the 21st century. Producer and bandleader Leon Michaels has given this album a rich, natural sound that flatters Fields and his accompanists equally well (especially the peerless rhythm section of Nick Movshon on bass and Homer Steinweiss on drums). Not many artists who made their first record in 1969 can honestly be said to be working at the top of their game 50 years later, but Lee Fields is that rare example of a singer who has learned a lot about music over the course of his career while still having the vocal chops to put that knowledge to good use. It Rains Love is a master class in the art of modern soul music from an artist who only gets better and wiser as he matures.

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