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Another missed opportunity
on 5 August 2012
The Mike Oldfield Mercury re-masters continue with Platinum and QE2 though as with previous re-issues I feel the fans are not being given the package that would truly make them collectible and fully worth paying for them again.
Platinum is the 1979 release that marked a new direction for Oldfield in terms of style and format - and by and large it does sort of work - though on paper perhaps it shouldn't!
The Platinum suite which took up the first side of the album is by far the strongest element - split into 4 distinct sections they still gel together well and create a great new sound. The remaster is good with some of the higher end treble of previous releases toned down slightly. On Charleston you can still hear very faintly some crosstalk from some of the multi-track that wasn't dialled out completely on the master but this is perhaps the quietest I have heard it on any of Platinum's releases.
Side 2 of the album is more hit and miss and does not particularly gel as a whole what with covers, past offcuts and hasty additions after very late deletions! Beginning with an older Oldfield piece - Woodhenge - this was originally recorded in 1976 for an arts educational film "Reflections" - it is a mystical, ethereal work and is perhaps the most out of place track on the album. A companion track "The Path" recorded at the same time was eventually released on the B-side of a 1986 single (!) and is similarly mystical in nature but has not been included here. In America Woodhenge was replaced by "Guilty" on their version of the album (Called "Airborn"). To me that makes a lot more sense seeing as "Guilty" was recorded in the same sessions as the Platinum recordings and stylistically sounds similar. Mercury though decided to lump it with the "Incantations" remaster as the main bonus of that album because "Guilty" is thematically linked by chord progressions to that work. hmmm.
"Into Wonderland" is where the biggest upset lies - in that this track replaced the original track "Sally" after the first issue of Platinum. Whereas "Into Wonderland" is a slight, whimsical ballad "Sally" was a bizarre, slightly humorous, eccentric piece with a blinding guitar solo by Oldfield. Unfortunately this track is not on this release (nor has it ever been released since the very first vinyl issue in November 1979) and it isn't even mentioned in the booklet!
Punkadiddle up next is one of Oldfield's short fun instrumentals which segued great from "Sally" but doesn't really fit in-between the sweet but saccharine "Into Wonderland" and the hauntingly powerful slowed down cover of Gerhswin's "I Got Rhythm".
Also not included on here but also recorded at the same time was Oldfield's cover of Free's "All-right Now". Although this was never officially released a promo film was made and shown on television at the time (and can be seen on youtube)and a promo flexidisc meant a very limited number of copies have meant fans have heard it and are aware of it.
What is included though is the standard version of Mike's rendition of Blue Peter - as heard on any Oldfield compilation. A pity that the slightly later release which had a slightly different mix and a refined ending is not included or even mentioned in the booklet. Though also released in 1979 it perhaps fits better with his following album QE2. There was also a great "making of" film shown on Blue Peter which explained how Oldfield recorded this piece for the programme and that along with the promo film of the track and the promo film of "All-right Now" would have been great extras for this so called "deluxe" edition.
What is good though is the short "live" jam session of "Platinum" and a pity more of this wasn't made available.
The 2012 reworking of "North Star" is ok but is really nothing more than an excerpt of the 1979 recording looped with added twiddly bits here and there overlaid on top. Rather lazy and adds nothing to the great original.
The 1980 Wembley concert though on disc 2 is fantastic and for that alone is the real reason why any fan would buy this re-release. Great sound quality - and a great atmosphere captured.