(All Album Reviews by maribor)
In the 1980s, Mike Oldfield was still trying to put out adventurous music and several of his albums of that period featured sidelong epics. Islands is such an album. It contains the more than twenty minutes long “The Wind Chimes” and judging from the title, I suppose it was meant to be a kind of continuation of Tubular Bells. The other half of the album is filled with short pop songs, which are again trademarks of Oldfield's 80s sound.
I truly had high expectations when I got this album, particularly concerning “The Wind Chimes”. Unfortunately, the piece didn't live up to my expectations. Oldfield employs a much less interesting approach even in the long composition here. There is far less rock than on previous records and more of a new age feel, which would later mark his early 90s albums. The new age feeling is particularly felt in the soft synth passages or during the chanting female vocals. The composition itself has enough variety, however I was bothered by several passages where Oldfield incorporates themes from his previous albums, most notably Tubular Bells and Crises. It's true that those themes are arranged somewhat differently but still the overall impression remains that Oldfield lacked the inspiration or motivation to create a totally new piece. The cheesy synths which had already (in smaller doses) plagued some earlier albums are much more prominent and the guitars are sparser than ever. The best thing on this composition is some very nice percussion and woodwind work.
The other 6 tracks are all pretty much straightforward pop songs. The most interesting of the lot are “Flying Start”, “The Time Has Come” and “When The Night's On Fire”. The title track shows a lot of promise at the start with some lovely woodwind work, however the vocals of Bonnie Tyler bring that to an end. “Flying Start” features some nice vocal parts by Kevin Ayers and is a nice quirky number. “When The Night's On Fire” is basically a variation of the title track, only with better vocals but unfortunately without the woodwinds. The other tracks are all decent pop songs based mostly on synthesizer melodies.
Although Oldfield uses a reliable pattern here of a sidelong epic and several short pop songs, this just fails to deliver like the previous albums. The epics were simply more adventurous and diverse, with better hooks on previous recordings and the same could be said for the shorter songs. Where are the excellent short instruments like “Taurus 3” or “Mount Teidi”, where are the pop songs with better hooks? All in all, it's a decent enough record, yet it fails to evoke the magic of some of Oldfield's other efforts.
7,5 out of 10.