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Mike Oldfield - Five Miles Out CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

3.68 | 362 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Not quite a masterpiece, but for me the best of MIKE OLDFIELD'S second phase albums.

Finally OLDFIELD decides to write his longer progressive tracks in the same way he put them together in the 1970s, but with standard rock instruments dominating. The result here, on the extended reinterpretation of the 'QE2' track 'Taurus', is nothing short of superb. Note the main theme carefully: you'll be hearing it again throughout the album, including the final (title) track. On many of his subsequent albums he uses the same technique - that is, jazzing up an instrumental theme from a feature track to create another. A series of short themes follow, the most memorable drenched in Uileann pipes. Then he brings in MAGGIE REILLY, she of 'Moonlight Shadow' to come, to sing a gentle theme, slow and with gravity, before the song explodes at the ten minute mark into one of those trademark OLDFIELD moments: a reprise of her tune by massed instruments. Just when the listener thinks their emotions can be raised no higher, he does it with a sequence of explosive chords, until it all tails off ... a sublime minute to remind us of the man's talent ... and then he retreats into the vocoder, a way of giving himself voice without spoiling the song. He's tried many techniques: grunting and howling on 'Tubular Bells', speaking on 'Ommadawn', and now the vocoder. Mercifully he puts the instrument away and settles back for a long instrumental section. The pace picks up with eight minutes to go, heralding a disco-like section and a rock finale with - you guessed it - a reappearance of the main theme. Symphonic progressive rock in my book.

Side two begins with 'Family Man', OLDFIELD'S first true pop song. There's a strong anti-pop sentiment among progressive fans, but all progressive rock is a subset of popular music. I have no problem with a pop song, as long as it's done well, and this one is. Well enough for HALL AND OATES to cover it, at least. OLDFIELD'S guitars here are excellent, marking it out from a run of the mill charter. This somewhat rough effort is poignant in the light of his over-polished pop albums later in the eighties. 'Orabidoo' is a strange beast, as awkward as its title, a flawed experiment with interesting moments - including a sped-up restatement of 'Taurus II's opening theme - and five minutes of vocoder tedium. The lyrics are about a plane journey, a theme pursued in the title track. Oddly, a beautiful fragment ('Ireland's Eye') is tacked on the end of this track for no reason I can discern. 'Mount Teide' isn't much more than a fragment, more at home on the previous album than this. But the finale is worth waiting for. The title track is the heaviest OLDFIELD had done thus far, and reuses the album's main theme to make a pretty decent rock track.

It was with a sense of profound relief that I listened to this album for the first time. 'Ommadawn' it isn't, but at the time it signaled a welcome return to the front (and thinning) ranks of progressive artists. We are introduced to OLDFIELD'S eighties concept of a side-long progressive epic backed by a side of shorter songs, and also to his habit of reusing themes throughout the album (he does it more than a dozen times here, count them). This album doesn't have a hint of 'new age' about it, and should appeal to any fan of progressive rock. The highlight is definitely 'Taurus II', a splendid progressive epic.

russellk | 4/5 |


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