Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Mike Oldfield: Far Above the Clouds

If you've been coming here for a while, you know I'm a big Mike Oldfield fan. His music often serves as background static for when I'm writing and as an inspiration for when I'm trying to come up with ideas.

"Far Above the Clouds" filled my head with visions of inter-stellar war, the fall of civilizations and the migration to new worlds. It was music that finally brought into focus the *true* history of a race of near-human aliens that have been a cornerstone of my long-running RPG campaign--since 1995 and counting. (It's a history that I, up to the point of listening to that track, knew was incomplete and distorted, as the distant forebearers of the modern peoples had gone to great lengths to deny their true origins as genetically engineered servants to another species. Up to that point, though, I didn't know the full truth either. But, thanks to Mike, I finally did.)

The track is from "Tubular Bells III", a disc that remains among my favorites from Oldfield and in my collection.

Here's the original, epic version.

Here's a version that contains both parts of "Far Above the Clouds"--the section that opens the "Tubular Bells III" album ("The Source of Secrets") and the grand music that closes it. I think some of the changes were not well considered, mostly where the use of the bells go, but the best parts of the song remain intact.

Here's a remix that, unlike many such dance mixes, manages to keep much of the epic quality of Oldfield's original version. The video even reflects the ideas on a cosmic scale that the song inspired in me.

Here's a fan-recorded cover of "Far Above the Clouds" that captures the essence of the piece nicely, if not the scale:

Here's a remixed version you might like, if you're into club and/or trance music. Personally, I think it waters down the impact and power of the music by stretching it too thin and repeating some of its simplest cues over and over again. The structure of the original piece is dissolved here, and the most powerful sections are gone. (Yes, I understand that was necessary to create this particular remix... but it makes me sad for those who might not experience the power of more effective versions.)

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