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Mike Oldfield - Voyager CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

3.10 | 244 ratings

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4 stars There are a few much maligned recordings within Oldfield's opulent discography, mainly because most fans would be content with endless versions and "subversions" of Tubular Bells, Ommadawn or Amarok. Occasional forays into pop (such as the often intensely disliked Discovery, Crisis and Earth Moving albums), lush soundtrack music (The Killing Fields) and electronica (the brilliant Songs from the Distant Earth and the sizzling Light + Shadow). Theses last 2 remain my favorite MO albums even though they are sneered at by the majority as needless fluff!

"Voyager" also fits nicely into the mix, many finding this a weak presentation that goes too far into the Celtic/folk tradition to be appreciated by the bulk of prog fans. I say, too bad for you, missing out on one of his sleeper works. This one is decidedly more oblique than his usual material, in fact, 6 of the 10 tracks are reworked traditional Irish/Celt folk arrangements. Mike is surrounded by classical orchestra (LSO), choir and a slew of famed Irish musicians ( Davy Spillane and Matt Molloy, among others).

The trads: The opener is well-know "The Song of the Sun" by Bieito Romero and sets pretty well the standard for the flow, a lovely melody and gentle serenity. "The Hero" is another Irish folk slow-cooker, a heavily nuanced tune with pipes, flutes and assorted Gaelic instruments, sparkled with MO's acoustic guitar that ultimately blooms into a massive chorus of exaltation. On "Women of Ireland" his unctuous guitar solo is one of his very best, an oozing expression of beauty and seduction, with a tranquil middle section that only elevates his celebrated picking technique to another level, all mastery and feel. "She Moves Through the Fair" is a well-known Irish folk classic, also brilliantly recorded by Lorenna McKennitt, among many others. The main theme is immediately recognizable by even the rock and roll crowd as something once heard, somewhere, sometime. It is drop- dead gorgeous melody both diaphanous and ethereal. The violins are impeccably poignant, as if crying in pain. "Dark Island" is another little ditty that has been heard many times by these ears, a sultry acoustic guitar exercise that does not fail to impress, especially when the arrangement is given fully orchestral treatment. The handclap addition is delightfully subtle and apropos (details, Watson, details!). When the melody is reprised once again, the mood just vibrates with sheer splendor. What a gorgeous piece of music this is! Pfffff! "Flowers of the Forest" is the final traditional song given the Oldfield touch again starting off sweetly and evolving into some serious bombast (it would have been perfect on the Titanic soundtrack instead of that overwrought Celine Dion abortion).

The Oldfield compositions: "Celtic Rain" is an Oldfield song that is as vaporous as it gets, literally meditative and ponderous. Is it New Age? Of course not! The music is very mellow, very lush and pastoral, brooding and moody, directed by Mike's acoustic and electric guitar. The title track is typical of his past and future guitar cameos, where simple percussion and moody keys provide the platform for his musical finger painting. Inspired by the cold reality of Irish/Scot history and massive exile, the air has a profound sense of melancholia and proud sadness that permeates the Gaelic music and culture. "Wild Goose Flaps Its Wings" is electric axe time and Mike just slithers along as only he can, each note exuding from his inner muse with aplomb and vivacious ardor. The pace is nevertheless placid and peaceful. "Mont St-Michel" is a beautiful "presqu'ile" in Northern France, where Victor Hugo was imprisoned by his nemesis Napoleon III, today a Unesco protected site and a jewel of incredible beauty. It's also one of Oldfield's signature pieces, a perfect resume of what he represents as a modern musical artist. Within its nearly dozen minutes, the entire gamut of emotions is there to witness and to enjoy. The blooming expanses from a single melodic line, the highly British/Scot/Welsh /Irish accoutrements, the colossal symphonics abetted by lush orchestrations, the delicate details of tin whistle, mandolin and recorders, all unified in the cause. When Mike enters with a solo, you just know its going to hit some personal nerve of contentment. Few if any contemporary musicians can claim this right. This is another piece of undeniable proof that he was regarded as music's wunderkind when Tubular Bells clanged on the world scene (Virgin's very first release, making Oldfiled and Richard Branson instant millionaires). He has matured, progressed, veered and swerved many times but he remains Mike Oldfield. While not a masterpiece by any stretch, Voyager remains a bold chapter in the Oldfield adventure, a little aroma of Eire laced into his rather inimitable recipe. Ideal music for a Spring Sunday Morn' (a St Patrick's Day soundtrack). This album figures highly on my most underrated prog albums of all-time list and I find it exciting to be one of the few who really likes this release.

4.5 emerald isles

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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