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Mike Oldfield

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Mike Oldfield Heaven's Open album cover
2.50 | 205 ratings | 18 reviews | 4% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1991

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Make Make (4:19)
2. No Dream (6:03)
3. Mr. Shame (4:23)
4. Gimme Back (4:13)
5. Heaven's Open (4:32)
6. Music from the Balcony (19:45)

Total Time 43:15

Line-up / Musicians

- Michael Oldfield / lead vocals, guitars, Hammond, synths (Fairlight III, E-mu Proteus, Roland D-50/550, Korg M1), Akai S1100 sampler, Atari computer & sequencing software

- Mickey Simmonds / Hammond, piano
- Andrew Longhurst / additional keyboards, sequencing, samples
- Courtney Pine / saxophones, bass clarinet
- Dave Levy / bass
- Simon Phillips / drums
- Anita Hegerland / harmony vocals
- Nikki 'B' Bentley / harmony vocals
- Tom Newman / harmony vocals

And "Sassy Choir" :
- Vicki St James
- Sylvia Mason-James
- Dolly James
- Debi Doss
- Shirlie Roden
- Valerie Etienne

Releases information

Artwork: Icon London with Trevor Key (photo)

CD Virgin ‎- CDVIP 153 (1991, UK)
CD Virgin ‎- MIKECD 16 (2000, UK) Remastered by Simon Heyworth
CD Caroline Records ‎- CAR49386 (2000, US) Remastered by Simon Heyworth

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy MIKE OLDFIELD Heaven's Open Music

MIKE OLDFIELD Heaven's Open ratings distribution

(205 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(4%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(14%)
Good, but non-essential (35%)
Collectors/fans only (31%)
Poor. Only for completionists (16%)

MIKE OLDFIELD Heaven's Open reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars The name's Michael

For his last album for Virgin, Oldfield produced a somewhat experimental album. While there is no question of him simply going through the motions to fulfil his contract, this has to go down as one of his least successful ventures. While the album is credited to Oldfield, (or more precisely Michael Oldfield, apparently as a joke), it is in fact a band recording.

The album consists of six tracks, five of which occupy side one, the final piece "Music from the balcony" occupying the whole of side two. The five tracks on side one all feature Oldfield's vocals. With the only previous reference point of note being "On horseback", it is pleasing to find that he does in fact have a rich and melodic voice. The only track to really benefit from this though is the softer ballad, "No dream". The other vocal tracks are diverse, including reggae, funk, and rock, but the song writing is weak, and uninspired.

"Music from the balcony" is experimental, with jazz influences, sound effects, minimalist passages, and sections which are more traditional Oldfield. It is however, largely disappointing, tending to wander somewhat aimlessly from one style to the other.

Credit is due to Oldfield for endeavouring to open up new directions, but ultimately this is a disappointing effort, with little to recommend it.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars One thing Olfield can always be tagged with was his ability to be consistently inconsistent!! Hope that makes sense. Heaven's Open was his swansong with Virgin and seems to be a rushed affair. Side one with Oldfield on the vocals. The title track being the highlight and dare I say it very similar to a Talking Heads piece. Side 2 has a single song titled ' Music from the Balcony' and if you loved Amorok you will love this piece of music too. It is a real gem.Definitely an album for dedicated Oldfield fans only.
Review by The Crow
2 stars A lot of people say that this is the worst Mike Oldfieldīs album...But I disagree. I think that this album surpases, for example, the pop adventure of "Earth Moving", or the failed experiment of "Orchestral Tubular Bells". I donīt know yet the Oldfieldīs discography beyond "Tubular Bells II", so I canīt give a comparation of "Heavenīs Open" with later albums...

The best thing I find in this album are the lyrics and the Mike Oldfieldīs singing! Mr.Oldfield talked here about his very bad relations with Virgin and Richard Branson (Virginīs owner...) I think that these lyrics are very sincere and here the autor opened his heart to offer us a lot of his feelings...In other Oldfieldīs albums, the lyrics were a little "impersonal" (with some exception, like the song Holy on "Earth Moving"...), so I really like the acid way of describing his relation with Virgin, because it showed the strong personality of Mike Oldfield.

When you hear this album, one of the first things you notice itīs that the sound and the songsīs arragements are a little poor, too simple if you compare it with previous Oldfieldīs albums...I think this is because this album was made in a hurry, only six months. Oldfield was desiring to finish his relations with Virgin, so after the masterpice "Amarok" he made this album very fast, for after that giving more time to the making of "Tubular Bells II" for Warner...For example, the instrumental Music From the Balcony has some lack of good ideas, itīs too repetitive, like it would make too fast...Itīs the only Oldfieldīs long instrumental I find a little dull and unispired sometimes...

Nevertheless, I think that the vocal songs are good! Maybe this songs are too simple in arragements, with too much keyboards, loops and programmed drums...But the passionate Oldfieldīs singing made these songs very special, and brilliant sometimes (No Dream and Heavenīs Open are two great songs!) Mr.Oldfield singed his own lyrics with very much sensitivity and sincerity that all the singers that has worked with him previously. Maybe he has not a very technical and polited voice. Sometimes, itīs even difficult to understand some words...But the amount of feelings he wasted singing this dark lyrics solved that! Just heard the soft and beauty beginning of No Dream...He put his heart in his throath!

Best songs: No Dream (fantastic singing, lyrics and ending guitar solos...), Heavenīs Open (one of the best Oldfieldīs vocal songs without a doubt!) and some parts of Music From The Balcony (like the soft and beautiful beginning, and the great ending passage with the double pedal of Simon Philips blasting savagely and the fantastic crying guitars of Mike...) But Make Make, Mr. Shame and Gimme Back are not bad at all too!

Conclusion: definitively, not a bad album in my opinion, just underworked...

My rating: **1/2

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This album was probably an adventure for Mike Oldfield into R&B music with some flavors of multi-instruments sounds through some effects. The opening track "Make Make" is definitely under this category as it shares the same beat as disco music. "No Dream" is a mellow pop song with vocal. It also happens to "Mr Shame" which has an R&B style of music. "Gimme Back" is a reggae and R&B outfit. "Heaven's Open" still has the same style but this time with unique guitar work of Mike Oldfield. "Music From The Balcony" was I thought would be an epic full of progressive sounds. In terms of music structure and compositions this final track represent what typical prog music would sound like. Despite many textures Mike tried to offer with his music here, this tracks sounds like a collection of songs with disjointed parts and practically no smooth transition between styles. It seems obvious as well that this concluding track is weak in melody and harmony. Yes, there are multitudes of sound effects but they all sound odds to my ears.

At album level I'm a bit confused with the fact that there is no single storyline from track one to the end that represents certain theme of the album. So, I conclude this album should be suitable only for Mike Oldfield die hard fans - two stars is an appropriate rating. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by russellk
2 stars After a slew of sub-par albums in the late eighties, in 1990 MIKE OLDFIELD released his experimental 'Amarok', which many consider the best thing he ever did (though I'm not one of them). Within months he'd followed it up with this, his contractual obligation to Virgin fulfilled by its release.

For once, the pop side outshines the progressive side. OLDFIELD offers five finely crafted tracks, all featuring his own vocals, albeit heavily processed. A brave move, but perhaps not so brave given his mind was already on his next project, the first with his new label. 'No Dream' is perhaps the highlight of the album, a slow building track, with dozens of layers of sound. OLDFIELD really was getting good at this sort of pop-rock, just as it vanished from the charts. Of the other tracks, 'Make Make' is a good effort, 'Mr Shame' and 'Gimme Back' are dispensable, and the title track is excellent.

I'd like to know what the great man was thinking with 'Music From The Balcony'. It sounds like he's picked up music fragments from Amarok's cutting room floor and pasted them together with no regard for the overall shape of the composition. 'Experimental' is a label that really means 'buyer beware': in my experience it really should be preceded by the word 'failed' - as is the case here. OLDFIELD dispenses with melody, instead relying on his sound collage and sudden changes in volume to make an impression on the listener. It's a fun fest for lovers of unusual rhythms, but he doesn't give you enough time to get used to one beat before he's on to the next. We even have a Duane Eddy lick about half way through. And what's with the chimp noises? Listening to this track is like flicking through all the stations on an avant-garde radio spectrum. Sorry, but this is MIKE OLDFIELD'S nadir.

Things could only get better from here - and they did. His output in the 1990s was consistently better than that of the 1980s.

Review by ZowieZiggy
1 stars When you listen to "Heaven's Open" you immediately know that "Amarok" was a casting mistake. The one and only good album in the midst of many average (at best) ones.

Mike turning disco / soul ("Make Make"). Mike turning reggae ("No Dream"), Mike turning AOR ("Mr. Shame"). Three press next tracks. In a row. The question here is rather to know what happened to Mike while he produced "Amarok" than why such a poor album is released only a year later.

Reggae (which I like) seems to be the major "inspiration" so far. "Gimme Back" is the third one (if you would consider that the opening number has some Babylonian flavours as well). The whole of this first part is just rubbish. One weak track after the other, and there are not ONE that could be considered even average.

So far this album is just as weak as "Earth Moving". This should get you the picture.

Mike is using the same format as several of his eighties work, holding a good chunk of an album for a long piece of music. In this case "Music From The Balcony".

It starts as a good old one, but there is not much of a consistency here. Useless and disorganized at times. But by no means coherent nor interesting. Weird and improvised music for the most of it, very short interludes of pleasant stuff. But it is to be confronted with some truly unbearable moments. What happened Mike ?

This treat during almost twenty minutes is hard to believe. I would have wished to be confronted with a grand epic, just to balance the very poor first part, but "Music." is so versatile and poor!

I understand that artists are changing their musical roots, but if it is to produce such a work as "Heaven's Open", it is pointless. And I am not impressed with Mike's vocals all the way through this album.

This is a very weak effort. Three out of ten is the maximum rating I can think of. And to upgrade it to two stars is not on the agenda. One little star for an album which holds none. Sorry Mike.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Michael sings!

Compared to the previous Amarok, Heaven's Open is far less experimental and clearly more conventional. But this is not necessarily a bad thing though! This album has the same structure as albums like Five Miles Out, Crisis and Islands in that half of the album consists of shorter songs while the other half is one longer piece. However, this album has a kind of consistency that these other albums lacked. Most of Mike's 80's albums felt more like compilations of random tunes than genuine albums. These albums often lacked any clear direction, featuring pure pop songs side by side with Mike's more progressive and experimental excursions. Often he also had several different guest singers (both male and female) further contributing to making his albums shattered and incoherent. Mike appeared to be unsure of where he wanted to go.

Here Mike (or Michael as it says on the cover) handles all the lead vocals himself which contributes greatly to the album's consistency. Mike is a good singer, slightly reminding me of Marillion's Steve Hogarth in some tones. It is a wonder he didn't sing more often on his albums.

Another factor speaking in favour of this album is the presence of real rock drums. There is a much stronger band feeling on this album than possibly on any other Oldfield album!

As I said, half the album features shorter songs. There is a slight gospel feeling to some of these songs that might put some people off, as it did me at the first couple of listens. However, somehow I immediately liked the catchy title track. The long piece is entirely instrumental and not one of Mike's best long pieces. But it is fully listenable even if not very memorable. I will, however, give it more chances in the future though.

If you expect something similar to Tubular Bells or Amarok or Songs Of Distant Earth you will be disappointed. But if you like Crossover Prog acts like Peter Gabriel (some sounds here remind slightly of Gabriel's Sledgehammer) or Alan Parsons Project then this might be for you. This is in my opinion the most consistent of Oldfield's more conventional leaning rock albums.

Review by Matti
2 stars To me this is among Oldfield's worst albums. It's the only one featuring himself as the main vocalist, but - actually to my surprise - that's not one of the album's most notable faults. Either he's a decent singer or maybe the music is just so heavily and skillfully produced that anyone's voice couldn't make the five songs much worse than they already are. Hmm, no need to be so harsh: he did surprise me positively on the vocal department. But it's really the songwriting that stinks here, at least if you are expecting more familiar Oldfield stuff instead of flirting with disco/ reggae/ AOR styles. Only 'No Dream' is worth repeated listenings (but even that should end sooner) while the four others I saw no point of listening completely in the first place. Drummer Simon Phillips, saxophonist Courtney Pine, keyboardist Mickey Simmonds and bassist Dave Levy give the music kind of a ballsy treatment and thus guide Mike thru these less Oldfield-esque territories professionally: the end result is not a disaster. Actually some songs on the Islands album are even less interesting and banal. But the question is: who on earth would wish to hear this stuff from Mike Oldfield?

The album's format is familiar from e.g. Five Miles Out and Crises: another (imaginary) album side is for the straight-forward vocal pop and the other is one continuing instrumental work. The listener puts his/her hopes on this nearly 20-minute 'Music From The Balcony' after the disappointing chain of songs, but it is far from the level of 'Crises' or 'Taurus'. I guess better comparisons are 'Wind Chimes 1-2' (from Islands) and Amarok, which was rather experimental one-hour sound collage. I don't enjoy Amarok - I find it very tiresome and lacking of sense and coherence - and I feel more or less the same about this one. It feels like a continuum of very brief musical vignettes that don't build on each other: the music is quite directionless and is closer to a flea jumping constantly off the ground than a bird soaring high, or even a running animal for that matter. Some moments are quite OK, some are totally irritating. Even the ending of this major "composition" is disappointing. All of a sudden it just stops without any kind of a finale grandiosity that would reward the listening task.

Skip this album.

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars MIKE OLDFIELD returns one (last?) time to the format that afforded him so much success in the 1980s - a grouping of shorter song oriented pieces and one extended track of a more experimental nature. It would be his last release for Virgin, and many dismiss it as shameless contractual obligation of the vitriolic variety. In fact, "Heaven's Open" was one of his bolder moves on any number of fronts, not the least of which was his promotion to lead vocal! He had taken the reins on the title cut to "Five Miles Out" but his voice was heavily processed on that initial step from a decade earlier.

The vocal tracks are partially successful, and while their spiritual and gospel aspects and some of their tone are unfortunately somewhat reminiscent of the dreadful "Earth Moving", Mike's voice recalls some of the more virile contributions by ROGER CHAPMAN and BARRY PALMER to "Crises" and "Discovery" back in the day. As such, their impact is correspondingly more memorable, particularly on the wondrous title cut, which combines a new wave sensibility with the melodic gifts not heard since one of my favourite Oldfield tracks was released, the 12" single "Pictures in the Dark" from 1985. Spoiler alert: be patient and a guitar solo will personally open heaven's gates for you. "Gimme Back" is well executed UK reggae reminiscent of EDWARD II, and "Mr Shame" exploits the "Sassy Choir" and some nifty synth figures with uncharacteristic pluckiness. "Make Make" seems a rant at record companies, one of many invoked by MO during these later Virgin years, but that's all it's good for really.

And we arrive at "Music from the Balcony". Similar to Amarok, its best defence is that it is only a third the length. Why MO needed to splice together segments from other spliced together segments I'm not sure. It does seem to appease most longtime fans who nonetheless acknowledge that it won't be on many lists of Oldfield's top 5 epics.

An interesting and somewhat unjustly overlooked album in the Oldfield discography, ultimately "Heaven's Open" closed the book on Oldfield's relationship with the label that he gave so much to. Somewhat tongue in cheek I'm sure, he must have felt vaulted from hell to heaven once this was over. Some listeners might agree, although not necessarily for the same reasons.

Latest members reviews

1 stars It's fascinating how unpredictable Mike's (Michael's?) career turned out to be. But if I were to pinpoint the most puzzling period, it would be 1989-94, hands down. In this context, "Heaven's Open" is a crucial piece of the puzzle. To my knowledge, "Heaven's Open" is the most light-hearted, "I do ... (read more)

Report this review (#1976394) | Posted by thief | Thursday, August 9, 2018 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Mike Oldfield's Heaven's Open record is an album that was heavily criticized when it was published back in 1991 due to diverse reasons. First of all, the artist had a couple of arguments with his then record label Virgin Records and recorded this last album for them in quite a hurry just to join a n ... (read more)

Report this review (#381389) | Posted by kluseba | Sunday, January 16, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars What's wrong with the abrupt changes of rythms and interleaving tunes in "Music frome the Balcony" ? How a property that is regarded as richness for many other prog tunes is herein regarded as rubish ? Let's call it Eclectic prog, let's give peace to Mike Oldfield and let's enjoy the experiment to ... (read more)

Report this review (#324467) | Posted by franp | Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Good. Very good. Mike Oldfield can sing, and sings really good. You can like it or not, but that's the fact. And songs are good, maybe even great. This album is credited to Michael Oldfield and he does not like it at all. He did not spent much time with it, and this is and album by band, n ... (read more)

Report this review (#78286) | Posted by Zavgorodny | Monday, May 15, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is commonly dispensed with as one of his less serious and less important works. It is usually said that Oldfield recorded this album only to end his contract with Virgin Records, with which he was in conflict since quite a long time. On this album Mike presents himself as "Michael O ... (read more)

Report this review (#64750) | Posted by LaserDave | Saturday, January 14, 2006 | Review Permanlink

2 stars The worst I've heard from Oldfield so far! What a disappointing album, although I knew I shouldn't except too much when I first heard this. The album follows a very typical Mike Oldfield concept - a bunch of shorter songs and one long, about 20 minute track. Okay, that's fine, it worked perfect ... (read more)

Report this review (#55949) | Posted by | Friday, November 11, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Maybe it looks like he did not have to sing, and songs are too simple, and so on... but I like this album very much, and it seems to me that it is one of the most professionally-made albums. Four stars - just because his genre is not the greatest, and I'm not ready to listen for such music for ... (read more)

Report this review (#44758) | Posted by stansult | Monday, August 29, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Mike has a way with words. In this case, his words. I had heard that Heaven's Open had gotten bad reviews. Well, I didn't care. I WANTED TO HEAR HIM SING!!!!! And, boy, can he not sing. Not that Oldfield is the worst vocalist ever. (Look at Islands.) Musically, this album rocks! There is a ... (read more)

Report this review (#28446) | Posted by | Tuesday, June 22, 2004 | Review Permanlink

2 stars One of Oldfield's worst albums. This one came at the end of his relationship with Virgin music, and the lyrics are full of references to freedom. Although this theme is usally featured in Oldfield's work, this time it is much more concrete, and the constant references at his fights with Virgin and R ... (read more)

Report this review (#28445) | Posted by Paco Fox | Wednesday, April 21, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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