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Mike Oldfield - Heaven's Open CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

2.48 | 174 ratings

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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.

kenethlevine | 2/5 |


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