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Mike Oldfield - Ommadawn CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

4.31 | 1217 ratings

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5 stars A collection of the feelings that make life glorious.

Mike's finest moment? A case could be made for any of Oldfield's first four proper albums to be called his greatest masterpiece (TB, Hergest, Ommadawn, Incantations.) Each one would have many enthusiastic proponents. I would say it would be one of the latter two but I can't decide which at the moment. What I do feel is that Ommadawn is a huge step forward over his first two albums. TB was promising but in many places it was a bit of a mess. Hergest was more cohesive and an improvement. And then came the heavenly Ommadawn, one of the highlights of the 1970s progressive symphonic rock arsenal. The album took Mike nine months to record and it truly sounds like the work of a lifetime.

The Ommadawn piece is well over 30 minutes in length and runs a gamut of emotions and colors, from delectable acoustic moments to folk flavored dancings to aggressive electric guitar rock. The playing is always tasteful with every theme introduced quite simply and then being given ample time to build and expand until reaching a dramatic conclusion, at which point there will be a release and a retreat back to another calming rebirth. It is broken into two parts with the first being longer and probably the more complete of the two although after you've heard the album many times, the "point" of the second part's eccentricities begin to unfold. There are incredibly beautiful, calming female chanted vocals that create such an otherworldly, celestial feeling. This type of vocals would be used again quite successfully on Incantations and become a notable part of the "Oldfield sound." At the beginning of part two there is a dark and turgid swamp of what sounds very much like synths, but surprisingly the section is created by Oldfield assembling an army of layered electric guitars writhing over each other. He fooled me, I always thought it was keyboards until I read about this album. There is also an amazing use of pipes and a Celtic flavor that gives the album great depth. The album closes with a short folk piece called "On Horseback." I have read many reviewers over the years chastise this little song and I couldn't disagree more. Horseback is a complete and absolute delight that will knock you right back to the innocence of childhood. It is shamelessly sentimental but more importantly absolutely effective at concluding a challenging listening experience with an easygoing treat, think of it as a homemade slice of desert after a perfect meal. It adds much to this carefully crafted album and I think it was genius for Mike to place it there.

If you are new to Mike Oldfield and wondering where to start, look past the hype of Tubular Bells and grab this one. You have the purest essence of the 70s Oldfield here with the exception of Incantations, but this one is slightly more accessible and condensed down to perfection, whereas Incantations is very long and requires more patience. An essential title that will actually make itself a part of your life if you allow it to. If you obtain this album as a young person I assure you it will eventually be a member of your family in a few decades. It is that special. I believe 5-stars ratings are to be withheld for only the MOST RARE of occasions and Ommadawn is a case where I'm grudgingly forced to cough one up. Dang it!

Finnforest | 5/5 |


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