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Mike Oldfield - Crises CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

3.49 | 491 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars I wanted to review this album for so long now, but it couldn't happen sooner: the plan was to start with subpar and average records and only then climb to the very top. I have a soft spot for "Crises" which is quite hard to explain, especially for a person more fond of his cryptic, progressive work than happy little tunes of the 1980s. Hopefully you'll see where I'm coming from after reading the whole thing.

"Moonlight Shadow" doesn't need to be introduced. Radiant, beautifully produced and flowing so calmly from the very first note - no wonder it reached the No. 1 pretty much anywhere west of Volga. What's more, "Moonlight" still receives significant radio airplay 35+ years later and for this reason it's grown weary for some. Instead of giving credit for innocent, perfectly delivered vocals, effervescent backing guitars or spot on soloing, we focus on its status in the 80s popculture, one of the more recognizable symbols of the era, and we're all a bit fed up with it. Can't blame anyone for thinking that way after dozens involuntary listens, but it's not exactly fair to let overexposure cloud our judgment. With fair treatment and a pair of good headphones, "Moonlight Shadow" holds up very well today.

"In High Places" features Jon Anderson on vocals - very welcome albeit unexpected addition! It's not the place to discuss fully all merits of his angelic voice; suffice to say he fits extremely well with airy, mesmerizing compositional style of Mike Oldfield, and even in this relatively simple song I sense enticing chemistry. Especially the latter part, where synthesizers take hold and we're heading out, all textures mesh really well.

"Foreign Affair" also relies on simplicity of the beat and gentle atmospheres. This one might be a hard pill to swallow, we're knee-deep in pools of softness and naivety and not much of it sticks. "Taurus 3" falls a bit short of its mighty predecessors, I admit; but aside from that it's such a nice display of Spanish guitar creativity, brimming with colorful passages and and impeccable articulation. I want some more, why just two minutes?

"Shadow on the Wall" concludes the 'shorties' section. This one draws heavily from "Five Miles Out" style: perfect blends of distorted and acoustic guitars, synthesized and organic timbres, all led by raspy Roger Chapman's (Family) vocals. This track makes good use of edgier sounds: it feels like a relief at this point because it satisfies my hard rocking inclinations. The tune is catchy enough to stay in your memory, although the chorus might be a tad overused.

All in all, we have a smashing radio hit, an acoustic wonder, two decent and one forgettable pieces on the B side. Quite good, perhaps on the "QE2" level, maybe a tad less adventurous (but in turn better produced). Sounds like an average material, eh? Not really! I omitted the title track, "Crises", on purpose.

And the reason is: I usually prefer leaving the Good Stuff until I'm done with the rest.

Granted, after tons and tons of listens this 20 minute mammoth lost a bit of its appeal, but it happens to any song you've had too much of. And I definitely did my best to kill this one in recent years. I just can't get over the infinitely pleasant and intriguing intro - a perfect use of synthesizers in my opinion, crafting such a mysterious and inviting atmosphere, and then following it with the main theme for the ages! The melodies so nice, drum kits thumping so convincingly, the 'strings section' providing so much joy; and that shining background, it all makes for a great promise.

And then we have that solitary bassline with twangy guitars on both channels, police sirens in the distance, crashing windowpanes, you remember that part? Or the next one when it all goes bananas with aggressive cross-picking, or Fripp inspired guitars at 5:25? The point is: good parts never take the backseat and before we're satisfied with the first idea, the second one rolls around; and the same happens with the third, fourth, and so on. I even happen to like the part with Mike singing "Crises, crises, you can't get away" constantly.

The epitome, the peak of this song enters the scene some 8 minutes in. Just look at the album cover and rediscover the dreams of your past, remember the times you were waiting for Godot to come, let those moments flow through you. The music is delightful, and it's all done with a bunch of perfectly aligned electric guitars and some synths. And then, the calm itself, this is beauty.

Now I'm past the 12 minute mark and wonder, how is it possible that one musician, time and time again came up with ideas - and atmospheres - that leave you happy and yearning at the same time, wandering along the coasts of British Isles from a different dimension, or maybe eras unexplored by modern man. Isn't it exactly what New Age music should hope to duplicate, as a genre? Those calm and transcendent moments when our souls try to reach further, or maybe reconnect with the places and times we're all coming from?

The main theme comes back and lays the foundation for mighty satisfying coda, full of drums and unadulterated joy, positive to the limits, magnificently joining all the ideas into one celestial body. I'm done!

I think the startling contrast between shorter songs and magnitude of the title track is Almost like a Statement from Mike Oldfield. The statement being: 'my new self sells records with radio hits, but I can still deliver big time, watch it!'. It's especially compelling on an album such as "Crises", where Oldfield cranks up simplicity and commercial appeal significantly. It's like a mini-era in itself, that time between "Crises" and "Earth Moving", when his records could be listened by your wife without eye-rolling and checking the clock every moment. "Crises" definitely offers the most of the bunch.

Certainly my praise for the title track may seem exaggerated, but I'm aware of its shortcomings, too. I know it's not in the league of "Ommadawn", "Supper's Ready" or "The Gates of Delirium", I realize it's full of synthesizers and that transitions between part A and B are suspicious at times. But the composition makes up for it on emotional level and I don't think anyone could duplicate that sound and approach. Plus, if we take into account "Crises" hit the stores in 1983, well, what are we expecting? Even Jethro Tull introduced Fairlight CMI at that point.

For me, "Crises" is a very pleasing and surprising album. Pleasing, because even the bland "Foreign Affair" isn't bad really and I enjoy qualities in every song. Surprising, because the title track has plenty to explore and brings together complexity with meditative atmosphere so well. For these reasons I'm willing to dish out a 4 star rating - a huge accomplishment for an 80s record.

Now I'll spin it once more, I need to wait with a 'watcher in the tower' and ponder a bit.

thief | 4/5 |


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