Album review: Mike Oldfield (5) – Platinum (1979)

“Platinum” is Mike Oldfield’s fifth album, released in 1979 and represents a huge departure and change from his first four masterpieces. It’s sort of like his first experiment into pop rock and it’s the first album to include songs and covers. Gone are the long and fascinating instrumental pieces for a change and in are worldlier inspirations like the local punk scene of his girlfriend at the time. Luckily there is the instrumental suite that gives the name of the album.

“Platinum” the suite is divided into four parts. I’ve listened to it mostly in live recordings. The first part is titled “Airborn” and it’s more joyful than anything Mike had previously composed. The guitar laughs and the music makes me think of the time of year when spring settles in for good and the threat of winter is forever gone. Nature starts waking up and there’s a feeling of optimism in the air. This is the kind rock of piece that could be used to open a concert and get the crowd warmed up without saying a word. No matter what mood I might be in, “Airborn” could eventually get me to come out and play. The second part of the suite, “Platinum” keeps the same tone and rhythm with extra percussion and it’s hard to resist its charm.

It’s obvious to me that Mike Oldfield wanted to write album that would cheer him up, maybe after the turmoil of public success and exposure. Just listen to the third part of the opening suite, “Charleston”. No, it’s not a metaphor or irony, it’s a jolly and groovy little piece written in that style but with Mike’s favorite instruments and complete with the echoes of luscious female choirs and even Mike vocalizing in the background. It’s a bit silly but very enjoyable.

Listening to Mike’s albums chronologically for a change gives me that chance to maybe know him better and follow his changes in disposition and view of the world. “Platinum” is filled with hope and a positive outlook on the world; it sounds like an album written by a person happy and in love, someone who wants to celebrate and share his joy with the ones around him.

I like the quiet experiment of “Woodhenge” because it’s the one track from this album that connects to the albums before. I could see this as a section in “Incantations” for example. This piece sounds as if it was made from nature sounds and elements and it quite peaceful. The electric guitar soothes me and the wooden sound of the instruments makes me feel very comfortable.

“Platinum” is Mike’s first progressive rock album and his first experiment with proper vocal pieces and more personal songs. It’s a trend he was going to expand on in subsequent years.

Track rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 16 / 38

Album excellence: 43%

Highlights:

Platinum part I

Platinum part II

Platinum part IV

 

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