It’s fair to say that 1972 was a year of major transition for British proggers Fields.
Vocalist and bass player Alan Barry had departed after their eponymous debut album in order to pursue a solo career (he would show up again in 1977, as part of EMI-signed soft rockers King Harry), and former Supertramp man Frank Farrell (who’d played on the Indelibly Stamped album) was drafted in in his stead. Then, as the new line-up were three-quarters of the way through recording a follow-up, an American management team were deployed to CBS Records in London. The British incumbents were promptly shown the door, and Fields were unceremoniously dropped, the tapes shelved and left to gather dust for more than four decades.
Contrasts: Urban Roar To Country Peace is ostensibly a concept album charting keyboard player Graham Field’s relocation from Battersea to the Buckinghamshire village of Iver (the album starts with police sirens, proceeds via chugging steam train, and by album closer Storm the birds are twittering). It’s not the grandest of concepts, perhaps, but it suits the pastoral, occasionally folksy feel of the album.
Opener Let Her Sleep features plenty of classically-inspired Keith Emersonisms, Andy McCulloch’s scattergun drumming is inspired throughout, but it’s actually the less proggy moments that impress most. Someone To Trust is mournful, beautifully composed blues that hits the middle ground between All Things Must Pass-era George Harrison and John Lennon at his most fraught, and is absolutely gorgeous. And The Old Canal, a wistful piano ballad backed by wandering violin, is similarly lovely.
On the downside, Farrell’s vocals on Wedding Bells are stretched beyond what’s naturally comfortable for him, and the three newly-discovered demo tracks tacked onto the end of the release don’t really add much. But these are minor quibbles: Contrasts is clearly an album that deserved to be released first time round.