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Mike Oldfield - Q.E.2 CD (album) cover

Q.E.2

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

3.50 | 320 ratings

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thief
3 stars It took me quite some time to give QE2 a fair chance. Unimaginative album cover, pointless mention of RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 and odd structure always made listening to this album a daunting task. Only after my interest in Oldfield grew into unaffected fascination all this material clicked with me.

"Taurus 1" is the easiest to like: a ten minute instrumental interlacing relaxed, folkish tunes of foggy mornings with more abrasive fuzz guitars and dense rhythms. I can't recognize which sound is made by Yamaha CS80, ARP Solina or Prophet 5, but even an amateur can tell the variety of synthesizers and textures is awe-inspiring. "Taurus 1" is terrific at times: I can't get enough of this solemn, whistling melody starting at 3:30 or the adventurous, upbeat part at six minutes mark. Guitar is crafty and interesting every time it pops up. Another moment of pure joy is the buildup in the coda: very proactive, clear, simply rewarding.

I also have nothing but good things to say about "Sheba". Very tender in the beginning, it evokes that characteristic New Agey feel with liquid synths pouring out of emerald flask in heavens. Female choirs fit the soothing textures and, together, they make for a very pleasant experience. I believe it was the first time Maggie Reilly was featured on Mike's album, so it's worth noting.

The bulk of "QE2" consist of such short, easy to follow compositions, most of them instrumental and seamlessly crossing from progressive to plain, from rustic and folksy to modern and synth-heavy.

"Conflict" isn't my favorite of the bunch: the intro seems a bit messy and I don't know the reasoning behind quoting J.S. Bach (Badinerie), but it doesn't translate too well. It gets much better in the second half though, with coda approaching 'epic' proportions. Then we have two covers of Abba and The Shadows, "Arrival" and "Wonderful Land". The former is quite good and oldfieldesque enough to warrant a spot, but I prefer the latter: the Spanish guitar is just lovely there and I deem it a MAJOR improvement of the original. Perhaps both covers were ordered by Virgin owners, but they turned out pretty well.

"Mirage" features rather typical musical cues, not that different from parts of "Ommadawn". A bit of everything here: frantic fuzzed guitar, classical arpeggios in the background, increasing tempos and fanfares ramping up towards the end. Worth a shot. "Celt" also has a fair share of interesting drum beats and tasty synths, this time paired with pianos, Maggie's singing and precise lead guitars. Speaking of guitars, Mike hasn't declined a bit in this department and always lays out crafty passages, a big plus. The closing number "Molly" doesn't add much, no point in looking deeper.

I left out "QE2" because I wanted to bookend this review with another highlight. A bit longer piece that builds up similarly to the opening track. In this one the drum kits really shines as the song gets dense and full of textures. It really builds up constantly, and four minutes in we get a beautiful payoff: awesome, no, FANTASTIC lead guitar work and musical quotes straight from "Taurus 1". The jolly feel, gleeful bagpipes and surprising keyboards popping out from every corner never fail to put a smile on my face. Along with "Taurus 1" it's a clear winner highlight. I wish Mike worked the two songs together, especially that they borrow from each other and share a similar feel.

While "Platinum" had a proper, side long epic, "QE2" beats it with quality of 3-4 minute compositions. I feel Mike was getting comfortable with the 'new' format and didn't experiment as much, resulting in more cohesive and pleasing songs. Of course some listeners aren't too eager on analog synthesizer music, but the main course is still acoustic and organic, despite the New Wavey artwork. Certainly I have minor complaints: not all songs fire on all cylinders and I'd reconsider covering ABBA in his place. Most of the material deserves a listen, but only "Taurus 1" and "QE2" (long ones) approach brilliancy.

But the good outweigh the bad significantly, so I'm comfortable with three star rating, even 3.5 on a good day. Just try it on a rainy morning in May.

thief | 3/5 |

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