When the first line-up of Rare Bird ceased to exist in early 1971, keyboard player Graham Field immediately started a new band called Fields with bass player, vocalist and guitarist Alan Barry and King Crimson drummer Andy McCulloch. Although the band failed to match the commercial success of Graham Field's previous group, their eponymous album (1971, see review) was a fine example of classically influenced progressive rock. Their great debut featured the single A Friend Of Mine which became actually a minor (cult) hit.
I've always loved the debut with its warm sound and wonderful organ play. It has been reissued on CD a number of times, most recently by Esoteric a few years ago in a newly remastered version (including two bonus tracks).
Following the debut album's release the band's line-up changed with the departure of Alan Barry and the arrival of Frank Farrell, formerly of Supertramp. This new line-up recorded a follow-up album in 1972 that was shelved by CBS Records and remained locked in the vaults for over forty years. The original master tapes of the second album were recently located and have been re-mastered as Contrasts - From Urban Roar To Country Peace with the full involvement of Graham Field. Now Esoteric Recordings presents the second album for the first time with this release.
Chirping birds open and close the original album (to which three bonus tracks are added that are just as good), probably hinting at the country-bit of the title. Then Contrast opens with wonderful swirling organ. The piece reminds me a bit of Fields' hit Friend Of Mine. And in fact a lot of the second album sounds like a good continuation of the delicious first LP. But there are also differences. I think that other keyboard instruments have gained a somewhat greater role, in addition to the sound-determining organ. We also get some (classical) violin like in Wedding Bells and The Old Canal (a piece with a wonderful organ solo at the end, by the way). Another difference is that there are partly female vocals on the tracks. These suit the music very well! My favourite track might be the classic organ/drum led Put Out To Grass although there is tough competition from the closer Storm that has a wonderful almost Wakeman-like synth solo.
A great release from the hey days of progressive rock and also one that shows once more that progressive rock can be crafted in fairly short songs. By the way, the reissue features a booklet with an essay by Sid Smith and interview with Graham Field.
****- Carsten Busch (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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