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Mike Oldfield - Five Miles Out CD (album) cover

FIVE MILES OUT

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

3.68 | 247 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars This is quite Golf Oscar Oscar Delta, Mike

This 1982 release was the follow up to the adequate, if unexciting QE2 and Platinum albums. Despite the presence of some overtly pop material, Five miles out is often described as being Oldfield's most progressive album, and certainly in terms of its immediate predecessors the signs are good.

The album as a whole benefits from the fact that it is essentially a band project. Mike is joined by four other musicians throughout, plus a handful of guests including one Carl Palmer on Mount Teidi. The title track also has a string arrangement. Unusually, Oldfield actually shares the writing credits for two tracks with the rest of the band.

The main focus of the album falls upon the 25 minute opening piece Taurus II. The title indicates that this composition is a follow on from Taurus 1, the 10 minute opening track on QE2. Indeed, the main theme from that track is used again here. The first part of this track has more in common with Hergest ridge (Side 2) than say Tubular bells. Maggie Reilly adds some vocalising early on and a sung section later (sub-titled The Deep Deep Sound), but unlike three of the five tracks here, this is essentially an instrumental piece. This and other tracks on the album features further use of a vocoder to distort some of the sounds. Thankfully, Mike would soon tire of the device.

Taurus II features a wide variety of sounds and instruments, including Uileann pipes played by Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains. The up-tempo ending features the abstract lyricism of Ommadawn, building towards a grand conclusion. While it is highly enjoyable, in some ways it sounds like a cliché of everything Oldfield has done up to this point, all thrown into a melting pot and regurgitated as something new.

The remaining 5 tracks formed side two of the original LP, which ran to a creditable 50 minutes. The first of these, Family man is highly accessible pop based song which was successfully covered by Hall and Oates. It gave Oldfield a rare singles chart hit in the USA, albeit as the composer.

At over 13 minutes, Orabidoo is the second longest track on the album, and indeed the only other track of substantial length. This eclectic mix of styles starts off deceptively with the sounds of a musical box before Mike rediscovers that irritating vocoder device again, this time sharing the microphone with Maggie Reilly. As the track seems to be heading for a synthesiser driven crescendo, we are suddenly pulled back by a plodding rhythm and a far more symphonic style of sound. This in turn gives way to a pleasant but quite out of place acoustic ballad sung by Reilly bearing the sub-title Ireland's eye.

Mount Teidi (a mountain on Tenerife) is the only completely instrumental track on the album. The track has the feel of an ambient pan pipes number, with a world music sub-plot.

The album closes with the title track, which tells the tale of a bad trip (as in journey!) Oldfield experienced in an aeroplane. The lyrics even manage to include the phonetic language call sign of the aircraft and the mayday message. The song itself includes the vocoder one last time in a piece whose complexity belies its brief running time.

In all, a decent album from Oldfield, but not one I would rate among his best. The vocoder offers an irritating and unsatisfactory sound at the best of times, so when it appears as frequently as it does here, the album is bound to suffer. On the plus side, the presence of the voice of Maggie Reilly on any album gives it a distinct advantage.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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