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Mike Oldfield - Q.E.2 CD (album) cover

Q.E.2

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

3.50 | 324 ratings

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Replayer
4 stars QE2, like its predecessor Platinum, is a transitional album between Oldfield's more progressive albums of the 70s with side-long tracks and the more commercial works of 80s. This album starts Oldfield's collaboration with Maggie Reilly, who would later sing on future Oldfield hits Moonlight Shadow and To France.

Many songs on QE2 feature the unlikely combination of vocoder, brass instruments, mandolin and African drums. The album's working titles included Mirage and Carnival, but it was changed to QE2, which is a reference to the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth 2 (in service 1969-2008). I think any connection is tenuous at best, especially since the album is mainly instrumental and the lyrics are made-up words. The original vinyl made the nautical theme more explicit by featuring a porthole on the cover (which is supposed to represent the side of a ship, the blue area representing the sky), a schematic of a ship with on inside sleeve and a life preserver-shaped record label.

Taurus 1 is a strong opener. The title might be a reference to Mike's birth sign, which is in fact Taurus; I'm not sure whether it's supposed to represent a musical autobiography. The song features Phil Collins on drums, although a drum machine is used during the introductory mandolin section (insert joke about Genesis loaning their drummer and drum machine to Mike). The song is split into five short sections with memorable themes. Towards the end there is an interesting section where the main melody keeps switching between different instruments every few notes.

Sheba is a vocoder song with nonsense words. Mike sings though the vocoder and Maggy Reilly joins later using her normal voice. Phil Collins also plays drums on this song. The second half is more rocking than the first. This is the song I like least on this album.

Conflict is a guitar-focused Celtic rock instrumental with African drumming and quoting the Badinerie movement of Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor on flute synth. It's quite progressive and packs all of this in just a couple of minutes.

At Virgin Records' request, Oldfield included a couple of cover tunes. The first cover is Arrival, one of two instrumentals by ABBA. It's a pleasant folk tune and I think it benefits from Oldfield's changes to its instrumentation.

The second cover is Wonderful Land, made famous by The Shadows, and showcases Mike's guitar skill. Oldfield makes the track his own with one of his characteristic multi-instrumental arrangements. The second half is more up-tempo and livelier. I particularly enjoy the mandolin snippets.

Mirage is one of those songs with a classic Oldfield climax, that starts simple and has more and more instruments added, increasing its tempo adding more variations. It's little repetitive for my tastes (and this is coming from an Oldfield fan!). The electric guitar in the second half is quite good, but I feel the song takes too long to take off. I don't really like the horn section stabs either.

The title track is another climaxing song. The official title is QE2/QE2 Finale. My guess is that the QE2 Finale starts at the four minute mark, when the drums join in. The finale features a charming electric guitar and Northumbrian Bagpipe duet, both played by Mike, reprising the last theme from Taurus 1. David Hentschel, known for producing Genesis albums in the late 70s, arranged the brass section (which I appreciate here). He gets a writing credit on QE2, but not the QE2 Finale.

As the name suggests, Celt is a Celtic song with fake Celtic lyrics, African drums, and very good guitar playing. Hey, this sounds like an Ommadawn review!

Molly is a simple and short lullaby-like electric guitar instrumental dedicated to Mike's daughter.

I thoroughly enjoy this album despite its rather light nature. I find the music very optimistic and joyful and I particularly like Taurus 1, Conflict and the title track. Instrumental compositions have always been Mike's forte and he delivers many interesting themes and arrangements. I'd rate it as his best 80s album, but below his first four studio albums. I also recommend his live video recording Live At Montreux 1981, which features several QE2 compositions.

Replayer | 4/5 |

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