Originally released in June 1984, Mike Oldfield’s ninth studio album Discovery topped the UK album charts and contains two songs that were subsequently included on his best of release. Remastered in 2015 and gathering together in-era B-sides, this 3 disc deluxe edition of Discovery adds a newly-compiled work by Mike Oldfield himself titled “The 1984 Suite,” along with tracks from Discovery and The Killing Fields together with rarities and a newly-voiced version of ‘Poison Arrows’, called ‘Zombies (Halloween Special).’ Clearly what is compelling to hi-res music fans is the 38-minute suite which takes up the second CD and is presented in stereo and 5.1 on the DVD, alongside three in-era promos.
It is important to note that while this release combines tracks from both Discovery and the Killing Fields, the albums are incomplete. In addition, the 1984 Suite is available as a stand-alone vinyl record, while also being included in its entirety on the 3 disc deluxe edition reviewed here.
The combination of a couple of records is not unique, but is the first time Oldfield has done this during his re-issue surround campaign. Compared to the botchery of the limited selection and alternate tracks found on the Incantations 5.1 edition, this sequence that makes up the 1984 Suite feels like a unified composition, well except for the inclusion of Zombies.
Sound quality on the 1984 Suite is very good, with one of the most resonant bass sounds I have ever heard on the fourth track Étude. Oldfield has made excellent use of the back channels, with parts crisscrossing from the back to the fronts and delays and ambient echoes that fall from the fronts to the rear. I especially like the snare and tom-tom drum hits near the start of The Lake (taken from the Discovery album) that penetrate from the center channel, with initial reverb reflecting from both front channels and then hitting off the rears. This kind of treatment of the 5.1 surround mix really creates a deep soundstage that envelops the listener.
Oldfield has made extensive use of the front center channel, layering a number of parts over each other, creating a highly energized focal point in the multi-channel mix. This has allowed a variety of other instruments to freely use the remaining four speakers to support the main parts in the center. As the second track The Lake starts, it is easy to feel yourself being pushed forward by the bubbling synths and wind instruments that are placed in the back channels. Shortly into the track, a deep synth ripples up from the front and then drums fully kick in with fantastic dynamic exuberance.
Although Discovery had a good run on the charts, for this surround sound enthusiast much of the album doesn’t have the 5.1 charm. It is Oldfields’ instrumental pieces that fit so well in the multi-channel world. I really can’t recommend this release except for the collector who has to have everything that Oldfield puts out or desires the well mixed 1984 Suite, even as short as it is.