Following a masterpiece is no easy task. Subsequent albums will always be evaluated in direct comparison; in this case, can Blue Sky Mining match the performance captured on Diesel And Dust?
Truthfully, I find it difficult to compare both albums against each other as both are exceptional in their own right. However, Blue Sky Mining was awarded the Best Album of 1990 by the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA). Regardless, both albums cover a prolific era in Midnight Oil’s history and would arguably be the two albums that most listeners are familiar with. Interestingly, Blue Sky Mining would also be the album that would introduce me to one of Australia's greatest rock bands. While I never owned the album, I did borrow the cassette from a friend and I may, or may not, have made a copy of it on a good old TDK D90 cassette tape.
Blue Sky Mine is an exceptional song that is perfectly balanced, but it easily could have been over produced. Thankfully, synthetic instrumentation was kept to a minimum, ensuring the song doesn't become dated. Throughout the song, there are small elemental aspects that I simply adore. It is a sonic wonderland!
Stars Of Warburton is a solid rhythmic rock song, but it takes a while to get going. However, as soon as the chorus enters the song, the vocal harmony solidifies Stars Of Warburton as an exceptionally memorable track.
Bedlam Bridge has a somewhat chaotic introduction, but I do appreciate the spoken lyrics. Garrett's vocals are incredibly clear, unlike his earlier punk-based days. In one way, I also hear a little Billy Idol in this lyrical delivery, especially Billy’s later career vocal style. As with Stars of Warburton, the vocal harmony takes this song from a B-side to a master track. That said, I dislike the street sounds that close the song, they are distracting and take you away from the relaxed tone of Bedlam Bridge. Yes, I acknowledge the segue between Bedlam Bridge and Forgotten Years, but I feel the outro is just too long. However, the three-second introduction to Forgotten Years is, in my opinion, the perfect duration.
Forgotten Years is an excellent song that I have always enjoyed.
Mountains Of Burma is one of the greatest songs Midnight Oil ever recorded. I absolutely love it!
King Of The Mountain has one of the most enjoyable rhythms in rock and roll history. Yes, it is meat and potatoes blues rock but, it is rock and roll done night. An exceptional track!
River Runs Red has a somewhat Crowded House feel, but that is not a bad thing. Sonically, River Runs Red is gorgeous. The entire composition is incredible. You will want to turn this song up to 11. The vocal harmony, as heard throughout Blue Sky Mining, is perfect and makes this one song that should appear on every compilation and live set. Not only is it one of the best songs on the album, but it is one of the best of their career.
Shakers And Movers is a solid song, but I would class it as a B-side. However, a B-side for Midnight Oil, at this point in their career, would be akin to an A-side for any other band.
One Country is an exceptional acoustic-based song. The rhythm is enveloping and while it is a ballad-styled tune, it is the very definition of what could be known as Easy Listening Rock And Roll. It is simply a gorgeous song!
Antarctica has an interesting composition with interweaving vocals throughout. I have to say that I don't enjoy this song because of this vocal effect. It causes the song to feel over produced and I feel it is sonically out-of-tune with the entire album. While it doesn't prevent me from listening to the album again, One County should have concluded Blue Sky Mining.
Blue Sky Mining may not be Diesel And Dust, but it is still one of the best albums Midnight Oil has ever released. As I listen to Blue Sky Mining, the increased production level is evident but, thankfully it doesn’t feel overproduced. However, fans of their earlier works may be less than impressed with the new direction and polish Midnight Oil have applied to their recordings; you simply can’t please everyone!
I have always been captivated by the cover art of Blue Sky Mining. There is little doubt in my mind that this is one key element pushing me towards purchasing the vinyl re-issue box set. Until then, I will have to be content with listening to the 2011 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Don't feel sorry for me though, the 2011 remaster is exceptional. There is a little more loudness than I would like, but there is no brickwall compression to be heard as the entire remaster is smooth and dynamic.