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Mike Oldfield - Crises CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

3.48 | 466 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The best-known and most successful of MIKE OLDFIELD'S phase two albums, this isn't quite up to the standard of 'Five Miles Out', but is certainly a high quality blend of progressive and pop music.

Those who find the eighties sound (overproduced, sharp-edged, with reverb, dated synths and the like) abhorrent ought to read no further. This album will do nothing to change your opinion. Personally I'm quite comfortable with the sound of the eighties, of which I view this album as one of the highlights. The version I'm familiar with has the twenty-minute title track on side 1 and five shorter tracks on side 2, though my version of 'Taurus 3' is only two and a half minutes long. I do have the US version, but seldom play it: the track 'Mistake' is exactly that (like so many of OLDFIELD'S singles) and I prefer the running order of the original version.

The title track is dominated by rhythm. The talented session-man SIMON PHILLIPS (of TOTO, but don't let that put you off, the man can drum!) really lets loose in this track, and it is a rollicking ride. The track begins with a restatement of the original 'Tubular Bells' theme. 'Crises' was released ten years after 'Tubular Bells' and OLDFIELD celebrated this - the first of many, many times he reinterpreted this theme, and one of the most convincing. Within ten minutes we are exposed to a series of short vignettes, some of them bordering on heavy rock, and all of which feature excellent drumming. While lamenting the lack of prominence of the melodic MIKE OLDFIELD, I can only applaud the strength and passion of the sections here, particularly the two sections in which OLDFIELD sings, 'Crises' and 'The Watcher In The Tower'. Finally he has found a context in which his rough, undisciplined voice makes sense: it certainly doesn't gell with his normal sweet tunes.

The last ten minutes is a rhythmic tour-de-force, building to the inevitable (though somewhat abbreviated) climax. I don't see 'Crises' as having the quality of 'Taurus II', the long track from the previous album: the segues here are coarse and unsophisticated, and the pedant in me wants to shout at MIKE: 'you can't have a crises! The word's a plural!' But, as an eighties progressive piece, it would have penetrated the consciousness of more people than almost any other, given the popularity of the album. That has to be a good thing.

Side 2, comprising five shorter songs, two of which are soft-pop songs, is bound to be controversial on a site like this. But I'll argue strongly that, given the tracks are there, it's not responsible reviewing to dismiss them because of their genre. Instead, they should be reviewed on the basis of their quality.

On that basis, 'Moonlight Shadow' is outstanding. A memorable tune, sung by just the right voice, with truly excellent guitar work, and it doesn't outstay its welcome. Sadly, 'Foreign Affair' is at the other end of the scale: a song fragment extended to single length by monotonous repetition of the chorus. 'In High Places' almost works. JON ANDERSON does a good job, but his voice needs more support, Set alongside the highly polished 'Moonlight Shadow', the track seems underdone. 'Taurus 3' is a vigorous acoustic guitar fragment played twice, a necessary interlude before the outstanding 'Shadow On The Wall'.

MIKE OLDFIELD made many mistakes in his choice of vocalists in his pop-laden albums of the latter eighties, but choosing ex-FAMILY ROGER CHAPMAN was not one of them. What a superb voice, the sound of a cornered animal belligerent in defiance, surrounded by screaming guitars. The album version of this track is far too short: on my playlist I've replaced it with the widely available extended version, which is far superior.

This is not a classic progressive rock album in the '70s tradition, but it is well worth a listen by anyone prepared to keep an open mind about pop music and the sounds of the eighties.

russellk | 4/5 |


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