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Mike Oldfield - Ommadawn CD (album) cover

OMMADAWN

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

4.34 | 843 ratings

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russellk
Prog Reviewer
5 stars This music came along just when I needed it, and has been my most played album ever since. If I could take only one of my thousand-plus collection with me, this would be it.

MIKE OLDFIELD took up the challenge of extending himself, of coming out from the giant shadow cast by 'Tubular Bells'. He meets it by relying on celtic- infused melodies coupled with African rhythms, creating one of the first world music albums in the process. I'd never heard anything like it in early 1976. But what interested me most was how he turned melody into beauty and drama, especially through the first side, which is, in essence, a continual restatement of the main theme with variations in pace, instruments and volume. Unlike 'Hergest Ridge', but like 'Tubular Bells', this side climaxes with an outrageous finale, as glorious as you could ever hope to hear. Finally OLDFIELD unleashes that electric guitar and proves he's one of the era's most lyrical masters of the instrument: his melodies, liberally sprinkled with bends and sustains designed to lift the emotions, matched only by LATIMER and surpassed only by GILMOUR, in my opinion.

And what a finale to side 1. With seven minutes remaining, the main theme is restated one last time, and a shrill pan pipe (played by his brother) introduces CLODAGH SIMMONS singing nonsense gaelic over tribal rhythms, swirling pipes and an acoustic guitar. The music builds in inimitable OLDFIELD fashion, hypnotically, repetitively, layer upon layer, until his acoustic and electric guitars break through, bringing things to an orgiastic climax as the main theme is reprised amid frenetic bass, a wordless chorus and such shrill guitars. The drums tail off detumescently, allowing us to get our breath back.

As with 'Tubular Bells', side two of 'Ommadawn' does not rise to the same heights. Nevertheless, there are moments of thrilling beauty courtesy of bagpipes and those ubiquitous multi-layered guitars. Ater eight minutes of relative ambience comes the sweetest melody played by the bagpipes, followed by another courtesy of pan pipes - here OLDFIELD is at his melodic best. Then at eleven minutes the music swells - for not nearly long enough - introducing a celtic rhythm (developed further fifteen years later on 'Amarok') and a final guitar solo.

There's a sweet naivety to the finish of the album, with 'The Horse Song' (unlisted) bringing things to a somewhat cheesy close (lyrics-wise, at least). But this is the heart of what MIKE OLDFIELD is about: musically sophisticated, but trying to build things of simplicity, beauty and innocence. There are times in every life when such things should be paid attention to, and this album is one of those things. It won't suit every taste, but it speaks to us of things often derided in this cynical world.

Don't bother with this album if aching beauty isn't your thing. But I can promise lovers of melodic beauty a rare treat here.

russellk | 5/5 |

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