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Platinum by Mike Oldfield is a strange little album, full of songs that listened to individually would seem worlds apart from the other yet listened together they seem to work magnificently.
I first heard this album from a friend of a friend and it got stuck in my mind so I had to find a copy so I could listen to it again.
It was summer, I was fifteen and crazy hormones were dancing around with my imagination, I couldn’t wait to be free of the suffocating blanket of school and leave home.
So I guess you could say this was a bit of a soundtrack for that part of my life.
When listening to it one time, I had the experience of my room breaking up into little squares and revolving around like a spinning circle, a bit disturbing but upon reflection perfectly understandable, considering I was stoned on hash for the first time.
There is some music that transports you no matter if you are straight or bent and for me this is one of those albums.

THE ALBUM

Platinum is a record album written and mostly performed by Mike Oldfield. It was his fifth studio album and the first to feature songs and cover material. A slightly different version of the album was released in the United States and Canada and titled Airborn.

Platinum (Parts 1 – 4)

The first side of LP features the nearly twenty-minute piece “Platinum” that is divided in four parts.

The first two parts of “Platinum” can be taken as a form of instrumental progressive rock. (Those compositions rely on strong melody played mostly with electric guitar.) Part I is in a slow tempo and has many changes, while Part II introduces a simple groove rhythm and a more repetitive song structure.

Part III, “Charleston”, is humoristic and intentionally naive, with a simplistic rhythm and swinging melody that is partly played by a horn section. A female vocalist adds some “spooky” bits while Oldfield himself makes some scat vocals in whispering voice.

Part IV features an excerpt from the Philip Glass work “North Star” (hence the subtitle). The constant bass drum beat and octave-jumping bass line (both borrowed from disco music) start the part and guitar joins with the melody later. A funky guitar riff and chorus appear, and the lead guitar continues to play the melody over them.

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“Sally”/”Into Wonderland”

There is an interesting note regarding the song “Sally,” written and sung by Oldfield and Nico Ramsden as a tribute to Mike’s girlfriend at the time, Sally Cooper (who features on the album). It’s a rather silly but cute little song, with the chorus

Sally, I’m just a gorilla,
I’ll say I’ll love you ever more.
Even an ape from Manila
Couldn’t stop me knocking on your door.

“Sally” also appears to have been the start of Mike Oldfield’s fascination with voice distortion gadgets (vocoders, equalizers, etc.), which would continue through many albums, most particularly Five Miles Out.

“Sally” was removed from the album (possibly on the orders of Richard Branson) and replaced with “Into Wonderland”, sung by Wendy Roberts. Curiously though, the album covers still say “Sally” to this day. Only the earliest pressings of the LP have “Sally” included as part of the original track listing, and bootleg recordings of the song are a popular trade item with fans.

“Punkadiddle”

“Punkadiddle” is thought by many to be Oldfield’s jocular take on punk music, a genre which he has claimed in the past to be not at all impressed with. In fact, Virgin Records’ rampant signing and promotion of many punk bands while not promoting Oldfield’s albums is seen as one of the sources of the rift between him and the company. When the track was performed by Oldfield on tour, he and his band would all perform the song bare-chested.

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“I Got Rhythm”

“I Got Rhythm” is a cover version of the song by George and Ira Gershwin.

“Woodhenge”/”Guilty”

“Woodhenge” appears on the standard Platinum release of the album; however it is replaced on the Airborn release by the disco track, “Guilty”.

2010 reissue

In 2010 the album will be re-released by Mercury Records. This comes as part of a deal in which Oldfield’s Virgin albums were transferred to the label.

Instruments and recording

Oldfield seems to have utilised his Gibson L6-S Custom a lot on the album. Synthesizers that appear on the album include a Roland SH-2000 and Sequential Circuits Prophet synthesisers.

When Oldfield was in New York recording Platinum and “Guilty” he recorded a disco arrangement of his first album, Tubular Bells. A version of Free’s “All Right Now” was also recorded during these sessions. It was used as the theme for a television music programme also called Alright Now. The vocals are by Wendy Roberts, while Pierre Moerlen (from Gong) and Tom Newman also contributed.

The album was recorded at Electric Lady & Blue Rock in the USA, Througham, Denham, & The Manor in the UK. The album was mixed at Air Studios.
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Track listing

Side one

1. “Platinum Part One: Airborne”
2. “Platinum Part Two: Platinum”
3. “Platinum Part Three: Charleston”
4. “Platinum Part Four: North Star / Platinum Finale”

Side two

1. “Woodhenge”
2. “Into Wonderland” (misprinted as “Sally”)
3. “Punkadiddle”
4. “I Got Rhythm”

Airborn is the title of an alternate version of the Platinum album by Mike Oldfield released in North America in 1980. It is identical except that “Woodhenge” is replaced by “Guilty”, a fast-paced live track based on a theme from Incantations. Bizarrely, certain tracks appear to be pressed at arbitrarily higher speeds than on the original UK pressing of Platinum.
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There is also a double LP release, with one LP being a version of Platinum, the other having an alternate live version of Tubular Bells side one from the same tour that produced Exposed, and a mix of studio and live elements of Incantations and Tubular Bells side 2.

Personnel

* Mike Oldfield – acoustic guitars, electric guitars, marimba, piano, synthesizers, Mellotron, vibraphone and vocals.
* Francisco Centeno – bass guitar
* Sally Cooper – tubular bells
* Demelza – congas (credited as “Demalza”)
* Neil Jason – bass
* Peter Lemer – keyboards
* Pierre Moerlen – drums and vibraphone (credited as “Pierre Moerlin”)
* Morris Pert – drums (credited as “Maurice Pert”)
* Nico Ramsden – keyboards
* Wendy Roberts – vocals
* Hansford Rowe – bass
* Allan Schwartzberg – drums
* David Bedford – vocal arrangement
* Peter Gordon – horn arrangement
* Michael Riesman – horn arrangement
* Kurt Munkacsi – engineer
* Tom Newman – producer and engineer
* Richard Manwaring – assistant engineer
* Renate Blauel – assistant engineer

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(thanks to Wikipedia for the information supplied)