Tony Fields - Elegant Lady (2007)

Tony Fields
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Tony Fields is a romantic crooner. As such, he works within a form that has a lot of history. And listeners expect a lot from their love men. First, they have to be great singers. I mean, you're treading on the same territory as greats like Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross and Barry White; contemporary artists like Will Downing, and great jazz crooners like Nat King Cole and Johnny Hartman. Listeners don't really expect their balladeers to say something new about the topic of love. They do expect singers to have the skills to use lyrics and topics to explore love in all of its many dimensions. The opening four tracks of Elegant Lady, Tony Fields gives listeners an entertaining overview of the topic of romantic love.

"Creepin' On the Down Low," Elegant Lady's opening tune, is clearly the album's best song. The song is a funky dance number that is the perfect vehicle for Field's soft tenor voice.

Tony Fields is a romantic crooner. As such, he works within a form that has a lot of history. And listeners expect a lot from their love men. First, they have to be great singers. I mean, you're treading on the same territory as greats like Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross and Barry White; contemporary artists like Will Downing, and great jazz crooners like Nat King Cole and Johnny Hartman. Listeners don't really expect their balladeers to say something new about the topic of love. They do expect singers to have the skills to use lyrics and topics to explore love in all of its many dimensions. The opening four tracks of Elegant Lady, Tony Fields gives listeners an entertaining overview of the topic of romantic love.

"Creepin' On the Down Low," Elegant Lady's opening tune, is clearly the album's best song. The song is a funky dance number that is the perfect vehicle for Field's soft tenor voice. But the lyrics are "Creepin' On the Down Low's" true strength. Fields uses the song as a vehicle for the lost art of storytelling in R&B/soul music. As the title suggests, the song tells the story of a man who fools around on his old lady. The best part of the song comes when Field's explains how the woman learns of the affair. "I told her I was hangin' wit my dog/she cut through that lie like a knife through the fog/Her girlfriend gave her the 411/She said your man is out with some hoochie/having big fun." Then, comes the hook, which vocalist Tammi Lockett sings: "Jivetime, smalltime playboy/I'm not your sometime, part-time playtoy/No I don't like the way you're playing me/You don't give a damn/That's plain to see."

None of Elegant Lady's other 11 tracks approach the quality of "Creepin' On the Down Low," although the next three songs are moderately good. In a way, "New Girl In Town," "Maybe It's You" and "Elegant Lady" also display Fields' skills as a storyteller. Each song stands up pretty well on it's own. However, it's clear there is a theme at work when the three are listened to back to back. The Motown influenced, mid-tempo song, "New Girl In Town," tells how Field's introduces himself to an attractive newcomer. The relationship has infinite possibilities. Fields and the new girl in town can be friends or lovers, but the lyrics make it clear which is Fields' preferred direction. Fields' soft tenor voice works best on dance tunes and mid-tempo songs like "Creepin' On the Down Low" and "New Girl in Town." It sometimes seems like Fields is stretching a bit too much on some of the ballads.  However, that's not a problem on the tune "Maybe It's You," where Fields has totally fallen for the new girl in town and thinks she is the one. He clearly hopes so, and his tenor voice displays all of the vulnerability that comes when a person loses control of his or her emotions. The title track, "Elegant Lady," is Fields' victory lap. The song is another Motown influenced tune by this Michigander. He has won the heart of the new girl in town, and he revels in her beauty as they prepare to go out on the town.

None of the other romantic songs are as compelling as the first four. In fact, the two best songs on the second half of the CD are "Special Things," which is a tribute to Oprah Winfrey and the touching "I Should Have Left This Earth Before You," in which Fields laments the death of his daughter, Desiree "De De" Inez Fields. The young lady died in 2004, about five months before her 21st birthday.  Fields fills the songs with the memories of the things he shared with his daughter in those 20 plus years, and the sentiment expressed in the song's title - as well as throughout the song - is one anybody who has lost a child can feel.

Elegant Lady is an uneven effort. It has many strong moments, especially in the first half of the record. However, like many contemporary records, this is a case where less would probably have been more.

By Howard Dukes

 
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