Terry Oldfield,
Turning Point
(New Earth, 2002)

Turning Point is so titled because Terry Oldfield made this album as he decided to set off on a journey to new horizons and fresh adventure far from his green and pleasant land, to start a new life in Australia. He says the CD was inspired by early voyagers who left everything familiar to sail perilous seas and meet the unknown. The album has a feeling of journeying across a benevolent sea, in front of fair winds and under warm sunshine interspersed with gentle rain. Although there are only seven tracks, the CD still sweeps you off on a spiritual journey for the better part of an hour. There is the bonus MPEG video of the first track, "Guardian Angel," for those who like that sort of thing. Personally, I prefer to form my own imagery while listening to the music and I found it slightly odd that such a verdant album cover and such rich vibrant music should result in a rather bland and (for me, predictable) sepia-toned video. Clearly, my imagination is not following the same visual journey as the video director!

Oldfield composed music and lyrics to three of the songs, and he plays flute, keyboards, Pan pipes, Irish whistles or recorders on all the tracks and provides backing vocals on "Capture Me." The lead vocals are shared out among "The Sacred," Louise Jensen, Jenna Monroe and Matt Oldfield, with children's choruses by Lana and Hallam Robinson, Ella and Rachel Charter and Eilidh Debonnaire. The overall result is a pleasing variety of voices and instruments that enhance the original tunes, although when listening on headphones, the volume seems to rise and the tone occasionally becomes quite strident of its own will. To say there is a tendency to overuse the reverb unit is an understatement -- it dominates the style of the entire recording. It does, however, add to the atmosphere I believe Oldfield wished to attain, and combined with the effects of the flute makes for a slightly ephemeral feeling to the listening experience. The ears hear an overall sound akin to the visual blurring and blending echo-images of movement, which heightens the slightly ethereal ambience; I wouldn't call it eerie, as it is quite soothing -- assuming of course, you aren't allergic to this type of sound treatment!

"Guardian Angel" is quite commercial, in its way, as is "Capture Me" -- both employing catchy tunes and repetitive phrases that surface almost subconsciously to be sung while you carry out some humdrum task. The second track is appropriately titled "Lost For Words" and is the only pure instrumental on the CD. The lyrics to all the songs are good -- original, yet all incorporating the theme of movement; whether it be a person walking, a ship sailing or nature's elements traversing the planet. I was slightly disappointed in "Bright Star," which has lovely lyrics -- but Jenna Monroes' previously unnoticeable strong sibilance and the children's rather odd emphasis on the "o" in ocean and other words served as a mild but unavoidable irritation -- but other listeners may be completely unaffected by this.

Turning Point is my introduction to Terry Oldfield's work and I was pleasantly surprised. I have a tendency to view with rather weary cynicism those albums or musicians which appear to be overtly new age, "Mother Earth-y" -- feeling (not without cause) that many are simply hitching a ride on a style in the ascendant, but despite some minor niggles about this CD, I think Oldfield and his collaborators have talent and staying power.

If you like the flute, if you like predominantly female vocals with reverb and the elusive sensation of phasers, you will like this album. If you are undecided, it is worth trying -- it may well prove a Turning Point.

[ by Jenny Ivor ]
Rambles: 20 July 2002

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