After disbanding Rare Bird, Graham Field and Andrew McCulloch, former member of King Crimson, formed the progressive rock band Fields in 1971. Graham Field played the keyboards in Rare Birth and he wrote their major hit Sympathy. McCulloch had left King Crimson due to musical disagreements, but he still was on good terms with Robert Fripp. McCulloch brought in Allan Barry, a former member of the Giles Brothers, on vocals, guitar, bass and Mellotron. They immediately started to work on a debut album after they had gained a three-album contract with CBS. However, they only recorded an eponymous album in 1971. The single A Friend Of Mine, taken from that album in 1972, got both the album and the band acquainted by a larger audience.
After a change in the CBS-management the group disbanded. According to Graham Field 'the new faces didn't want to know us'. He left the music business for a while, because he had become sick of the rock industry that determined the rules and enriched themselves, while he did all the hard labour. Field owned the rights to the name Rare Bird, returned to work in that area and started to write television themes. McCulloch became a member of Greenslade with whom he released four fantastic studio albums. Later on he left the music business to become a yachtsman. Alan Barry became a session musician.
The lone album that some fans and critics hailed as a lost masterpiece got some re-releases on CD, but none of them could be regarded as an excellent version of the original album. In 2010 the album got another release, this time together with a detailed booklet with information and pictures about the time the original LP came out. Unfortunately the CD doesn't contain the additional material that was written for the band's second album. According to Field, two-thirds had been written and recorded. However, on this new release two bonus tracks have been added: the alternate and previously unreleased versions of Slow Susan and A Place To Lay My Head finish off this real prog gem.
The album starts with their hit single A Friend Of Mine, their best-known tune. For many prog rock lovers this single opened the door to this excellent album. This up-tempo piece features a lot of fine Hammond-organ parts and is strongly related to the music of Emerson, Lake & Palmer who at the time also gained a lot of interest with their music. The vocals of Alan Barry are strong and above all very melodic. McCulloch's drum parts are way better than those of Carl Palmer at the time. Compared to Palmer his playing is much more based on technical skills. The songs that follow are all of a very high caliber and show a lot of variety. The guitar parts are very well performed and prove that Alan Barry was not only an excellent singer and bass player. His playing on the Mellotron throughout the album is another important feature on Fields which can for instance be heard on The Eagle. Furthermore the album has a fine balance between up-tempo pieces and mellow ones; especially the mellow tracks provide for an extra dimension to the music. Good examples are Not So Good, Feeling Free and Slow Susan. In Fair-Haired Lady and Three Minstrels they also included some folk elements.
It's a pity that record companies often decide what kind of music a band should record. If the staff of the band's American record label hadn't changed that soon after signing the record deal, well, who knows what else Fields would have had in store for us. I think more gems like their debut album would have spinned on a regular basis on my turn table. No doubt about that. However, all that remained is this sole album.
Fields is a very enjoyable album for people who love keyboard-orientated bands like ELP, The Nice, Trace, Ars Nova and Gerard, although the music isn't that bombastic as some of these bands. The album contains many relaxing moments that has some similarities with a singer-songwriter style, but still it's highly recommended.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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