I have always admired the voice of singer Victor Fields who was born in New York and currently lives in Oakland. His warm and soulful timbre is gracing five records up until now and his latest is dedicated to the great Lou Rawls, himself a one-of-a-kind singer with a distinctive baritone who had an extremely successful career from the 60s right up to his untimely death in 2006.
Victor enlisted guitarist Chris Camozzi as his producer – also a recording artist in his own right. The album starts off with “Let Me Be Good To You” from Lou’s golden years at Philadelphia International Records and originally written and produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Victor captures the smoothness and sophistication of the original with his own masterful touch and with a pretty tight, contemporary production and arrangement by Scott Fuller who uses synth strings and flute keys to full effect. A great start! Victor’s interpretation is both cool and very heartfelt at the same time.
The sexy mood continues with two tracks from Lou’s 1976 LP “All Things In Time”: the ultra sensitive “Let’s Fall In Love All Over Again”, which includes great sax playing by Marcin Nowakowski, and the hit song “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”, another Gamble & Huff classic, getting a brilliantly airy and breezy treatment here. The (may I say) legendary Skyler Jett is responsible for producing the spectacular background vocals and both tracks were arranged by Nelson Braxton (of the Braxton Brothers) complete with catchy synth handclaps (not of the superficial type), moving percussion by Sundra Manning and superb sax work again, this time by Vince Lars.
For the next track, Victor goes all the way back to Lou’s debut album from 1962. His bluesy “(I’d Rather Drink) Muddy Water” is another cool showcase for Victor’s rich vocal and also includes some funky organ by Sundra Manning. “See You When I Git There” is from Lou’s 1977 album “Unmistakably Lou” and was the only charted single off that LP. Another Gamble & Huff composition, Victor treats this as the majestic soul piece it still is: with a lot of passion, class, and style. A bit too short for my taste….
“When You Hear Lou, You’ve Heard It All” is the 1977 LP which boasted “Lady Love”, done here in a steady and solid version. One of my favorite Lou Rawls songs, “A Natural Man”, written in 1971 by Sandy Baron and Bobby “Sunny” Hebb and earning a Grammy, is a joyful and bumping version here and a good reminder of the golden early 70s era in Soul music. Thanks for including that! “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” comes from the 1966 “Soulin'” album and was Lou’s first Top 40 hit. A nice change of pace here and another chance for Victor to show his well-oiled and versatile voice. Early in Lou’s career, he released a live album (1966) which included a version of the Jobim classic “The Girl From Ipanema” which he often did in his live performances. It’s the only song on offer that didn’t grab me except for the lovely vocal of Victor’s daughter Regina in the bridge and another fine sax by Vince Lars.
The album concludes with a hip “Groovy People”, another Gamble & Huff composition, which Victor masterfully transcends into the present. I last saw Lou Rawls performing live at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2000 and this is a passionate, respectful, and original dedication and a great reminder of the man’s great artistry. And Victor delivers another gem!