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Mike Oldfield - Earth Moving CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

2.11 | 204 ratings

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1 stars Judging first four or five bars of the initial track, "Holy", we unmistakingly come to a conclusion: this album is firmly entrenched in 80s pop sound and it's gonna stay that way for the next 40 minutes.

Story goes that Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records, insisted on Mike to provide another commercially successful album, even more so than 1987 Islands. And Mike obeyed that time. He had bounced back and forth between poppy singles and ambitious, art-rock/progressive suites for most of the eighties, but Earth Moving was a different animal. This time he provides no instrumentals and longest track doesn't exceed 8-minute mark. All songs feature sugary vocals, sappy melodies, simple time signatures and oh-so-melodramatic synthesizers. Truly, compared to leading synthpop act of the era, Depeche Mode, Oldfield's output in 1989 was very mellow and safe. Drum machines rarely attack eardrums, opting for uncharacteristic backgrounds and softened with reverbs most of the time. Production breathes and lives in 1989, spacious and elegant like Michael Mann's pastel interiors... unfortunately, for that reason it aged rapidly, just like Miami Vice in its third season. Earth Moving has to be the most "artificially" sounding record in Mike's catalogue, at least up to that point.

When it comes to musicianship, there is no reason to complain really. Guest appearances do their job quite well, they're good enough to conquer Billboard charts. Maggie Reilly comes back for one song, Anita Hegerland provides bright, Lauperesque vocals in catchy "Innocent", and Adrian Belew delivers convincing romanticism in charming "Holy". Speaking of Belew, he also provides a decent solo in "Far Country". But the problem is, even the most pleasing tunes aren't exactly pop heavyweights. Earth Moving could be easily mistaken for a Jan Hammer and REO Speedwagon collaboration, but it isn't catchy enough to win the world.

This is the first reason why I can't give this album a decent rating. Mike throws his style out of the window and you need to listen very closely to conclude it's HIS work, not another run-of-the-mill 80s drink coaster. As far as I'm concerned, never before that was the case; certainly he meddled with pop music for ten years at that point, but we could always tell it's Oldfield. His talent, atmosphere and great guitar playing were all over the place. Here it's completely absent, or at least 80% of it.

Secondly, those tunes just don't stay with a listener. I could name three or four songs better than the average, but it's utterly pointless, since none of them can even crack Oldfield's TOP 50. Honestly, I've listened to Earth Moving three times this week just to judge it fairly, but I barely remember melodies, apart from "Innocent".

I think this deserves 1 star rating. Not because it's unbearable. Frankly, I've heard worse songs on The Millenium Bell. If you are very much into 80s pop, then yes, give it a listen - you might find it a 5/10 album, perhaps. But I can't really recommend Earth Moving to prog fans. Aforementioned Millenium Bell at least had some highlights, brief moments of Mike's greatness here and there. In comparison, Earth Moving turns out to be so bland. The last song ("Nothing But / Bridge to Paradise") sums it up nicely, just listen to its coda and how uninspired, lifeless and repetitive it is. In itself it isn't The Worst Album, but there's nothing really impressive here. It never reaches beyond "Ah OK" levels.

There is just no Oldfield here. Thus, 1 star is deserved.

thief | 1/5 |


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