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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells CD (album) cover

TUBULAR BELLS

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

4.06 | 773 ratings

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LinusW
Special Collaborator
Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars Intriguing, iconic and an impressive effort from someone who decides to make an album all by himself at that age. All true of course, and yet I feel it's necessary to mention the all-important "yes, but." that arises upon hearing Tubular Bells.

Seeing as the views regarding album is pretty much divided between those who consider it excellent and fascinating and those who think it's not (when you don't take the qualities mentioned above into consideration), it's really tough to tell where a potential new listener will end up.

First things first. What you can expect is quite boundary-less music, freely moving between familiar sounds of rock, folk, symph and/or classical. As such it's not an album that challenges by being new and exciting, but rather more as being something that's well-executed and pleasing. Count on drawn-out atmospheric pieces with pulsing and flowing sound being what you really remember after playing it without really focusing on breaking the sound apart. It's never really far from the ill-defined ethnic, folk symph-electronics that fall within the umbrella term of new-age music. Upon second or third listening you'll really appreciate the often humble and sweet (at times even dreamy) melodies and applaud the sprinkling, clear and sparkly keys and percussion that permeates much of the sound. Perhaps your interest is piqued by the non-intrusive but nicely complementary guitar work. Altogether it's a lightweight, somewhat shallow (due to both the instrumentation and structure - I often miss more textural and rhythmic backing) but still strangely rich piece of music.

But then (there's the ugly word, yes), when spinning it for the fourth or fifth time, and finally can start to digest it as a whole, some ugly truths could start becoming apparent. Many of the segments are stretched really thin, with a minimum of overlaying changes to cover up this fact. Given the conceptual nature of the album, it's understandable that there is a certain amount of recycling of themes going on, but it really becomes rather grating after a while, when the initial excitement vanishes. The best example of this is perhaps the outdrawn segment where the tubular bells themselves are given a triumphant countdown via a number of different instruments playing the same motif over the same basic underlying pattern - time after time after time. Understandably a great and in-your-face way for Mike Oldfield to show his multi-instrumentalism in the most tangible way possible, but rather na´ve and non-rewarding for the listener. There are a number of equally questionable parts and segues scattered through the album, two of them being the times when Oldfield in the name of dynamics shatter the atmosphere by rocking out with some badass riffs; the first time plagued by the horrible distorted guitar sound of this album, the second made even worse via nonsense semi-growls.

But (now in a reconciling manner) I still like it more than dislike by the end of the day. When it's successful it's really successful, and it masks its structural straightforwardness, familiar melodies and even a good number of hooks under a delightfully applied layer of musical make-up.

3 stars.

//LinusW

LinusW | 3/5 |

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