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Mike Oldfield - Five Miles Out CD (album) cover

FIVE MILES OUT

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

3.68 | 246 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
5 stars While Mike Oldfield's very approach was innovative when he began, he increasingly became self referential as the 70s wore on. "Platinum" and "QE2" marked a change to a band driven style. There really is a difference between having a dozen or so Oldfields coming at you at once and having him confront you on guitar while some major session musicians and vocalists round out the proceedings. With "Five Miles Out", Oldfield completed the picture, with an album that was as entertaining as it was interesting, and he did it largely by recycling old styles into a modern collage.

Peter Frampton was one of the first to popularize the vocoder, and Oldfield picked it up in 1981, half a decade later, yet he really pushed its use to areas Frampton would and could never go, melding it to a crystallizing awareness of world music in its celtic and African forms in particular. This is true on the mini-epic "Orabidoo" (which sneaks in a reference from QE2's "Conflict" among other cobbled together parts), but especially on the 24 minute "Taurus 2", the centerpiece of the work. Oldfield and his band never stay long in one place, but they skirmish about several points of origin. Apart from the man's versatile rhythm and lead guitar work bursting with melody and power, he has also deferred greater freedom to vocalist Maggie Reilly, whose chants and plaintive appeals are sprinkled about sparsely but tastily. Morris Pert's drumming often has a tribal feel and is generally nimble and suited to the style, while Tim Cross proves a perfect foil on keyboards. Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains contributes ample uilean pipes to cement "Five Miles Out" as Oldfield's most rootsy album to date.

"Family Man" is a quirky pop track of the sort that Oldfield perfected in the 80s, highlighted by sultry Reilly vocals, a solid beat, and, of course, guitar flourishes not often seen on the charts. While it became a hit in local markets, it was the Hall and Oates' sanitization apparatus that manufactured a world wide hit mere months later. "Mount Teide" is an instrumental to appease the old fans, with an almost too sweet melody but a majestic buildup and finale. The title cut features a rare lead vocal by Oldfield, and it hammers home one of the main melodic themes of the disk. The chorus is certainly catchy, and the enthusiasm prevents the number from drowning in gimmickry.

While not a breakthrough album like MO's earlier works, "Five Miles Out" is far more engagingly rocking than anything he had done up to that point. It is also more diversified and yet unified, thanks to the hitherto unthinkable reality of a "Mike Oldfield Band". His career was rewarded with a resurgence as a result, and the band's live performances were much acclaimed. He had put himself waaaay out there at a difficult time, and triumphed. 4.5 stars, rounded up.

kenethlevine | 5/5 |

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