Wednesday, May 06, 2009


In my constant regurgitation of old music, familiar music, it's rare that I'm knocked off course by anything new. In fact, it's even more rare that such a recording will come from someone who first recorded some 30+ years ago. I enjoy old recordings, not new recordings by old folks. I haven't listened to a Paul McCartney record since Ram (scratch that, I actually enjoyed Driving Rain) and could care less about a new Prince or Stevie Wonder record. To me, there's a place and a time, there's immediacy to some music that attempting to relive or recreate such magic or glory years after the fact is a sad practice of stubborness and that should be denounced rather than celebrated. In fact, it's tremendously easier for me to hate the late recordings of an artist than it is to love the old recordings. That being said, it's odd that I'd fall for a cat named Lee Fields.

Lee Fields had a fair but relatively quiet career as a soul man and a funkmaster. He's one of those cats that unfortunately flew under the shadows of a JB, Sly and Otis in his brief prime, but listening back now, it's clear this dude had mad skills. I was listening to Da Pocket Prophet a few months ago and admist my browsing, I hear this blazing funk that completely rattles my drums and then proceeds to melt my face off. The singer has the fury and fire of James Brown and the frantic drum track propels the song to places rarely realized by funkateers outside of JB and Sly. It's Lee Field's "Steam Train" and come to find out that it's from his 1999 release "Let's Get a Groove On." I'm thinking, "People still record stuff like this?" This is the funk comparable of hearing some new band record in the style of "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" in 2009. People don't do this anymore! People don't know that anymore.

One thing you can always trust is there's always some cat out there hipper than you, badder than you, with access to more than you. Luckily this time, it's the trusty hands of Aloe Blacc who brings Fields back out of retirement again like Sweet Sugar Ray with the his latest release entitled My World. I got this advance in the mail about two weeks ago and I've been hooked to it ever since. I mean, really hooked.
Lee's blues are ferocious, his soul is undeniable and the band is hella-dope. The band is as sick as they come taking production queues from the great Leon Michels of El Michels Affair and led by the downright nasty playing of the horns led by the aforementioned Michels as well as Michael Leonhart on trumpet and Aaron Johnson on bone. From the execution to the sustained mood and tempo, everything is in the right place. And Lee's wails and moans echo those of the great funksters and bluesmen. Every articulation is done so with great reverance and respect. This ain't no hokey, stupid recreation record. This is the real deal, son. In 2009. Don't call it a comeback.
What's magnificently compelling to me is that, at the helm of it, it's being driven once again by two hip hop heads that are essentially giving back. There's a echoing theme from the last five years or so and you're seeing more and more of it. That's hip hop reaching it's reflective period. Whereas before, cats were robbing hi-hats and piano loops from the old heads, now they're producing their comeback records. It's this turning backwards. Maybe because all this shit that's out today is just tired and worn. I figure if I'm going to listen to tired recordings, why not listen to James Brown or, hell, Lee Fields. Remember, you radio-fed zombies, there ain't nothing wrong with the old shit. Jimmy Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Eric Dolphy, De La Soul, Check Your Head. If it makes that ass shake, do yo thang.

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