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Brief moments of Oldfield genius buried in a mixed bag of pop-rock songs
on 1 May 2014
This is really an album of quite straightforward pop-rock songs, albeit very nicely produced and with some occasional stellar guitar contributions from the master himself. It is often difficult to tell that this is an Oldfield production, aside from those brief moments, and this album is more likely to appeal to those who prefer Oldfield albums like Discovery, Earth Moving and Islands, rather than the more progressive releases such as Incantations, Ommadawn, Amarok, Hergest Ridge and TB. I think the vocals are well done but the performances are a little melodramatic at times - perhaps the vocalist was trying to inject some life or emotion into what are often pretty mediocre songs...
The opener 'Sailing' starts the proceedings with a catchy, if rather repetitive and simplistic number and this is followed by 'Moonshine', a song with a great sentiment and some beautiful guitar touches. Then after this we have three really dull tracks, often (as in 'Castaway') with irritating over-the-top vocal performances. 'Dreaming in the Wind' is the first track here that has a classic Oldfield sound almost from the very start and for me it is the best cut. 'Nuclear' is so theatrical it is almost comic. 'Chariots' has good energy and 'Following the Angels' is very heartfelt and genuine, referring to the Olympic Opening event to which Oldfield made such a memorable contribution. This track should have ended the album because the final two tracks tread the line between cliche and dullness and ultimately do not satisfy.
In my view, as a life long Oldfield fan, it would have been better for him to have made a long instrumental (side one) and then used 'Sailing', 'Moonshine', 'Dreaming in the Wind', 'Chariots' and 'Following the Angels' to fill up the songs on side two, in the time-honoured Oldfield fashion.