Album review: Mike Oldfield – Heaven’s open (1991)

“Heaven’s open”, Mike Oldfield’s 14 composition released in 1991 is a special album from a few points of view: it was, finally, the last album for a Virgin company from which Mike was by that time very happy to leave as he expresses with a laughing “Fuck off” at the end of the album; it’s the only album where he is credited as Michael Oldfield and also the only album where he performs all the vocal parts. “Heaven’s open” meant a return to the formula of one side of vocal tracks and a long instrumental one on the other side.
The musical nostalgia I feel for 80s and early 90s music is tingled from the first moments of “Make make”. I’ve listened to countless of hours of music from that period and when the exuberant and sparkly instrumental part starts followed by the almost shouting vocals that were a stamp of that testosterone filled period I know where and when I am. “Make make” marks a sort of duet that fits right into the period. The sound effects, the electronic sound and the messages in the lyrics couldn’t have come from another time.
I must admit that even with this nostalgia and with the way I can connect with the sound, “Heaven’s open” is probably the Mike Oldfield album I’ve listened to the least. Paradoxaly considering that he sung them all I have a hard time identifying them with the Mike Oldfield sound I know and love. This is a collection of nice pop / rock songs that come and go. The title song of the album is the only one where I actually recognize my favorite musician. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Mike was at the end of his Virgin relationship and that he couldn’t recognize himself as part of that. His music shows a detachment from everything.
Then there’s “Music from the balcony”, the 19 minutes long instrumental part. When I hear that electric guitar motif right at the 1 minute mark that ushers in a section that could have fit very well on “Amarok” I am happy again. Yes Mike is still here and this is where he feels the most comfortable. For me he could have just skipped the vocal songs from “Heaven’s open” and just do an even more experimental “Amarok 2” with this one. Once again he employs strange sounds such as distorted animal voices that sometimes make me feel as if I’m inside a crowded pet store. We get vocal samples and even computer game like effects in composition that’s an interesting and varied mix that’s impossible to separate or make sense of. It feels like a mixed up Rubik’s cube but this means that every time I listen to it I discover new things and sensations. I love the feeling I get when I start this piece because I now that for 20 minutes nobody will find me in this labyrinth.
If I was to rank all of Mike’s albums, this one would be in the bottom quarter. The instrumental piece is just as good as others but I don’t get much from the vocal parts.

Track rating: 77 / 100

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