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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

4.10 | 1147 ratings

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5 stars The dawn of a New Age through folk and hyperactivity: 9/10

I promised myself I'd listen to both OMMADAWN and RETURN TO OMMADAWN this year, so I thought I should begin this process by actually writing a review rather than just leaving a rating on the only product I listened to by the creator. So yes, this is an edit.

Turns out that MIKE OLDFIELD has an interesting trajectory, although the success made through TUBULAR BELLS has more to do with luck than anything else.

A self-taught guitarist, Mike entered the folk scene and received considerate (local) exposure to the point of forming a short-lived band with his sister and releasing an album, CHILDREN OF THE SUN, in 1968. Returning to rock music two years later, he would join SOFT MACHINE's vocalist side-project and actually contribute on two albums. During that time he met [future avant-garde] musician David Bedford which then assisted Mike to arrange and compose properly his long lived dream, an uncanny track named Tubullar Bells. After recording a demo of the track Oldfield unyieldingly voyaged all Britain looking for a label to take on. Well, at least until Sep. 1971 when legendary investor Richard Branson decided to harbor Tubular Bells on his new ambitious project: the Virgin Records label.

While Pt. 1 was swiftly outputted, Pt. 2 took several months - mostly because the first was relatively complete thanks to Bedford's support whereas Pt. 2 was done pretty much from scratch. Right after, Mike Oldfield had the privileged opportunity to play on Queen Elizabeth Hall along legendary names such as Canterbury Scene associates or HENRY COW. He was unwell with the idea but did it nonetheless. Shortly after he was too featured in BBC TV 2nd House and by the end of 1973 Tubular Bells was - really luckily - chosen to be part of The Exorcist movie. Those three events culminated into TUBULAR BELLS selling over 2,340,000 copies in the UK (34. best-selling album of all time in Britain) and hitting #7 on the US Billboard.

Apparently, it kickstarted the New Age movement because... reasons. But the music! Oh, the goddamn music. Is it good? Well, I think it is.

Tubular Bells suffers from the Rushis Hemispheris syndrome. Sometimes it has repetitive, long sections, so you either love them, hate them, or become really bored (and then hate them). Well, for me I didn't feel the repetitiveness was a turn-off. They are mature, well composed, rather unconnected among themselves, but overall interesting. The music sounds cheerful, don't expect some Steven Wilson gloom. Actually, I think its upbeatness and optmistic tone is what makes it a precursor of New Age. I mean, weren't those two characteristics the core of NA? Hmm, maybe.

The musicianship is competent. But it becomes spectacular if you consider that an 18-years-old composed most of the fifty minutes and played all the twenty odd instruments. You won't find astounding complexity but its sheer lack of eclectism is what makes it a truly progressive release. Although I must admit that folk is the biggest influence here - but hey, that was Oldfield's field (pun intended) until short time ago.

Pt. 1 features glockenspiel-led caroller joy followed by heavy lead guitar riffs; energetic passages that slowly fades to calmer sounds - such as the delicate midsection - only to bring back at full force cowboyish guitars and Honky Tonky playing and soothe back again.

It also has the legendary "master of ceremonies" section, where the instruments are progressively introduced as Oldfield's British accent summons them. The thrill gradually builds up until the illustrious last instrument invited bursts the bubble of accumulated excitement and as it begins playing I'm sure it will bring a smile to your face.

The song is closed on tranquil acoustic-ness.

Pt. 2 sounds initially meditative (with its serene guitars) and epic (thank the drums/barrels for this). The midsection suddenly blasts much heavier than hitherto with its double lead guitars and powerful drumming.

And too, comes in the growled vocals, intended to sound literally as an animal since Oldfield actually howls once or twice, well god knows why. Don't be a fool, though, Oldfield's growls are if anything an isolated case of anachronic musical usage (one of the first instances where guttural vocals are featured), it didn't in any way influence extreme metal. I assure you - DEATH or MAYHEM won't cite Mike Oldfield as their vocal inspiration.

Things go calmer right after, perhaps it was the last taste of Oldfield's outburst of adrenaline. With atmospheric keyboards filling the background, Mike takes a jazzy guitar lead to calmly outro to the song... well, except the outro changes to a really folksy section. You'll probably yodel along it while banging your Dutch clogs as there are very few tunes that sound countryside European as this; you'll eat waffles drinking, uhm, Burgundian wine, and... I don't know, while doing more European stuff. Well, you get my point.

The 19-years-old Mike Oldfield became a ravaging success, an absolute star, thanks to TUBULAR BELLS. Whether or not he was ready it didn't matter - all the cool cats were listening to him. Prog was a pretty mature movement by 1973 so no one was weirded out by TUBULAR BELLS' quirky length and creativity. Well, maybe some people actually were. Maybe you, dear reader, actually are. But if you know prog and you trust it; prog, your Lord, and your shepherd, then there is nothing to fear. Go for it!

Luqueasaur | 5/5 |


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