Lee Fields and The Expressions
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Lee Fields and The Expressions
After his rediscovery in the mid 90s, his faithful have featured him on a slew on singles, a full-length on Desco Records entitled "Let's Get It On', a full-length on Soul Fire entitled "Problems", and on Sharon Jones's critically acclaimed album, "Naturally". Most recently, he has featured on a number of tracks by French house producer, Martin Solveig. Suprisingly, many of of those songs have become top ten hits for Solveig and have turned Lee Fields into a bonafide celebrity in France and other parts of Europe. Yet, outside of a rabid cult following, his story remained untold in America.
When Truth & Soul rose from Soul Fire's ashes in 2004, the first mission of label owners/producers Jeff Silverman and Leon Michels, was to record a sweet soul record that would be modeled after the near perfect formula that bands like The Moments, The Delfonics, and The Stylistics had created. But with a decidedly modern bent. The two producer/songwriters were perfect for the job, having dedicated their talents to the likes of Adele, Iggy Pop, Amy Winehouse alongside Just Blaze, Ghostface Killah and Jay Z
Turning their attention to Lee Fields, the duo wanted an album full of music that was both tough as nails and sweet as honey. They wanted ballads laced with lush strings and smooth vocal harmonies layered over a hard-hitting rhythm section. Michels and Silverman enlisted the service of a the group of New York studio musicians that have provided the back drop for records by The Dap Kings, Amy Winehouse, Bronx River Parkway, El Michels Affair and TV on The Radio. Those musicians include Leon Michels, Homer Steinweiss, Quincy Bright, Nick Movshon, Thomas Brenneck, Toby Pazner, Aaron Johnson, Dave Guy, Michael Leonhart, and members of legendary doo-wop group, The Del-Larks.
Four years later and Lee Fields & The Expressions have successfully created a unique and personal sound that can hold court with the bands they set out to emulate. However, what they've created in the process goes beyond just a carbon copy of a sweet soul music from the 60's and early 70's. The formula has remained the same but the style has been adapted for the ears of youngsters whose experiences with soul began with Amy, not Al, Otis and Marvin. Thirty years of retrospection has colored this cross-generational melding of the minds. It sounds odd on paper, but the results are classic: hip hop-reared record collectors come full circle to produce an album of beatuful soul music with one of the progenitors who made it all possible.
"I had such a good time last night - Great, classic soul in an intimate setting - great sound, what more could one ask for? I had a really tough time not getting up and dancing, but that might have to wait for their Black Cat show. The band looked so sharp - they're ready for prime time! Seriously. If you haven't seen them yet you need to catch them at the Black Cat." Adrian Collazo, September 2012
"There could be 5, there could be 500. Makes no difference. This woman crushes. Every. Single. Time." Kristin Forbes, The Scotch Bonnets, Oliva & The Housemates, September 2012
"New Old School: A BREATH OF booty-shaking, sweat-dripping, old-school fresh air amid a sea of jagged pop and aggressive hardcore, the Ambitions bring something to the D.C. scene it hasn't been notorious for — fun. This soulful garage band with rock chops, led by charistmatic frontwoman Caz Gardiner, doesn't just recycle '60s pop forms, it reinvents them. Check them out at Saturday's Valentine's Day bash at the Black Cat gig with politically charged punk-poppers the Electricutions."
Washington Post Express Night Out, Feb. 14, 2009
"...the Ambitions... The lead singer has what some older guys who work in guitar stores would call “chops,” meaning she sounds like Aretha Franklin. She also dances like Tina Turner, except actually more animated. The music is a pretty perfect balance of 1960s soul-pop with garagey keyboards and guitars. On record that perfection can sound a bit over-produced, but at this show they cranked up the rawness and the energy and got people dancing almost right away. At one point I looked around and some boogieing crowd members were intent on their feet instead of the stage, which in my mind is a huge compliment to a band that might be comfortable asking an audience to do the Mashed Potato. They didn’t ask, but I did the Mashed Potato anyway, as well as the Shingaling and a combination of the twist and the jerk that I call the Gist. It looks retarded, but is very fun to do, so please keep your comments to yourself."
BrightestYoungThings.com, December 10, 2007
"When they take the stage, it’s apparent that The Ambitions have their style component down pat. Gracefully walking that line between clever and costume, their 60s inspired threads give a naturally polished look. After a few songs it’s clear that the word "polished" extends to their sound, as well."
It is impossible to listen to The Ambitions and stand still. This was the case at the band’s recent Black Cat show. An initially austere and stationary crowd was nodding at the first song and flailing by the third. Even the couple in the corner, determinedly twined together, were shaking their collective groove thing. The Ambitions' energetic blend of rock and 60s soul certainly was the main force behind this sudden dance craze. Some credit must go to directly the group’s lead singer, Caz. A whirlwind with curls and a vintage shift, she did a modified mashed potato when singing and cut completely loose during the instrumental sections.
The rest of the band was a bit more stationary but with good reason; they were clearly focused on maintaining their studio-perfect sound....The Ambitions are remarkably tight, creating a cohesive sound that calls to mind Phil Spector or Pet Sounds. Bill Dempsey balanced keys and organs against Kelly Marshall’s impressive guitar while Jorge Banales (bass) added the soul and Sean Hissey (drums) gave the audience a beat they could dance to. It all seemed effortless, a true mark of their collective skill. As for Caz, well, a Tina Turner comparison is more than appropriate. Though not possessing a world weary growl, Caz’s voice reaches out and grabs the audience. Strong but with a remarkable clarity, it brings brightness to every song, not generally found in soul (a great example was their effervescent cover of “The Midnight Hour’). After an hour of dancing all around, The Ambitions leave you wanting more."
DCist "Three Stars" Feature, March 28, 2007
"The Washington quintet charmed....The Ambitions have a fantastic original song called "Look at Me." It's a sassy number in which leading lady Caz Gardiner beckons for attention: 'Don't look away, pretty baby / C'mon, c'mon, look at me / Like what you see, pretty baby / C'mon, c'mon, look at me.'
Gardiner was a bright spot of energy with her cute dance moves, loud dress and head full of bouncy shoulder-length curls."
The Washington Post on Jan. 12, Black Cat show.
"The Ambitions' fusion of garage-pop with uplifting soul-style vocals has the edge...."
The Washington Post Express
"'Look At Me', oh what a track!, Caz`s vocals are a joy to the ear! amazing vocals and a superb 60`s swing Mod style, got to be my pick of the bunch!"
modradiouk.com on "Various Artists - News Of The World mk2, Sounds For Scootering," Howitzer Records/SALVO 2006
"Before too terribly long, The Ambitions take the stage, and moments into the first song, I remember why I bothered coming out tonight: they're ridiculously good. Singing "Lonesome Highway," lead singer Caz Gardiner assumes the perfect diva stance; feet firmly planted, one hand firmly gripping the microphone and body always in motion, the former ska performer is as much a sight to behold as a joy to hear. All crinkly brown hair and big voice, she pauses between songs to take a swig from her bottle of Budweiser. Everyone on the stage has a ridiculous grin on their face. This is truly a band that loves to play.
While introducing the catchy "Thank You," she mentions that there just aren't enough people making use of the dance space in front of the stage. She has nothing to fear, for by the time their set is finished, half of the crowd is shaking a** in one way or another. Like last week's pick The Pinker Tones, this is music that lends itself especially well to a certain carefree seduction.
The guys in The Ambitions are certainly capable musicians; the lead guitarist takes a couple of interesting solos before the set is over, but if you're going to fall in love with this band, it will be with the irrepressible lead singer. On the more soulful numbers, you see how much she loves being on stage; a big smile lights up her face and for a moment, it's bliss. Barely lit by the random blue bar light and a string of red and yellow icicle lights hung behind them, they transcend the space; anywhere they play, there will be dancing and smiles."
The Quindecim Online, Goucher College
“Another night at the local indie-rock club, another disaffected 20-something wailing out his childhood abandonment issues, Yawn. Break the angry/depressed monotony with the D.C.-based Ambitions. The band’s music is as fun and retro as lead singer Caz Gardiner’s mod shift dresses. Keeping with the group’s tried-and-true 60s style, Gardiner sings about such simple things as the quest for the perfect dancehall and the perfect cutie....catchy pop music guaranteed to get your hips swinging, even in the post-holiday lull. So lighten up and check your daddy problems at the door when the Ambitions play....”
Washington City Paper