Reviews

VICTOR FIELDS

Los Angeles Times

“...a stylistically accomplished singer who deserves much more attention.” — Los Angeles Times

JazzReview.com

“Victor’s fluid richness of voice combined with his constant refinement of style and sensitivity to a song’s possibilities that lead me to believe we are at the beginning of what should be an extraordinary career in the vocal arts.” ~ JazzReview.com

ContemporaryJazz.com

“Victor Fields has two great things going for him: First, he has a very distinctive voice. Second, he sounds great singing different styles of music.” ~ ContemporaryJazz.com

Chicago Tribune

“A potentially significant vocal stylist blessed with an unusually gauzy tenor and uncommonly genteel sense of swing.” ~ Chicago Tribune

Chicago Jazz Magazine

Victor Fields is one of the most dynamic and versatile voices in jazz today.  He  returns with his fifth album as a leader in The Lou Rawls Project. It’s been a little over a decade since the music world lost the soulful vocalist that is this album’s namesake.

Fields does not merely pay tribute to the late music legend; he expounds Rawls’ legacy with a modern R&B flare.

Throughout Project, Fields courageously takes on the most notable classics of Rawls such as “You’ll Never Find” and “See You When I Get There.” The latter is my favorite reinterpretation on the album.

Though Fields is assisted by a wide array of musicians throughout, one indispensable contributor is guitarist Chris Camozzi, who produced the album in addition to laying down guitar.

The triumph of this recording is in the way Fields captures the essence of the vocal style of Rawls without sacrificing his own unique artistic voice. The music presents a well-paced selection of songs, augmented with performances that fans of both Fields and Rawls are sure to enjoy.

WAVE FAVE

If you were to conduct an impromptu and unscientific poll of music lovers who wished they had the opportunity to see soul legend Lou Rawls perform prior to his 2006 death, the response would be unanimous. 

In the case of singer Victor Fields, he has the rare honour of being able to say that Rawls himself watched him perform, and brief encounter was one that would forever change his life.

As Fields recalls, it was one evening in Oakland when Rawls referred to him as "the man with the golden voice". While the moment and exchange were fleeting, Fields says his very presence that night and those words were inspiring enough to change his life, and fullfil a dream.

The dream has since become reality in a 10 song package and tribute to the silky voiced legend titled The Lou Rawls Project.  This is the part of the review to make it incontrovertibly clear that Fields at no point attempts to replicate or duplicate the late soul legend's legacy. On his own right, Fields is blessed with a naturally gifted golden voice, with a powerfully dynamic range. And it's that tool he utilizes to channel the energy of Rawls with the same passion and conviction. 

The Lou Rawls Project's emergence onto the soul and jazz scene begins with Field's interpretation of Rawls' 1979 R&B charting classic Let Me Be Good To You, backed by rich instrumentation which includes the signature retro 70's flute melodies and stylish guitar work of Chris Camozzi, who also doubles as producer of the album and is an integral reason why this tribute album is both enjoyable, and other believable. 

From the initial release, the decades of Rawls' legacy seem to dissipate and allow fans to savour a collection of classics in a whole new realm. I can't imagine the pressure anyone would face recording the iconic You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine, but Fields re-imagines this 1976 chart topper in a way that I could not have imagined. He methodically zaps the pain and pining of the original, and effectively puts a fun, funk spin on it, accentuated by tasty sax work by Vince Lars and ambient background vocals. Lady Love (also featuring Camozzi) is softer soulful version of the original, yet as equally passionate in every aspect of the recording. 

While the blues classic (I'd Rather Drink) Muddy Water is associated with numerous legends, including B.B. King, Lou Rawls actually recorded the iconic tune on his 1962 debut album Stormy Monday, and it doesn't go unnoticed on Fields' tribute album. His interpretation of the hand clapping, finger snapping, sing along anthem takes its place nicely beside any of the versions you've ever heard.  Love Is A Hurtin' Thing demonstrates the paradox in Fields' vocal style, as it is both stunningly breathy and poignantly powerful and offers one of several laid back alternative interpretations of another Rawls' signature tune. And just as Rawls took the torch from the great Stan Getz for a version of The Girl From Ipanema, Fields also takes it and runs with it for a pop laced rhythmic re-birth, accompanied by Regina V. Fields' delightful vocal accompaniment.

It's important to point out that throughout his award winning and enduring career, Rawls only scored five top 10 songs on the Billboard pop and/or R&B charts, so for many people, The Lou Rawls Project contains what one might argue are lost classics that have been begging to re-emerge and continue the tradition of the late legends. The album is not meant to replace any of your Rawls collections, anthologies, or other musical works of arts, but instead be a fitting and heartfelt augmentation to his time honoured and indelible mark on music. 

Nouveau Rawls...neo Rawls..new millenium Rawls? Who needs a label when a singer like Fields utilizes his brilliant and magnetic voice to pay tribute to a man who was loved by millions.

Take a bow Victor, because even Lou Rawls is applauding from above.

Gina Loves Jazz

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 Marquinho Brasil 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!

F&S Revue

It’s been nearly a decade since the soul community lost one of the all-time great vocalists in Lou Rawls. Arguably one of the most overlooked artists on the Philadelphia International roster, Rawls possessed one of the most unique voices in soul music. Originally Rawls was primarily a jazz singer, but in 1967 he scored an R&B hit with the heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballad, ‘Love is a Hurtin’ Thing’. From then Rawls turned towards soul and was signed by Philadelphia International in 1976 where he scored his best-known hits, combining his jazz chops with the classic Philly soul sound to create some of the best soul songs ever recorded. Yet, at least currently, Rawls seems to be somewhat forgotten; sure, ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’ still gets airplay, but that’s about it.

Now, however, Oakland based singer Victor Fields has embarked on The Lou Rawls Project to re-interpret some of Rawls’ best-loved hits, reengaging the soul community with the fabulous career of Lou Rawls. Fields is an R&B/soul/jazz artist who possesses a beautiful, seductive tenor; Rawls’ himself called Fields “the man with the golden voice”. Fields has, in part, made a name for himself in covering other artist’s songs, such as Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’, and on this new album, he gives a master class in how to reinterpret and cover classic records.

The first song on the album, and the lead single is a cover of Rawls’ 1979 classic ‘Let Me Be Good To You’, and the results of Field’s reinterpretation are quite frankly stunning. Enlisting the help of guitarist Chris Camozzi to add some tasty smooth guitar licks, Fields delivers an impassioned vocal over an R&B influenced beat, reimagining the Philly-soul/disco sound for the present day. For us here at TF&SR, hearing this track was the first time we had heard Fields voice, and we were taken from the first line he delivered: this man does indeed possess a golden voice.

The jazz vibe continues throughout the album; the cover of ‘Let’s Fall In Love All Over Again’ is magical, and the inclusion of Marcin Nowakowski’s saxophone is a delight, updating the saxophone solo of the original to provide a contemporary jazz feel. Fields voice is at its most seductive and passionate here – almost as seductive as Rawls’ was on his jazz-infused version from his All Things in Time album. The track raises the tempo from the original to give it a funkier and groovier edge, and it works well.

Fields boldly attempts to cover Rawls’ biggest hits with ‘You’ll Never Find’, ‘See You When I Get There’ and ‘Groovy People’: the former is undoubtedly enjoyable, particularly with the added background vocals, but it somehow misses the mark compared to the original by Rawls – but perhaps this is to be expected, the original version is simply fantastic. Field’s version of ‘See You When I Get There’ is far better – Field’s mimic’s Rawl’s opening monologue about calling his ‘woman’ who is ‘at home’, which actually works very well, as does the combined neo-soul, smooth-jazz vibe of the track. ‘Groovy People’, again, is one of Rawls’ biggest, and to his credit Fields tries hard to re-work the song from the original, giving it a dance beat which only partially works. Indeed, on first listen it is a bit abrasive, but give it time: Fields vocals are, once again, brilliant and hearing the song a second time reveals subtleties to the dance feel.

A standout from the album is Fields’ take on the song that thrust Rawls’ towards success: ‘Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing’. His vocals possess a velvety goodness here, cloaking the listener with such a smooth, sexy sound. The horn arrangement is equally delightful here, combining with Fields’ vocal performance to create a beautiful rendition of arguably Rawls’ most important hit.

The Lou Rawls Project lays down the gauntlet for other artists of all genres who are considering to make their next album a covers album. In an era when record executives prefer to churn out cover after cover of the same songs in a safe bet to make a return on their artistic investment, Fields reminds us that covers albums can be very good indeed. Fields has created a beautiful tribute to one of the finest voices in soul music and shows off his own beautiful voice in the process.

Reviews from fans...

Victor mesmerized me with his many wonderful songs and his heartfelt renditions...no words can express how I was deeply moved...it was very inspiring. He is truly a gifted artist. ~ EVELYN (Hynson-Woods)

The show {at BB King Universal} was fabulous. You had the crowd eating out of your hands. ~ Carl Douglass, Esq.

Victor, I truly enjoyed your performance; you have perfected what you do and make it seem so easy. Keep on doing what you are doing. God has smiled on you, and we hear that when you sing. ~ Phyllis Sneed

You and the band were fabulous! It’s such a treat nowadays to see performers that can truly entertain and perform. Can’t wait to see what up next for you. ~ Romie

Last night in Huntsville was hot weather-wise, but your set was on the money. I thoroughly enjoyed your live performance and so did the crowd. ~ Charles Talley