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Music Review

Soulful master marvelously runs the emotional gamut

Lee Fields and the Expressions covered a broad spectrum of soul Monday night that stretched from the pain of loss to playful joy.

Aram Boghosian for the Boston Globe

Lee Fields and the Expressions covered a broad spectrum of soul Monday night that stretched from the pain of loss to playful joy.

“Faithful Man” is the kind of swelling musical tidal wave that’s great for opening a record and closing a show. Soul singer extraordinaire Lee Fields, of course, knows this, making the lead-off and title track to his latest record the climax of a thrilling First Night concert Monday in New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.

Fields, whose career began in the late 1960s, is enjoying a revival that blossomed when he teamed with Truth and Soul records and its house band, the Expressions, young R&B acolytes who play with an intensity and acumen steeped in respect.

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And Fields embodies all that the Expressions and any fan of soul music admires — raw talent and unvarnished emotion. Though he performed for little more than an hour, Fields covered a broad spectrum of soul that stretched from the pain of loss in “Wish You Were Here” to the playful joy of “You’re the Kind of Girl.”

Fields didn’t bounce from mood to mood, but smoothly moved through the contours of his work. For example, he took lines used in “Ladies” to exclaim his helpless devotion and recast them verbatim in “I Still Got It” to explain he won’t be played a fool.

Fields didn’t simply sing his songs; he performed them in a dramatic fashion, looking like a cross between a boxer and a preacher as he roamed the stage and busted out jittery dance moves.

But even in quieter moments, as when Fields sang much of “Could Have Been” accompanied just by his guitarist, the show’s intensity didn’t waver.

The joys, the sorrows, the pains, and the regrets that rippled across his set all came together in “Faithful Man,” a torrid tale of temptation that reduced Fields (or perhaps elevated him) to shrieking, possessed soul.

With its own strong streak of soul, Boston’s Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents paired well with Fields at Jordan Hall. But this was soul from the garage, with Jenny Dee belting out the Flamin’ Groovies’ “Shake Some Action” as well as equally urgent originals “Keeping Time” and “Let Me Go.”

Scott McLennan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@ScottMcLennan1.
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