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Mike Oldfield - Return To Ommadawn CD (album) cover

RETURN TO OMMADAWN

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

4.04 | 344 ratings

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Replayer
4 stars The long-awaited sequel to Ommadawn (even though Mike previously stated Amarok was a sort of Ommadawn II) is finally released. This is the first album consisting of side-long tracks (can the term still be used when albums aren't released on vinyl anymore?) Mike released since 1978's Incantations and I'm glad to see hasn't lost his touch.

As expected, the album continues with Ommadawn's Celtic influences and reuses a lot of its instrumentation, such as penny whistles, African drums, Bodhran, glockenspiel, mandolin and climactic guitar solos.

In contrast to Ommadawn, where he had plenty of collaborators (notably, The Chieftains' Paddy Moloney on uilleann pipes, the South African Jabula drummers, Terry Oldfield on panpipes, Clodagh Simonds, Bridget St John and Sally Oldfield on vocals), Mike played all the instruments this time around, except for some vocal excerpts from Ommadawn.

The themes are shorter and sparser this time around. The music is much more uplifting and lacking the original's mysteriousness. Sonically, this is a safe album, not treading any new significant ground, which is the reason I am withholding the fifth star. Despite this, I think it lives up to the name of successor to Ommadawn.

The electric guitar and bass are much more prevalent, though Mike also plays plenty of acoustic instruments, such as guitars, acoustic bass, Celtic harp, mandolin, ukulele and banjo. Interestingly, this is the first Oldfield album to feature the Mellotron (I think those are Mellotron strings around the 8 and 15 minute marks). Several of the bass riffs remind me of the Master of Ceremonies section in Tubular Bells, though I didn't hear yet another variation on the Tubular Bells introductory theme, thankfully.

The melodies are a bit more saccharine this time around, reminding me of Voyager (at one point halfway through Part 2 I thought I recognized the Song of the Sun theme), but without the new age synths. One guitar solo reminded me my favorite Amarok guitar solo around the 6 minute mark, but sadly there were no cathartic moments such as the guitar solos ending Part 1 and Part 2 of the original. Still, I'm glad to see the musicianship is still excellent and that Mike still has an ear for memorable themes.

I haven't heard the albums Oldfield released between Guitars and Music of the Spheres, but I can wholeheartedly state that this is his best album I've heard since The Songs of Distant Earth. Return to Ommadawn may not be very adventurous, but it still is a masterfully played instrumental album in the vein of Oldfield's 70's compositions. A few years ago, I honestly didn't think Mike would ever return to long-form instrumental compositions and this will prove to be real treat for his devoted fans.

Replayer | 4/5 |

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