BROOKLYN’S unparalleled Big Crown, who know soul and a brilliant retro groove when they see one, have decided to go a-peerin’ into the vaults, bringing some lost session treasure into the light; and to this end they’re launching a new series that does exactly what it says on the tin: Big Crown Vaults.
The label of love says: “We are always sitting on a handful of unreleased songs that didn’t make their way to albums. Listening back to these gems we decided to launch a new series, and the first volume features the music of Lee Fields & the Expressions.” What a way to come out of the blocks.
North Carolina-born Lee cut his first 7″ for Bedford, the deep soul of “Bewildered”, back in ’69; since when he’s helped launch the career of former backing singer, the much-missed Sharon Jones, and Charles Bradley, who performed with Lee on his first tour.
He’s seen hard times, almost giving up the soul for good during those lean years, the 80s; but he stayed constant, has celebrated his golden wedding with his wife, still lives in the same house.
In more recent years he’s cut two inspirational albums for Big Crown with The Expressions: 2016’s Special Night, and last year’s It Rains Love. And it’s from these sessions that the nine tracks that make up Big Crown Vaults Vol.1 are taken.
Uh-uh, don’t be thinking these are the rejects; take a listen to the lead teaser, a cover of Little Carl Carlton’s 1970 ‘A’ for Back Beat, “Two Timer”, and tell me this ain’t quality. That perfect valve mixing desk production; that voice. Fact is two sides of 33rpm vinyl doesn’t hold all the tunes a singer that Lee can bring to the table when he’s in the zone.
Big Crown Vaults Vol.1 also features the country soul of “Regenerate”, about finding your way out of a low point in a relationship; the floor-filler in waiting, “‘Thinking About You” and the irresistible fuzz-funk of “Do You Know”.
Lee Fields & The Expressions’ Big Crown Vaults Vol.1 will be released by Big Crown Records on digital, CD, trad black and limited translucent purple ripple vinyl on December 4th; you can pre-order from Big Crown here. Rap and Soul Mail Order will be sure to be stocking it if you’re in the UK.