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Ars Nova | Fields of People: The Recordings 1968-1969

These freewheeling ’60s rockers were probably way too weird for their own good.

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THE PRESS RELEASE:Fields of People: The Recordings 1968-1969 is a new re-mastered 2-CD anthology featuring all of the recordings by the American psychedelic / progressive band Ars Nova released by Elektra & Atlantic records in 1968 and 1969. Ars Nova was formed in New York City in 1967 by two former students from the Mannes College musical conservatory, Wyatt Day (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Jon Pierson (trombone, vocals) and Maury Baker (drums). The band’s self-titled debut album was recorded at Sunset Sound studios in Los Angeles and was produced by Paul Rothchild (noted for his work with The Doors, Love et al). The album was ground-breaking for its use of unconventional instrumentation and for taking influences from the worlds of rock, ethnic and classical music. One fan of the album was Roy Wood of British band The Move (who would record a cover of Ars Nova’s Fields of People on their 1970 album Shazam!) Ars Nova was issued in 1968 to much critical acclaim, but the band’s line-up made it difficult for the music to translate well on the concert stage. Appearances opening for The Doors failed to boost the band’s fortunes and the initial line-up of the band broke up soon afterwards. A revamped version of Ars Nova would record their final album, the equally imaginative Sunshine & Shadows, in late 1968 in New York City. The album release was inexplicably delayed for nearly a year and any momentum gained by further critical praise was lost. Increasing management problems also took their toll and Ars Nova disbanded soon after the release of Sunshine & Shadows.”

MY TWO CENTS: There’s a fine line between eclectic and all over the damn place. Where you see these guys in relation to that invisible divider is undoubtedly a matter of personal taste. But there’s no getting around the fact that the horn-topped combo pushed the envelope stylistically and sonically, pinballing between rock, jazz, classical, folk and more. Of the two albums, Sunshine & Shadows shows a bit more focus and packs more of a rock punch. But the bottom line is, these guys were likely way too weird for their own good.