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Mike Oldfield - Discovery CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield

Crossover Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This record contains 8 songs, and 7 have a "pop synth rock" style with male and female lead singers. Well, those pop songs are unequal; I prefer the ones where the singer is a female: Maggie Reilly: her beautiful crystal clear voice can be heard at least in 3 songs: "To France", "Talk about your life" and "Crystal gazing". She has a perfect voice! But, on the other side, there is the ex-Triumvirat singer Barry Palmer, who makes a real fool of him in "Saved by a bell". I prefer short songs with the guest males lead singers on "Earth moving". Fortunately, there is the wonderful "The Lake", a 12 minutes instrumental progressive/New Age piece where limpid keyboards and guitars work together. We are still far from the Amarok performance!

Rating: 3.5 stars

Report this review (#28395)
Posted Monday, April 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This is Oldfield entering his first major low era. Yes there are some interesting songs with perfect vocals like ' To France', ' Crystal Gazing' and the overrated instrumental ' The Lake' but anyone considering listening to Oldfield for the first time should be aware this album is very definitely for collectors only.
Report this review (#28392)
Posted Saturday, August 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album may not be a major landmark in Oldfield's discography, but it's far from poor. There's a sense of narrative linking the vocal tracks, which adds to this album's strength. Taken alone, the songs are strong, but connected together, they form an excellent album.

This album's vocal tracks are voiced by the now familiar Maggie Reilly, whose crytal clear voice graces 'To France', 'Crystal Gazing' and 'Talk About Your Life'. Barry Palmer, who apparently had a sore throat at the time of recording the album. provides the powerful and raw male vocals in 'Poison Arrows', 'Discovery' and 'Saved By A Bell'. 'Tricks Of The Light' is a duet between the two vocalists.

'Discovery' opens with "To France", a song inspired by Mary Queen of Scots' attempted flight from certain death. There's a fatalistic theme to the song; she cannot outrun her destiny. 'Poison Arrows' continues the theme of paranoia and intrigue with its lyrics, "Somebody's out to get you, hiding in shadows..."

There's a distinct occult theme to the next two songs. 'Crystal Gazing' delves into the mysterious 'art' of scrying, and the energetic "Tricks of the Light" discusses the possibility of contacting the Otherworld, but then the narrators dismiss it all with "It's a trick of the light".

"Discovery" is dark and angry, calling out for truth in the midst of lies. It asks for a realistic viewpoint to be taken in what sounds like a desperate situation. Again, there's a sense of confusion and paranoia to this song.

Side 2 (LP / cassette version) begins with "Talk About your Life", another song which searches for meaning in life's chaos. It's about making contact with another human being: "Do we have to be so distant? How can you be so unreal?" This song repeats the musical themes of "To France", making another link between the songs on the album.

"Saved By a Bell" takes us on a lyrical journey around the night sky, with an ethereal feeling to the music, that is until the energetic chorus shocks the listener back to earth!

"The Lake", which i find quite similar to 'Tubular Bells', could be described as a 'sound picture' of Lake Geneva, which was visible from the studio where 'Discovery' was recorded. This piece starts softly, evoking images of light rain on the suface of a lake, then moves through a thunderstorm into flat calms and mists. Close your eyes and engage your imagination whilst listening to this track!

'Discovery' makes an excellent follow-up album to Crises, and with the narrative themes linking the first five songs, this album is worthy of a place in anyone's music collection.

Report this review (#28393)
Posted Sunday, September 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Not a masterpiece by any means but I do find "Discovery" underrated 'cause of some pure magical moments. Three quarters of this album are conventional pop/folk songs but there's one great instrumental track entitled "The Lake". One of the best instrumentals the man's ever done in his entire career with lots of stunning melodies and great moods. Listening to this marvellous track with many mood swings and rhythm breaks you wonder why he didn't include more of this kind of brilliant stuff on this album. The highly symphonic melodies are the bridge between the very different excerpts of classical themes to reflective quiet moments to powerful rhythms of rock and folk. Like he use to, Oldfield added some great female voices singing diabolic melodies on the background. Every now and then there's some keyboard motives which refers to the exorcist excerpt of "Tubular bells". Just like on that album a lot of instruments can be found on "The Lake": bells, flutes, keyboards and a range of different types of electric and acoustic guitars. Simon Phillips handles the drums and he seems in top shape by adding some essential dynamics with percussion which found its roots in fusion. This piece de résistance alone makes it worthwhile for getting to know this album if you haven't discovered it already. Oldfield did longer tracks than this on other eighties albums but "The Lake" is the most enjoyable of the era, only Crises comes close to the beauty of this track.

For a hit single, "To France" holds the perfect mood for a romantic love story without slickness. I love this song with it's Kate Bush like melodies and folkish melody motifs. To the end of the track the delicate arrangements change into a wall of sound made of sharp acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin and atmospheric keys. At the end of "To France" the dreamy sequence turns sinister as the intro of the mysterious "Poison arrow" starts to interfere. Again the folk rhythm section is heavy felt like on all the tracks. Again, take note of the excitable percussion sounds Simon Phillips provided this track from. All sorts of guitars are creating the atmosphere of paranoia quite effective even though the sinister keyboard line is helping a lot. The howling wolves are doing the rest of the job to get the listener shivers down the spine.

Other tracks on this album are barely excitable from a progressive point of view. These are decent pop tracks but nothing more. Still there's some progressive flavours like the symphonic sounding chorus of "Saved by the bell" or the exploding guitar work on the title track. Oldfield even seems to manage to use some instrumental themes of "To France" a second time for "Talk about your life". Here the vocals illustrate a typical male female argument in the emotional lyrics. Not a bad pop song.

This album deserves a three star rating for the good part. It could be described as a transitional album which has some inspiring traces of the best work of the previous decade and some worse pop influences from the disappointing albums to come.

Report this review (#36786)
Posted Friday, June 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I know that this is not Oldfield's best album and even some people don't treat this one as his album as it does not represent his main musical style. But, I really enjoy this album for a very simple reason: it's relaxing and accessible. Well, as prog fans we need some "change" to a lighter music, I guess. And this album serves that purpose really well. From the opening track "To France" with great vocal by Maggie Reilly to my favorite (and chief reason to purchase this CD) "Poison Arrows". It's not prog at all, but I really enjoy this track because the combination of music and Barry Palmer's vocal work is truly stunning! "Discovery" and "Saved By The Bell" are also another excellent track that I enjoy most. Keep on proggin'..!

Report this review (#40793)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
The Crow
3 stars This is a good Oldfield´s album, but maybe one of his 80´s weakest efforths...

Here we can see another time the 80´s typical album distribution by Oldfield: a few vocal songs (in this album there are more than the habitual...) and a long instrumental (but shorter than the habitual too...).

The vocal songs aren´s very good in general... But here is To France!!! This is a very well known tune, with a lot of medieval feeling, and a wonderful lyrics inspired in Maria Estuardo, queen of France. Wonderful song!!! Another good song here is Tricks of The Light, with a fine duet by Maggie Reilly and Barry Palmer. Another fine songs are Poison Arrows and Saved by a Bell. The rest vocal songs are a little execrable in my opinion... Maybe Cristal Gazing it not too bad...

But what makes this album a worthy experience? Of course...THE LAKE!!! This is just an awesome piece of music. It´s a really great song. One of the best Oldfield´s instrumentals. It´s epic, delicate and experimental at the same time! The only matter for me with this song it´s that it´s too short!!! With a longer duration, I were maybe talking of the best Oldfield´s instrumental... But anyway... A MUST SONG FOR EVERYONE!!!

Ending: a good album, with forgettable moments, but with two really impressive songs: To France and the wonderful The Lake!!! Nevertheless, this is an album plenty enjoyable by Oldfield´s fans...

Report this review (#52111)
Posted Monday, October 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars The 1980s definitely were not the decade of the classic prog giants of the 1970s. This is one of the weakest albums of Oldfield that I heard and apart from the nice and melodic Maggie Reilly-sung smash hit "To France", there is nothing on this album worth mentioning. Highly negligable work unless you are a die-hard fan of Oldfield.
Report this review (#52147)
Posted Monday, October 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm not a fan of Mike Oldfield but I really enjoy some of his albums (Tubular Bells, Amarok, Crisis, Incantations...). In fact I really want to erase of my mind most of the the 80's-90's-90's Oldfield albums. But "Discovery" is one piece in a million: delicated, well composed, no-pretencious, with awsome work on vocals by Maggie Reilly and Barry Palmer, some exquiste pop hits as "To France" and "Tricks of the Light" and an awsome instrumental song such as "The Lake" maybe one of the great songs composed by Oldfield in his career.

The album is not for purists or hard-fans of prog. However is a brilliant piece into a sea of common places known as the 80's. Not a masterpice but considering Oldfield's career "Discovert" is definitively a great album...

Report this review (#77679)
Posted Tuesday, May 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I simply love this album and i think the point is not to compare with Tubular Bells or Ommadawn, for example. The eighties was a very special decade, i know. And it was not easy for the artists to create something that could be once intelligent and not very complex. The songs of this album are great, the melodies are wonderful, and i can´t understand why to destroy them just coz the fact they have nothing to do with dense atmospheres and long pieces... The work of guitars and keyboards is simple but really good, and the voice of Maggie Really sounds such wonderful as always. And "The Lake" is an excellentand instrumental piece with all prog elements: the end of the theme is just one of the most emotional moments created by Oldfield (behind Ommadawn, probably). I like this album much more than Crises, for example... and i think is very far to a terrible album... Earth Moving... that´s a terrible album, not this one, for God! Even more, i think is one of the best albums of Mike with Tubular Bells, Ommadawn, Hergest Ridge, QE2, Tubular Bells 2 and Voyager. Like a lot of other prog musicians, Mike has got his own "pop years", and Discovery was the best album of that special age of the musician.
Report this review (#77700)
Posted Tuesday, May 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars A great big sigh for this album. Up until this point, despite that Virgin tried to commandeer some of Mike's music (covers on QE2, "Sally", side two of Crises, etc.), he continued to put out 4 and 5 star albums. This is where it all went wrong. Discovery is just not a good album. The first seven tracks are awful and not prog at all. The last track, while slightly proggy, is nowhere near Oldfield's previous standard of quality. In my eyes, this one should be down there with Invisible Touch and Love Beach in the "Are these really the same guys?" pile. Oldfield would redeem himself, but it would take a few years. Avoid this one at all costs... unless you're a "completionist", that is.
Report this review (#77774)
Posted Wednesday, May 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Or maybe just good. Got 4 stars because of instrumental track, which is a must hear.

An underrated follower of Crises (underrated too) and Five Miles Out (of course underrated). These three albums form some kind of trilogy, not of some story but rather of common feel, sound and overall impression. If you like song-oriented more electronic and sampled Oldfield, you're gonna like this.

Of three mentioned albums Discovery features most of songs and least of instrumentals. Songs are weaker then Crises, maybe a little stronger then Five Miles Out. Obe major hit To france, one really good almost-hard rock title track Discovery. Most songs feature brilliant guitar work, smooth synth sound, little if any high frequencies (: -- but nothing spectacular talking about melodies, just good.

Local masterpiece: instrumental 15-minute The Lake, which together with (uh, again) instrumental track Crises from previous album must be the best Oldfield's music in 80s.

Good starting point because album is very accessible. Recommended if you like mid-era Oldfield. Not recommended if you are Tubular-Bells-only purist or really like his works after '93.

Report this review (#78283)
Posted Monday, May 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars I found this album on a pile of use vinyl a got for free. I'm glad i didn't pay for it because, there is nothing good here, except maybe the opener "To France". I listen to that album a couple of time and... Nope! It's definetly a very low effort by Mike Oldfield. How can a guy who did masterpiece like Hergest Ridge or Ommadawn, go so low musically ? It's beyond me !
Report this review (#80574)
Posted Wednesday, June 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Worth discovering

Ironically, "Discovery" is probably Mike Oldfield's most vocal album. I say ironically, as he plays absolutely everything on the album except for the drums. The vocals are shared by Triumvirat singer Barry Palmer and the wonderfully talented Maggie Reilly. Palmer was at the time reportedly suffering from an infection which affected his voice, although it is not that apparent on the final recordings. The tracks tend to more or less alternate the vocalists, making for a pleasant series of contrasts.

According to the sleeve notes, the album was recorded "2000 metres up in the Swiss Alps", Oldfield being a tax exile in Switzerland at the time.

The opening "To France", inspired by the plight of Mary Queen of Scots (who was executed at Fotheringay Castle), is one of the best but most commercial pieces Oldfield has come up with. Reilly is at the top of her form vocally, while Mike adds some excellent lead guitar soloing. "Poison arrows" and "Crystal gazing" are rather more anonymous, the latter sounding like something Oldfield's sister Sally might have included on one of her albums.

"Trick of the light" is similar to "Guilty" from five years previously, very pop orientated, but undistinguished. Palmer's throat problems may have been at their worst for the title track, but it results in him doing a fine impersonation of Graham Bonnett (Rainbow), with some fine warbling.

Reilly returns with another stunning performance in "Talk about your life". For anyone who finds her singing as compulsive as I do, I highly recommend her album "Echoes". Strangely, Mike uses the same guitar theme here as he did on "To France". Palmer makes a credible effort not to be totally upstaged by Reilly on the following "Saved by a bell", a song which sounds like an outtake from Rick Wakeman's excellent "No earthly connection" album.

The only instrumental track on the album is the closing 12 minute piece "The lake". Oldfield's guitar work is the main feature here, the music being mostly relaxed with plenty of repetition. It may not match the lofty (Alpine?) heights of "Tubular Bells" etc., but it is a fine track.

In all, this is a decent album from Mike. It has a particularly strong second side, the first being slightly marred by a couple of only adequate numbers. Despite his instrumental dominance, Oldfield stays largely in the background with the vocalists occupying front and centre stage on all but the final track.

Report this review (#94680)
Posted Monday, October 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Albums from my teenage days (the 80's) - pt. 1

The 80's is remembered as a decade when popular music became more commercial, this great 'levelling' concerning the most of the long-time artists as clearly as the majority of new artists. Discovery was Oldfield's most vocal-oriented and mainstream pop album to date. It was also the last one featuring Maggie Reilly if I'm right. The (still awfully overplayed) hit 'Moonlight Shadow' from Crises had a great but nowadays too forgotten (= luckily NOT overplayed) successor in the perfectly produced 'To France' with its historic theme; it floats very nicely. The second track introduces the other vocalist, Barry Palmer, whose voice is not very far from Mike's own rarely used vocals. His songs represent the harder rocking side of this album except the soft 'Saved by a Bell'. Maggie's 'Tricks of the Light' with Barry's backing is an upbeat, synth-pop kind of a song. Other Reilly songs are 'Crystal Gazing', which I always thought to be very irritating and monotonous, and 'Talk About Your Life', quite an ordinary but pleasant melodic pop song.

These kind of tight pop songs alone on an Oldfield album would have been like an insult to his fans, but the best is saved to the end: a 12-minute instrumental 'The Lake', which continues the synth-centred crisp style of 'Crises'. Mike tried and succeeded to capture the spirit of his home lake of the time (or I don't know if he still lives in Switzerland?), Lake Geneva. The album hasn't been around me since the eighties, but I sorta miss 'The Lake' now; last time I heard it was on a film theatre, before the film, a long time ago.

Well, two or three stars? This is a pretty good 80's pop album after all, so let's make it three.

Report this review (#134457)
Posted Thursday, August 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The reaction from the progressive community (and OLDFIELD fandom) to this album was strongly negative. Following hard on the heels of the immensely successful 'Crises', with its worldwide hit 'Moonlight Shadow', this album definitely has 'follow-up' and even 'cash-in' written over it.

But I want to invite you to go just a little further into the music. On this album OLDFIELD repeats his traditional habit of reprising his main theme; this time, the theme featured on 'To France'. This lifts the album beyond a mere collection of unrelated pop songs. Aware of the critics sharpening their knives, OLDFIELD hired BARRY PALMER as well as MAGGIE REILLY to sing vocals in an attempt to add variety: by this stage REILLY was in danger of being over- exposed. The vocalists are woven expertly through the album, alternating until 'Tricks Of The Light' in which they both appear. None of the first four tracks are outstanding, instead merely competent rock, damning this album to the bargain bins. The title track is excellent, with welcome power around the main theme. 'Talk About Your Life' is a simple reworking of 'To France', a trick he uses again on 'Islands': the advantage is that on first listen it makes the album sound familiar, but it wears out its welcome far sooner than otherwise. I'd rather he hadn't made this so very obvious.

My focus here is almost entirely on the final twelve-minute track, the only part of the album that could be considered in any way progressive. 'The Lake' encapsulates MIKE OLDFIELD in this phase of his career: rhythm-dominated, with synths chosen in place of the multitracked guitars of his '70s output. The track opens tentatively, with woodwind-sounding synths (if you don't like eighties synths, don't bother with this!) augmented by the introduction of a pulsing bass, with the percussion arriving dramatically on an offbeat. The main theme appears again, heralding a simple rhythm backing a simple tune played by guitar and synth. A pause for breath, then a majestic theme appears twice, separated by OLDFIELD'S trademark liquid guitars. More pulsing bass heralds a magical guitar sequence underlain by complex rhythms. The first ten nine of the track, excellent in themselves, serves to set the stage for the finale, which is jaw-dropping in its beauty and simplicity. Impossibly heavy drums announce a layered synth theme of immense power and a melancholy beauty, repeated and then brought to a close, leaving the listener wanting more. One of the highlights of his career. It won't make a believer out of you, but it helped OLDFIELD believers keep the faith through this period of his career.

A two-star album becomes three stars because of 'The Lake'. As with all MIKE OLDFIELD'S output in the 1980s, avoid if you hate pop songs and/or the eighties sound.

Report this review (#138379)
Posted Saturday, September 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars It`s been a very long time since I listened to this album for the last time (was it ten years ago?). In fact, I never bought it. But one of my brothers has it, and he played this album a lot. So, despite the passing of time, I still can remember some of the melodies for some of the songs of this album, which I consider a very melodic Pop Rock album from Mike Oldfield, released in 1984. It seems that he also became influenced by the changes that several Prog Rock bands and soloists did to their musical styles, playing more "light" songs. Among the light songs that I still can remember from this album are: "Trick of the Light", "To France", "Crystal gazing" and "Saved by a bell" . I didn`t remember that Barry Palmer sang some songs in this album ("Trick of the Light" and "Saved by a bell" , if I remember well). I think that he sang lead vocals in one album of the band Triumvirat (one song from that album titled "Old Loves Die Hard", was called "I Believe"; it is the only song from that album that I remember now because I listened to that album in 1981!). Maggie Reilly also sang other songs ("To France" and "Crystal gazing" from the songs I remember; I thought that the female lead singer was Sally Oldfield!).

I also still can remember that Mike Oldfield played some very interesting and strange sounds in some songs, and I think that these sounds are very original. He is a very good multi-instrumentist and composer.

In conclusion, this is another Pop Rock album recorded by a noted Prog Rock musician. Anyway, it is a good album.

Report this review (#158372)
Posted Friday, January 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars The start of the eighties didn't affect too much the quality of Mike's production till Discovery.

He didn't reach the climax of his first three excellent albums but during these difficult times for prog artists, he always managed to release decent albums so far (three stars on my scale). A more commercial aspect was felt in his previous work "Crises" and is more developed during "Discovery".

Loads of vocals as well on this work. But this time, no Anderson nor Chapman. The great Maggie Reilly is still present but to have chosen "Barry Palmer" for most of the sung tracks was not a great idea. And "Poison Arrows" is trying too much to recall "Moonlight Shadow".

Great moments aren't too many on "Discovery". "To France" probably. But it is seriously damaged with a poor song as "Crystal Gaze". The worse probably being "Tricks of the Light". A fully synthetic pop song; typical for the mid-eighties. This track is well in the mood of the era, of course but this doesn't prevent me to rate it as a poor number. These beats are really horrible. The type of "press next" song.

Mike was also willing to be fully on the command of this album and this is probably affecting the end result as well. Little input from the outside. And living in autarky for a solo artist is probably not the most brilliant idea.

This is the weakest Oldfield album so far IMHHO. Songs as "Discovery" (somewhat AOR- oriented) and the naďve "Talk about Your Life" shouldn't have been featured. The latter has a vaguely Far-Eastern mood; especially with these high pitched female vocals sounding as a twelve years old girl like in some Ars Nova songs. Not the best one here either.

Awful vocals during "Saved By The Bell" confirms that the choice of the vocalist was not very much inspired. Why the hell did Mike brought Barry Palmer on board is a mystery to me (I even wrote misery in my first draft). He was the singer on two albums from "Triumvirat" the German symphonic band ("Old Loves Die Hard" and "Pompeď"). Both from the mid seventies. He just confirms the weak impression I had while listening to these albums.

To save this work, I confess that the long instrumental piece "The Lake" is by far the best track one can find. It is a more normal Oldfield song : rich, varied, folky, inspired. It brings you almost ten years earlier and even if it can't compete with the grandeur of Ommadawn it is still an enjoyable song. One of the very few.

Two stars for this album (but only thanks to the closing piece).

Report this review (#160362)
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars Discovery sounds more like an Alan Parsons Project album than a Mike Oldfield album. This is especially apparent on songs like Poison Arrows, Tricks Of The Light and the title track. Typical of Alan Parsons Project albums is that there are different singers on different tracks; this is also the case with Discovery. The female sung Folk Pop of To France and Crystal Gazing remind me very much of Blackmore's Night.

Discovery is almost a pure Pop album with only very little of Mike Oldfield's musical identity. Only the instrumental 12 minute The Lake is in the typical Oldfield style we know from his earlier albums.

Mike had flirted with Pop music before on albums like Platinum, Five Miles Out and Crises. But on these albums the balance between Pop and more progressive material was about half of each. On Discovery the balance tilts heavily towards the Pop side of things. In one sense this is a good thing because it gives the album a sense of direction that the other mentioned albums lack. Crisis was a particularly schizophrenic album, with the excellent progressive title track filling up half the album while the other side contained some awful Disco Pop songs. Nothing on Discovery is as bad as the worst songs from Crisis, but also nothing reached up to the Crisis track.

As far as Pop albums go, this is not bad at all. But it is not very impressive either and I can only recommend this to Oldfield's fans and collectors.

Report this review (#201748)
Posted Thursday, February 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars Perhaps inspired by how well Roger Chapman's rough and ready vocal style suited his contribution to the prior "Crises", Oldfield recruited former Triumvirat crooner Barry Palmer to share the billing with the everpresent Maggie Reilly on this 1984 release, while taking over almost all instrumental duties at the expense of the Mike Oldfield "band". The results are mixed, but there can be little argument that the turn towards 80s pop stylings is irreversible by this point.

"Discovery" sounds a lot like the Alan Parsons Project for most of its duration, particularly on Palmer's gothic "Poison Arrows" and the hard rocking title cut, reminiscent of early APP a la "Tell Tale Heart" or "Dr Tarr". A sprinkling of Abba can be sampled on the nonetheless impressive opener "To France", which somehow barely dented the UK sales charts. Reilly and Palmer even do a duet on the infectious "Tricks of the Light". "Talk About Your Life" reprises the "To France" theme only to expose its own failure to endure even more than an album side. But the real dud is "Saved by the Bell" which lyrically and musically finds MO stuck in reverse, perhaps the nadir of his career to that point. Palmer's screeching beseeching only amplifies this listener's irritation.

The album is partially redeemed by the multi-part instrumental "The Lake" which gets better and better over the course of its 12 minutes and shows that Oldfield could do an instrumental epic without having to pad it to 20 odd minutes. Sure the 80s synths are in copious rotation but it was the 80s, and, unlike much of that decade's keyboard extravaganzas, this one remains relatively tasteful and emotionally charged.

While this 1984 installment won't likely rank as your discovery of the year, it's worth a listen if you want an example of why Mike Oldfield might be classified as crossover prog. It hasn't aged well, but it's still undeniably Oldfield, with quality in spades, and that's some pedigree.

Report this review (#208675)
Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Discovery clearly suffers from trying too hard to repeat the formula that had led to commercial success of Crisis.

The album stars ok with too great pop songs, but the chorus Poison Arrow almost literally repeats some of the vocal melodies of Moonlight Shadow, an unforgivable thing to do. Also Crystal Gazing tries to hard to repeat the old magic. After that it gets really worse with the faceless pop-rock of Tricks of the Light and the Shadow on the Wall remake Discovery. It gets so bad that Talk About Your Life even clones the opening song of the album. Also Saved By The Bell and The Lake are very poor.

Despite the gorgeous To France, a 1 star could be justified here as this is Oldfield's worst album so far. It just happens that he sank even deeper on the next one.

Report this review (#279113)
Posted Friday, April 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is near perfection.

Some would say this is not prog at all. If not, what then? Pop? Yes, perhaps, but at least pop-prog. These were different times. In the eighties bands like Saga, Rush, Mike & the Mechanics, Kate Bush, Queen and even Yes, Tull and Genesis reigned big.

They didn't put out albums with epic tracks of 20 minutes but put all the prog endeavours into 4 or 5 minutes, wich at the least, is a very admirable thing to do. Not all progbands succeeded in creating perfect pop-prog (like Supertramp, Renaissance, Camel), but Mike Oldfield succeeded perfectly.

The songs that Mike put out on this record are sublime, perfectly executed, beautifully sung, have lush arrangments, and top-musicianship by Mike and dear friend Simon Philips. I'd dare anyone to play bass, guitar, synths etc. at the level that Mike does it. Nothing wrong with prog being pop. On the other hand I'd rather have these kind of records than have to sit through Tales from Topographic Oceans or Bitches Brew. But it's all a matter of taste in the end.

The only drawback on this album is Saved by the Bell, wich really does nothing for me. Talk About Your Life is sweet and melodic, but I skip it most of the times.

Highlights are the whole of Side 1 and the prog-mini-epic The Lake, wich is an improvement to the Crises-titletrack.

Report this review (#1158558)
Posted Monday, April 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
1 stars I can't say that I've heard every Mike Oldfield album, but I have heard the ones that are essential and own a few to them. But I can say for sure that this is the worst one I have heard. It's not simply for the fact that it has pop tracks (7 out of 8) with vocals and only one track that can be considered progressive. It is because the pop tracks are so uninteresting and cheesy. I can understand the attempt to get a bigger following, using pop to get more people to listen to your better music. Frank Zappa and many others have done that and were successful. But you have to have something appealing in your music that will persuade the masses to dig deeper into your discography, and this album simply does not do this.

Now, the singing isn't too bad, but it is quite standard fare, and that is surprising considering that half of the vocals are by the lead singer from Triumverat. But it sounds like he is not convinced about the music. The only vocal track worth listening to is "To France" which is the first track, and the only reason it is any good is because there is at least a short instrumental interlude that is interesting. The rest of the songs featuring vocals are just bad. The production here doesn't help either. Even though I am not a fan of pop in most cases, even people that listen to radio friendly music expect better sound and lyrics. Nothing here is really that appealing.

However, the one progressive track "The Lake" is more like the Mike Oldfield that most of us are familiar with. Completely instrumental and progressive with changing meters, tempos, great development, it has what you come to expect from this genius. This is where his talent resides and this is where he shines. It is also the only reason to look for this album, but he has so many other great albums that are full of great sounds and compositions that one 12 minute track may have a hard time convincing me that it is worth purchasing an entire album. I bought the vinyl for 50 cents so I wasn't out much and "The Lake" is definitely worth that much. So you decide if it is worth it to you. As far as I'm concerned it is a poor album that only completionists need to track down if they really just have to have everything he recorded. 1 star.

Report this review (#1310790)
Posted Monday, November 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars Deeper and deeper in pop rock rabbit hole.

"Crises" brought Virgin Records fresh dose of smash hits with "Shadow on the Wall" and immortal "Moonlight Shadow". The plan was to double down next year with a new batch of successful singles; Mike followed the plan. Inspired by alpine landscapes and Lake Geneva - immediate surroundings of his new home in Switzerland - he delivered a good number of pleasing, inoffensive songs right on schedule. Thus "Discovery" was born.

Once again we're treated with all sorts of guitars, dreamy layers of Fairlight/Oberheim synthesizers and crystalline Maggie Reilly vocals. Ex-Triumvirat singer Barry Palmer teamed up for half of the songs and done a decent job, especially for a guy who lost voice during the recording week. The public opinion thought the same; the album quickly went up in the charts and even turned Gold/Platinum in Germany, United Kingdom, France and Spain.

But aside from commercial success in the day long gone, what "Discovery" really brings to the table?

It begins strongly with fan favorite "To France", one of the most recognizable songs of the era - at least in Europe. Maggie really leads the charge with lovely, though a bit sappy vocals. The rhythm, background, guitar synths and dainty acoustic solo round out the composition and make promise: this album's gonna be soft, simple, but pleasant in its own way. "Discovery" lives up to these expectations for the most part. "Poison Arrows" is catchy and even rocking at times, though it swallows its own tail at the end. "Crystal Gazing" sounds like mid-80s Kate Bush which is good, but it tends to cross the line between 'sweet' and 'saccharine' quite often. Maggie and Barry shared vocals on "Tricks of the Light", although they've only met after the album had been completed. Straightforward, average song, not much to write about honestly.

The title track fools us a bit because the strongest parts are the musical cues straight from "Five Miles Out" - not the album, but song itself. Actually the resemblance between the two is striking, although this one is less edgy and lacks the magical touch. I'd rather name it "Five Miles Out (Faint Memory)"... We're halfway through the album, 'just hold your heading true' folks.

After this point the formula starts wearing down and I find myself losing interest steadily. "Talk About Your Life" takes the 'sugary' route once again and doesn't really stand out in any way. Now I only remember it reused the most prominent melody of the album (the one from "To France") and tried to ramp up emotion at the end, but missed the point. "Saved by a Bell" might just define the term 'forgettable' and ultimately proves to be the weakest link here.

"The Lake" saves the B-side a bit, though I was expecting more. A twelve minute instrumental from Oldfield usually means we're in for a musical journey across mythical lands and emerald oceans; the water theme is (obviously) strong in this one, but not as breathtaking as expeditions of "Taurus" or "Crises" brand. With that being said, there is a good deal of pleasing melodies and 'background atmospheres'. I enjoy the abstract intro with 'droplets', the main theme breaking in at 1:45 or bold guitar licks around 5 minute mark. I also like the positive, but quite timid finale. So it's not that the music is disappointing: it just feels like a melting pot of separate ideas, lacking a common denominator or logical interludes. For this reason "The Lake" is a bit less than the sum of its intriguing parts.

I appreciate how 1979-83 albums tried to maintain the healthy balance between progressive and pop elements, but I also think that approach was abandoned later, "Discovery" being the first example. I don't mind spinning Mike's radio hits once in a while, but it's definitely not the reason why I grab these albums in the first place. The vision of "Five Miles Out" or even "Crises" is mostly gone while sweetie lil' tunes dominate. While it's listenable enough to make for a charming road trip, it pales in comparison with uplifting journey high above the clouds experienced on "Five Miles Out". Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I like such comparison: "Discovery" is Volkswagen in Swiss Alps, while "5MO" is Lockheed Electra aircraft gliding above Pacific Ocean.

"Discovery" is not a bad album per se, but soft tunes get dull sometimes. It doesn't really live up to its mysterious album cover, somewhat reminiscent of "Ommadawn". I can't really give it more than 2.5 stars (rounded down on Progarchives), in other words: mixed results.

I recommend checking out "The Lake", "Crystal Gazing" and perhaps title track. If you remain excited, go ahead and grab it. In other case please explore earlier Oldfield albums or jump straight to 1990s. Since I've already reviewed "Islands" and "Earth Moving", I can assure you it's not gonna get much better until "Amarok", save for "The Wind Chimes" suite (you might disagree on this one).

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Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2019 | Review Permalink

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