I was sick for nearly the whole month of April. At the beginning of the month I was looking forward to the great records I would be getting for my regrettably 38th birthday (with my trouble-plagued life I don't think I wanted to live this long that's how I feel a lot of the time unfortunately), but when my birthday came I'd already had horrible bronchitis for a week and would continue to have it for another week and even at the end of May I'm still sick with the after effects and what may be another plague. Personal stuff I know, but when life is shite I feel like letting you know why my life has been SO SHITE THAT I COULDN'T GET BACK HERE FOR OVER A MONTH!
-A Lot Of Great Music Came, But The Biggest One Was Not The Most Expensive Fields And Megaton Are The Two Best-
It's nice to have all the great records I got for my birthday, but the one that cost the most although an absolute masterwork by an unlikely name (Incredible Hog- how much stupider a name could there be for a serious band?) is outclassed by two old standbys that I now fortunately have back- Fields from England on Dutch original press and the German/Anglo Megaton. All three however, are albums made at a time when anything in the world seemed possible. England was full of amazing bands as was most of Europe. Incredible Hog play music that is melodic heavy psych with brutal lyrics to a lot of the tracks and that downer vibe may be one reason why I listen more to Fields and Megaton. Fields gave me a lot of listening pleasure when I first heard it and it most certainly has not tarnished with the passing of the years. The songs are uniformly excellent and the performances stunning in their power, depth, and feeling. I would say that Incredible Hog takes some time to get used to the various different things going on which have me convinced about the quality, but the lyrics could have been a bit less like a sledgehammer and more like the whimsical nature of the group's name. You still should look for it, though, but look for Fields and the more affordable German original of Megaton (somewhat more affordable than over $1,000 that is!!!) first.
Fields from 1971 were a break off group by Graham Field of Rare Bird who sought to form a more down to earth band than the pretentious prog rock of his former group with Andrew McCullough from King Crimson's seminal LIZARD on drums and vocalist/session guitarist Alan Barry making a huge difference. Although Fields are a trio they have a far richer sound than Rare Bird who were a quartet with the rather risky instrumentation of two keyboards and no guitar. Graham Field wrote or co wrote much of Rare Bird's material on their first two albums, but he was saving his best or just put more into it to make it his best for Fields.
The difference is remarkable. Alan Barry replaces the low bellowing harshness of Steve Gould with a high pitched, strong, and piercing yet very melodic voice and Fields may best be described as an early Pomp Rock band where British melodic rock and progressive inclinations meet. I've known Fields for a very long time, but I never lose interest in music that never loses impact. So here's the secret formula to making music that works- you go for strong songs AND THEN THE CHOPS!
I will give a song by song analysis as part 2 of my entry here on Fields and the also brilliant and amazing Anglo/German hard rock pop psych masters Megaton are gonna be my next post.
-Fields Put Together One Of The Strongest Albums Ever Made Here Are The Songs-
The first track "A Friend Of Mine" begins with epic classically inspired organ solos and riffs supported by virtuoso bass from Alan and astonishingly played drums from Andrew who was a key contributor into why LIZARD may have been King Crimson's career best. Then there are a few notes ringing out bell like from the organ before the song settles into a beautiful romantic sparkling progressive pop number that features great lyrics, soaring vocals, and amazing playing from all three of the musicians. I think Graham Field faced up to the whole truth behind why Rare Bird were at best a pretty good and never a great band and at worst dire. The problem with Rare Bird was the plodding samey tempos, the overindulgent strained vocals, and hackneyed lyrics that too often replaced the good things that the band had. Fields made me lose interest in Rare Bird. I had been a huge fan of them before I heard songs like "A Friend Of Mine" where the pretentious doom-obsessed musings are left to bands more capable of that kind of very English darkness. Fields have an optimism about them that's much more refreshing than the always brooding nature of Rare Bird's music.
"While The Sun Still Shines" is an Alan Barry composition. Graham Field wrote most of the album and Alan Barry contributed 3 songs. This song is very melodic pop rock with strong vocals, great melodies, and that missing ingredient from Rare Bird- a guitar! Alan is quite a good guitar player and a fantastic singer. His voice is on the high end of tenor, but never shrill or overindulgent. I don't think anyone could possibly dislike this album if they are in their right mind. It's a good pick up album when I'm depressed. I sure can't say that for Rare Bird! The words to this song are all about traveling and being carefree, going wherever you may go to find that most elusive thing many of us, me included, have none of- a comfortable life.
"Not So Good" takes the concept of protest and statement songs and doesn't bash them into you. Instead, this song is something I can agree with completely. Like what comes before it and after it the whole sound is far off from Rare Bird, so far off that it makes me wonder if Rare Bird had the same effect on Graham Field that they have on me! Rare Bird fans will rave about his keyboards, but they'll need to make their ears a lot more open minded to appreciate Fields for what they are- a band between progressive, power pop, and rock not the bombast of Graham Field's former group. "Not So Good" is about growing troubles in England and the world. People are unhealthy and selfish and politicians never stop scheming and doing wrong. The lyrics are particularly concerned with environmental issues and political intrusion into the vast public's lives. Sort of a 1984 like concept, but not as dark as that would suggest. Sadly, today's world is exactly what "Not So Good" is a protest about- "We've got to fight and hold it tight/We've lost our air/Lost our food/Our clothes and homes/Don't touch our minds" is the key line in the chorus. The melodies are more Beatles than Keith Emerson and the vocal is high and confident which again put the song at odds with what Rare Bird had done.
"Three Minstrels" is a very romantic and uplifting song about 3 musicians who make magical happiness with Medieval folk influences in the phrasing of the verses and the lyrics and pure rock for the basis of the song. It doesn't get more perfect than this song and usually "perfect" doesn't exist. I would, again, not suggest this to progressive only buffs, but I would say that a lot of the early progressive bands aimed at writing melodic songs so you should give Fields a try even if you are an arch prog fanatic which oddly I was when I first got into their album. "Three Minstrels" is Yes if they were a rock band not a progressive rock band with long tracks or Genesis without the dithering they occasionally wandered into. Yes combined progressive with solid rock so there's a bit of a similarity between them and Fields particularly in the vocal department. I think Jon Anderson is the best voice in the world of progressive rock together with Peter Gabriel at his best. Both of them had a warmth and honesty that many other singers in that genre lack. A human element must be retained. I would say that despite the fact that he was always overdoing it and going crazy Martin Griffiths in Beggar's Opera more so because of his weaknesses than his strengths sounded human and listenable, but for bad machine made prog I think you know what's coming- Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and their ilk. Unlike some people who laugh at E.L.P and find them unintentionally funny I find it sad. Three of the best musicians in the world and they just didn't ever gel for a full album with the promising first 4 albums that all had some good songs giving way to the worst trash ever recorded by a famous progressive band. Pete Sinfield should be ashamed of himself for the lyrics he wrote for them. I saw them live in 1997 and I will have to admit how shockingly good they were in concert. Nobody expected them to put on such a great show. How sad that the hugely talented Emerson, Lake, and Palmer didn't gel on record after some bright spots on their early ones. I prefer The Nice even though I prefer Greg Lake's voice to the harsher Lee Jackson. "Three Minstrels" is what Emerson, Lake, and Palmer would have sounded like had the pretensions been thrown out the window.
"Slow Susan" is one of two instrumentals. The closing track on side one it certainly is very slow and atmospheric. Fields on the whole are a pastoral progressive rock/pop group of the highest order and it is only because of the Rare Bird connection I think that they aren't mentioned with bands as great as The Parlour Band and The Dog That Bit People. There's some beautiful melodies and a sweet sound to the organ that I wish more progressive bands had. Keyboards are the only instrument here with no drums and I never notice any bass either. It's a solo showcase for the talents of band namesake Field.
Side Two follows the exact same path as Side One. The first track is the prog rock blow out and then a much more melodic rock oriented sound for the rest of the side. "Over And Over," like "A Friend Of Mine," is a melodic progressive track based around heavy dramatic organ work and strong vocals. Alan Barry's delicious phrasing makes this song great to listen to when you're depressed. So does the sentiment that things are getting better instead of worse. I wish I could say that for my life and for the world. This song has a melodic power and conviction to it that place it up with the best in the progressive genre. There's some roaring organ work, powerful thundering drums, and thick heavy bass capturing a power that E.L.P seldom reached. However, this one track does have some similarities to Emerson Lake and Palmer, but with a Beatles influence (McCartney) that makes it far more palatable. Lyrically, again a statement is made. The song is about how the world is turning into a better place, but how law enforcement is corrupt and vile. It may sound like a "Hippie Sentiment" when actually it is far deeper than that. I find most police now don't abuse their power, but I ran into the most obnoxious bastard in the world last week who happens to be a nasty little cop literally. Don't generalize. This song says not to generalize. It also says a better time is here if we can open up to it.
"Feeling Free" like "While The Sun Still Shines" on Side One is more melodic rock than progressive rock. Again everything is perfectly done. The melodies are top class, the vocals are great, and the playing is superb. If you're as interested in the evolution of music in the 60s, 70s, and 80s as I am then you'll probably like me find this album to be essential. I never would have imagined so much progress made just by Field starting a new band especially one called "Fields" which gives an impression it will be a showcase for extravagant organ solos. He's clearly more interested in the songs than in showing off his prowess as a master of bashing an organ in. "Feeling Free" is about getting closer to nature, about living in a beautiful house on a hill and appreciating all the beauty that you are ignoring. A very goodhearted song.
"Fair Haired Lady" is one of two Alan Barry compositions on Side Two of the album and is a wonderful romantic ballad with soothing vocals, acoustic guitar, and sweet woodwinds making for a song that calms the mind instead of bringing you down. Instead of an angst-ridden break up song it simply says "We had a nice thing at the time, but I think I'll move on now." I wish I could find it that easy not to be seduced by happy events in the distant or recent past. This is a really nice and mellow song- very much something that like the whole album could have gained enough airplay to be a hit.
"A Place To Lay My Head" rocks. It's the rockiest song on the record with sharp guitar lines, strong vocals, and a power pop as opposed to progressive rock sound. Fields broke out of what Rare Bird had been in which was mostly a quagmire of boredom. I know I'm sounding really hard on Graham Field's former band, but I find it irritating that Rare Bird were always going over the top in the wrong way and that Steve Gould had a voice that seemed to be aiming for ugliness. I wish it had been Fields with the long career and not Rare Bird although funnily enough after Graham Field left Rare Bird recorded the excellent melodic progressive album EPIC FOREST which went much more in the direction of The Parlour Band or Fields (I wonder if that was intentional) than anything on their first two releases. Of course, it didn't go over well with their fan base and of course the good period for Rare Bird only lasted for one album. I know how hard I am being on a once favourite band, but ever since I heard Fields I heard what Rare Bird lacked in nearly all aspects of their music. "A Place To Lay My Head" and the whole Fields album couldn't have been done by Rare Bird and I find it very surprising to hear the difference in Graham Field once he's out on his own with total freedom and far superior musicianship and vocals. This is such a great album. An absolute gem and a masterwork.
"The Eagle" closes the album in splendid fashion and is the third song on the album written by Alan Barry. It's also the most progressive track, an instrumental with guitar featured much more prominently than keyboards. Fields jam here. They stretch out and go for the throat, but keep the strong melodic sense. "The Eagle" also features a mellotron which is a very nice touch to the song. There's lots of amazing guitar work, great melodies, and real power and emotion. This is one of the best albums of progressive melodic rock with wide appeal, great songs, and is uplifting much more so than most progressive albums are maybe because they are more rock oriented than chops oriented. Don't wait until you've finished your progressive listening for the day, put this record on first and take it from there. Anyone who appreciates great music needs to own this amazing album. Fields are a somewhat harder rocking pastoral progressive/melodic rock band and for that sound their album is one of the best in a genre full of great albums that unfortunately were oftentimes one-offs. Fields would split up after just one album which is really a shame. I wish they could have gone on much longer.
I don't know where my future is headed. It could be to a brighter life or it could be to an untimely end. I find so much anger and rage in me at things that I can't change or control and that is very hard to deal with. VERY HARD. I wish people would not be so pigheaded, selfish, and bellicose, but all three of those things are what Amerika is all about. This country needs a right proper kick in the arse. We've been abusing each other, abusing the world, and holding the world hostage for too long. I realized a long time ago there was nothing I could do about that, but it doesn't exactly help me to know there isn't anything I can do about it. I would like to make the world a better place, but making my own life a better one is about all I can try to do. I urge people to care more about nature and other people. I have experienced disgusting behavior in the last two months that have made me hate Amerika even more than I already hate it. This country was only good in the 60s and during the part of the 70s where people would rise up and speak out against the injustices of our nation. I would like there to be more upheavals and a heavy punishment sentence handed out to us, but that is unlikely to happen in the near future or at all. I can't resort to irrational behavior. I won't resort to it because it gets me nowhere. I'm hoping for better times ahead and time will show me whether it will be more of the same painful misery or to a happy, safe, and less draining life. Right now music is helping me in a huge way. I suggest it to you as a remedy for your issues. Peace out don't go crazy. Live for the right reasons and the right beliefs. These are things that you and I should know by now are priceless. I wish the good people well and the bad people Hell. Here I sign off and leave you with this recommendation- go for a listen to great favourite music or purchase great music. Give up on the whole political thing because there is no hope for it to improve now that we've been too blind to change it before it could get this ugly. Just live a better life if you can yourself.