Discovery June 25th, 1984
Cover photography by Dan Kramer
1. To France 4:50 2. Poison Arrows 3:45 3. Crystal Gazing 3:03 4. Tricks Of The Light 3:52 5. Discovery 4:32 6. Talk About Your Life 4:24 7. Saved By A Bell 4:36 8. The Lake (instrumental) 12:08 Vocals: Maggie Reilly and Barry Palmer Tama Drums: Simon Phillips All other instruments: Mike Oldfield
Believed to be… Electric guitars, Acoustic guitars, Bass guitar, Mandolin, Synthesisers, Fairlight CMI
Produced and Engineered by Mike Oldfield and Simon Phillips
Recorded in the Swiss Alps at 2000 metres within sight of Lake geneva on sunny days
Additional notes from Richard Carter
Notes On The Instruments
Electric guitars – Pictures taken at the time show that Mike was using his SG Junior, plus a modified Les Paul Junior with 24 fret fingerboard. He was also playing a pair of Fender Stratocasters, one Fiesta Red (which Mike often referred to as Salmon Pink, because of the pinkish colour it had faded to, coupled with the fact that it was probably one of the guitars which were refinished by Fender’s UK distributor Selmer to meet the demand for red guitars like Hank Marvin’s – the colour they used was slightly different to Fender’s factory Fiesta Red finish, which was an automotive finish first seen on the Ford Thunderbird) and another Sunburst one. The Fiesta Red guitar remained Mike’s favourite guitar until it was sold recently. The sunburst one, according to Mike, has a sharper sound. Another contribution to the unique guitar sounds on the album comes from a Roland GR-300 with G-808 controller. The unit gave the option of doubling the synth output with the output from its conventional humbucking guitar pickups. It can be heard being used in this mode to provide the heavily fuzzed, synthetic lead sounds in Poison Arrows and Discovery, as well as with the synth on its own providing the more pure synth lead sound in Saved by a Bell. The guitar itself was made by Fuji Gen Gakki in Japan, a factory best known for producing Ibanez and the Japanese Fender guitars.
Acoustic guitars – Mike used the Ovation Adamas in many places on the album, plugged direct into the mixing desk. Its zingy piezoelectric sound can be heard clearly playing the lead part in ‘The Lake’ at 6:12. More conventional acoustic guitars are also used on the album.
Bass guitar – also seen in pictures of the time is a Roland G-88 bass synth controller. The throaty sound of its conventional single coil pickup can be heard throughout the album.
Mandolin – Mike plays this at the beginning of ‘To France’. Mike once said that it’s a harpsichord which plays at the beginning of this song – my guess is that he was referring to the synthesised ‘harpsichord’ sound which is layered with the mandolin later in the song (and that is a bit of a guess, as I don’t really hear anything that sounds much like a harpsichord there). At the time, Mike had begun playing an F4 style mandolin by Mike Vanden.
Fairlight CMI – With Discovery, Mike took full advantage of the CMI’s sequencing facilities, using it as his main compositional tool for the album. Use was also made of its sampling abilities – in ‘The Lake’, Mike even uses a sample of Maggie Reilly’s voice. Its digitally synthesised sounds were also used extensively, forming the backbone of the album’s sound. See the Crises page for more information on the nature of the CMI.
Notes On The Musicians
Barry Palmer – An Englishman, who was singer in the German group Triumvirat during the late 1970s and early 80s. Mike came across Barry via his manager Dirk Hohmeyer, who was also manager for Triumvirat. Dirk played Mike one of Triumvirat’s albums, who was so impressed with Barry’s singing that he decided to get in touch. Mike initially wanted Barry to sing on the Crises tour, but he was recording a solo album at the time and didn’t want to join the tour. Mike tried again after the tour had finished, at which point Barry agreed to come and sing for Mike on the single ‘Crime of Passion’. Mike was sufficiently pleased with the performance that he called Barry back to sing on Discovery.
For information on Simon Phillips and Maggie Reilly, take a look at the Crises page.
During the time this album was made, Mike was living in Switzerland in order to avoid the taxes of the UK, which Mike felt were unfairly high. Mike set up a studio in a house on a mountainside above Lake Geneva, in the Swiss Alps, in which he wrote and recorded Discovery.
Although Barry Palmer and Maggie Reilly share vocal duties on ‘Tricks of the Light’, the pair never actually met until after the album was finished – they visited the studio on separate weeks. During his time in Switzerland, Barry Palmer lost his voice, which of course meant he had trouble singing. Though he wanted to come back a little later, after regaining his voice, Mike felt this would cause problems, so Barry recorded his parts as best as he could. Though he gave a good performance, the signs of his voice being in less than perfect shape can be heard if you listen really closely to the song ‘Discovery’ which was recorded when Barry’s voice was at its worst.
Simon Phillips co-engineered the album with Mike. This was his first time at doing this, and he later credited Mike as being the one who had taught him how to engineer. Simon was inspired, from working with Mike, to start a solo career of his own, writing and recording his own music.
The opening theme from ‘To France’ returns in ‘Talk about your Life’, while a small part of the melody of ‘Tricks of the Light’ continues into ‘Discovery’. These help to give a feel of connectedness to the album, which is helped along by the way ‘To France’ blends in to ‘Poison Arrows’ and the general way that the album is compiled.
© Richard Carter 2002