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Mike Oldfield - Voyager CD (album) cover

VOYAGER

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

3.09 | 216 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

thief
3 stars Mid-1990s was a good time for Celtic music, I suppose. Enya struck gold (or rather platinum) on "Shepherd Moons" and "The Memory of Trees", Loreena McKennitt had "The Mask and Mirror" and "The Book of Secrets" very high on the charts, the movie Braveheart brought much interest to Scottish themes as well. Mike Oldfield also had part in this revival: his music always breathed Celtic influences and even featured British instruments on numerous albums, starting with "Ommadawn" (uileann pipes, bodhran, northumbrian pipes and so on). Thus it wasn't necessarily a surprise when mystical "Voyager" came out in 1996, even though it's the only "100% Celtic" album in Mike's resume.

Much of "Voyager" content is filled with arrangements of traditional songs, albeit done in a tasteful and intrinsically Oldfield way. String instruments with guitars of all sorts dominate, but we also get droning woodwinds and thumping drums in large doses. Not to mention synthesizers, so fitting in his New-Agey approach. "Women of Ireland", also featured heavily in Stanley Kubrick's epic "Barry Lyndon" twenty years earlier, gained completely new face with Mike's arrangement - with synthesizers filling the gaps beautifully, pouring over the cliffs like crystal waves. The same is true for other numbers too, like "She Moves Through the Fair" with ooh-ooh choirs, or "Dark Island" with multilayered guitars and mandolins. Mike definitely had a good taste with these arrangements, even if they start to sound "samey" after a while.

Oldfield's original songs - 4 out of 10 total - hold up pretty well, too. "The Voyager" melody simply stays in your head, while "Celtic Rain" enchants you with dreamy background and perfect articulation. The latter is definitely a highlight: sweet guitar sounds, sliding all over the fretboard with grace and tenderness, always leave me in a yearning condition. What a great piece. "Wild Goose Flaps Its Wings" might be the most relaxed song on the album, quite repetetive, but still decent.

Actually, repetitiveness and difficulty with winding up when time is right are the biggest issues on "Voyager". Many songs could be easily shortened by few bars and, in worse cases, even a minute. "Women of Ireland" and "The Song of the Sun" popped to my head as prime examples. Majestic "Flowers of the Forest" could work even better if Mike reduced it to 4:45 or so. Even the best melodies suffer a bit from overexposure.

While speaking of longer tracks, one cannot overlook the ending piece, "Mont St Michel". Although far from a bona fide progressive rock classic, it succeeds in interweaving soothing passages with moments of majesty and grandeur, utilizing both Celtic instruments and traditional orchestra. Nice piece, even if I find it a bit too safe and predictable.

All in all, Mike succeeded in creating a cohesive album, always staying true to its Celtic theme and contemplative moods with a pinch of mystery. There is enough variety to keep you interested for almost an hour. Even if you're not exactly a fan of Celtic music per se, I encourage you to try "Voyager": both light-hearted and melancholic pieces serve well as a background music to autumn daydreaming sessions. In this context, foggy islet shown on a cover is a fitting "establishing shot".

Quality-wise, it deserves three stars without blinking. I just wish it was a bit more proggy.

thief | 3/5 |

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