“QE2” is the sixth record album by Mike Oldfield, released in 1980 on Virgin Records. The album was named after the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2. Besides his original compositions Mike chose to do two covers on this album as well, for ABBA’s “Arrival” and “Wonderful land” by The shadows. It’s also the first time Mike collaborated with his cherished vocalist Maggie Reilly.
This album is special to me because this is where the “Taurus” trilogy started. “Taurus” put together is my favorite Mike Oldfield suite from the 80s. It shows the new decade and the evolution of Mike’s music from the raw and unrepeatable beginnings to a more complex and modern (for those times) sound. Whenever I listen to “Taurus 1” I feel the combination of excitement and discomfort brought by leaving the comfortable sanctuary I started in and getting to a more crowded and exposed place. For me the first four Mike Oldfield albums were the most intimate and personal and now, in 1980 he was already known to a lot more people and his sound got a little more serious.
There is nostalgia in this track as well because this is the piece that started his 1981 Montreux Jazz Festival concert. I love that performance and I remember the first time I watched it 10 years ago and how it felt. The opening of “Taurus 1” puts me in that special state of mind. As always, the guitar is front and center, both quiet and fast, and the other instruments play second chair. This is the piece I’ve watched performed live most times and I know how every motif looks and feels. I remember Mike’s focused face and how the other guys concentrated as well and came together to build a memorable cue.
“Taurus 1” is fresh and rarely has a pause. There is one right in the middle, a short section that make me close my eyes as the music strikes a chord inside me. Then the track goes back to sparkling and builds up in simple steps towards a wonderful conclusion. I love the stride in this composition; I love the youthful optimism and the way all the pieces of this track come together. There are few layers but they are as addictive as they are simple.
The track also morphs very well into Sheba as if they were part of the same suite. The vocals are introduced here and this is how I musically met the wonderful Maggie Reilly. First her voice was just another instrument equal to the others as there were no words, no lyrics. The addition of her voice was just the normal evolution of the music as if the sound was on a journey of exploration and growth and finding Maggie was inevitable. I always liked the light and feel good nature of this album and the care with which it was written and performed. I like the fury in “Conflict” and the melody in other parts on the album. I love the rendition of “Arrival” even if I’m not usually a fan of covers. I never forgot the guitar and chimes in “Mirage”. I share the sentiment in “Molly” as I have a baby girl myself.
“QE 2” welcomed Mike Oldfield into my favorite decade and is still one of my favorite compositions of his to hear performed live.
Track rating: 91 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 21 / 33
Album excellence: 64%