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Field Of Fire (Deluxe)

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Album Review

When Richard Lloyd's second solo album was released — in Europe in late 1985, in the U.S. in early 1987 — fans of his pioneering work with Television and his hugely underrated 1979 solo debut, Alchemy, were so thrilled to have the singer and guitarist back after a long bout with drug addiction that, overall, they tended politely to overlook the fact that Field of Fire is an extremely spotty record with a number of irritating production and arrangement quirks that make it an exceedingly frustrating listen. That's no longer the case: 20 years after its initial release on the tiny Swedish label Mistlur, ownership of the master tapes reverted to Lloyd, and rather than simply give the album a proper CD release — it had appeared on a tiny unknown label with a different cover in the early '90s, in an edition of perhaps dubious legality — Lloyd decided to give Field of Fire the honor of doing it right. Disc one of this expanded two-disc set is Field of Fire as it was originally released, with all of its virtues and flaws as they were. First among the virtues is the outstanding title track, with its ragged but hopeful tone and the most impressive extended solo of Lloyd's entire post-Television career. Among its cons are inappropriate state-of-1985 arrangements and mixes, an unfortunately spotty song selection, and — perhaps most egregiously — Lloyd's vocals. According to the extensive liner notes, Lloyd's hoarse croak of a voice on this album was not the result of overuse or drug-related issues, but a deliberate stylistic choice on Lloyd's part, an attempt to replicate his on-stage vocal intensity.

The passage of time has apparently revealed to Lloyd what a bad idea this was, because the second disc features entirely new, considerably less strained and mannered vocals recorded in 2005. Furthermore, Lloyd has stripped down the original tracks in most cases to nothing more than the drums, which themselves are relieved of that annoying reverb that helped ruin so many otherwise good albums in the '80s. Field of Fire was originally recorded with minimal rehearsal with a group of Swedish musicians who Lloyd barely knew, and while Lloyd's extensive essay in the liner notes makes plain his gratitude to the Mistlur label for giving him the opportunity to record again at his lowest professional point, he does rightly concede that the musicians he was working with weren't necessarily the best for the job. Replacing most of the bass, keyboard, and guitar tracks with new and better iterations helps nearly as much as the re-recorded vocals at revealing the strengths of the album. While there are still a couple of dogs in the track lineup — "Losin' Anna" is still an embarrassing white-boy-blooze exercise that, ironically, is far worse than either of the resurrected outtakes found on the second disc — the revised takes strengthen previously lackluster songs like "Watch Yourself" and "Black to White," and the shuffled track order improves the album's flow. The one odd flaw of the revised version of Field of Fire is that Lloyd includes the edited five-minute single mix of the title track rather than the full eight-and-a-half-minute epic, excising most of that career-high-point solo in the process. While it's interesting to hear the extremely rare reworking of the song, it's a bit of a shame not to hear the original given the same treatment as the rest of the album. Regardless, this reissue is absolutely essential for all Richard Lloyd fans.

Biography

Born: 25 October 1951 in Pittsburgh, PA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Richard Lloyd was the rhythm guitarist for New York punk legends Television; he released the solo album Alchemy in 1979 and then dropped out of sight due to drug addiction, returning in 1985 cleaned up and with a new record, Field of Fire. The follow-up, a live album recorded at CBGB's and titled Real Time, appeared in 1987. Along with ex-Voidoids guitarist Robert Quine, Lloyd next helped bring Matthew Sweet to prominence on a series of albums starting with 1991's power pop classic Girlfriend; after...
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Field Of Fire (Deluxe), Richard Lloyd
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