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Mike Oldfield - Earth Moving CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

2.11 | 204 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars I don't dig it

For his last album of the 1980's, Mike turned his back on the side long epics and the intricate compositions of old, and went for something much more accessible. A quick look at the list of performers reveals a plethora of talented vocalists whose combined contribution dominates the album. The names are impressive too, including Adrian Belew, Chris Thompson, Max Bacon and of course Maggie Reilly (who has worked with Mike many times over the years). Rumour has it that Fish ("Holy") and Ian Gillan ("See the light") were also lined up to guest on a track each. Both receive name checks in the booklet but neither actually appear on the album.

The album reveals itself right from the start as being an unashamed effort to secure further success in the pop environment through the exploitation of catchy themes and simple structures. This of course is quite at odds with what we have been led to expect from Oldfield, and for many of his fans it means putting a finger in each ear and passing by on the other side of the road. It is however necessary to look at the album without preconception and assess it for what it is rather than what we hoped it might have been.

Mike's trademark guitar sounds are reassuringly present right from the opening "Holy". Adrian Belew does a good job on vocals, but the song is not particularly strong or memorable. That essentially is the weakness of this album as a whole. Making a pop album is by no means a crime in itself, but the requirement for a quality product remains.

"Hostage" features the voice of Max Bacon (once of Asia) on a very familiar sounding AOR pop song with brass like bursts and a catchy hook. Nicky 'B' Bentley adds some decent soulful backing vocals. Mark Williamson slows things down for the soft ballad "Far country", where Oldfield and Belew duet on lead guitars for the solo (OK that doesn't make sense, does it!), one in each channel. The song would make for a pleasant track on an album by a conventional male vocalist.

"Innocent" hints at Oldfield's future exploration of Ibiza sounds on "Tubular Bells 3", Anita Hegerland sounding distinctly like Maggie Reilly. Manfred Mann's Earth Band's Chris Thompson takes the next two tracks. Both "Runaway son" and "See the light" are brass driven pop/funk/rock numbers with little to distinguish them from the thousands of similar songs.

The title track is for me the best of the bunch. It is a million miles from prog, but Nikki "B" Bentley offers up a fine vocal performance and the cast of thousands backing vocalists, including Maggie Reilly and Carl Wayne (The Move), give the track a spiritual feel. Nice sax solo too. Reilly finally gets her own song on "Blue night", a song with obvious (and welcome) similarities to "Moonlight shadow".

There has been considerable debate as to why the final two songs "Nothing but" and "Bridge to paradise" are combined into a single track. Some speculate that it is so that the album at least appears to include a longer track to appeal to long terms fans. One of the more bizarre theories is that it is to maintain the 9 track gaps between the "Taurus" tracks. Whatever the truth is, they are in fact separate songs. "Nothing but" is another female (Carol Kenyon) vocal pop song which actually fades and concludes before "Bridge to paradise" kicks off. Max Bacon returns on vocals, but once again, the song is prosaic.

In summary, "Earth moving" is not as bad an album as some of the press it receives might suggest. It remains me in some ways of Tony Banks' solo work, especially "Still". It is true though that in the context of Oldfield's vast catalogue, this album sits well towards the bottom of the list of best albums. Even if we consider it purely on the basis that it is a pop album, it is unremarkable.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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