Hanover 1981 [no label 2CD]
Live in Germany, Apr 2 1981. The orchestral tour cost him a fortune so this time it was just a small band with Mike Frye (drums and percussion), Morris Pert (drums & percussion) Tim Cross (keyboards) Maggie Reilly (vocals) Rick Fenn (guitar and bass). Ex SBD stereo.

Not to be confused, or compared, with any of Mike Oldfield's official live releases, this 2 CD package is the sound of the Oldfield band at its very peak, slimmed down to the bare essentials, but stripped, too, of all the pomp and flab that had hitherto marred his stage presentations. Certainly the band on display comprises the best musicians Oldfield ever worked with, with vocalist Maggie Riley and keyboard player Tim Cross so indispensable that one could reasonably argue that nothing Oldfield's done since they departed even begins to capture the brilliance that's on display here.

Recorded at the final show on the band's 1981 German tour, their strengths are especially notable on the shorter pieces taken from the Platinum and QE2 albums - "Punkadiddle," the first of the encores, truly lives up to its title with a vengeance. But even the lengthier suites composed with larger ensembles (or, at least, oodles of overdubs) in mind benefit from the concise punch of the six piece band, with the excerpt from "Ommadawn," the guitar-soaked sequence that closes side one of the original vinyl, almost over-powering in its intensity. Excerpts from "Incantations" and "Tubular Bells," too, are seen in a wholly new light here, while "Platinum" itself is positively electrifying, even if everything does seem to go out of tune just a couple of minutes in!

Oldfield would retain the spirit of this band for a couple of years, and tours, to come, but by 1983 or so, it began slowly to unravel, as he prepared the next phase of his career. Soon, nights like this were little more than memories, but these discs bring them crashing back in all their glory. - Dave Thompson

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