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Album Review

After the terrific retro-funk label Desco split into the Soul Fire and Dap-Tone camps, flagship artist Lee Fields recorded for both but issued his next full-length on the former, which preferred a distinctly lower-fidelity grit to its product. That recording approach informs Problems, Fields' second album of unadulterated James Brown worship aimed at the burgeoning deep-funk revival scene, though it isn't as scratchy-sounding as much of Soul Fire's output. Initially, Problems might be a bit of a letdown after the blazing funk firestorm that was Let's Get a Groove On. It's just as raw and organic, to be sure, but lacks a certain immediacy in comparison. The Soul Fire house band is a crackerjack unit, grooving with a trippier vibe than Fields' previous outing — more guitar effects, electric piano, flute, and African-flavored percussion. While the music is terrific on its own terms, it sometimes seems a little laid-back and slow-paced for Fields' irresistible James Brown Disciple Number One act, and as a result Problems doesn't feel like the super-bad statement of purpose that its predecessor was. Plus, with just over half an hour's running time, it's disappointing that two of the ten tracks are band-only. But given time, Fields' infectious enthusiasm and the quality musicianship behind him are too winning to end up really dissatisfying. And there are plenty of great moments for Fields fans: Fields confessing his dirty past on "You Made a New Man Out of Me"; the humorous, age-old advice on women dispensed on "Rapping With Lee"; the funked-up ballad "Honey Dove"; the percolating mid-tempo grooves of "The Right Thing" and the philosophical title track. Even if Problems winds up a cut below Let's Get a Groove On, it shows that Fields is still a vital and dynamic funk force to be reckoned with.


Born: 1951 in North Carolina

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Lee Fields initially made his name among die-hard funk fans with a series of hard-hitting singles recorded for various small labels during the '70s. Everything about Fields -- his look, his vocals, the grooves on his records -- was so indebted to James Brown that he earned the nickname "Little J.B." Fields never hit it big, but his rough-and-tumble singles went on to become popular collectors' items. After a lengthy hiatus, Fields returned in the '90s as a soul-blues belter playing to female-heavy...
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Problems, Lee Fields
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