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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells 2003 CD (album) cover

TUBULAR BELLS 2003

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

3.74 | 148 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars There must have been a good reason for Mike Oldfield to re-visit his career-making 1973 hit after thirty years, only to record a note-perfect copy of the original album. It's still the same, compelling, self- indulgent exercise in studio one-man bandmanship, still opening with that instantly familiar theme famously used in the film "The Exorcist" (director William Friedkin later claimed he'd have used the music of TANGERINE DREAM instead, if only he had known of them at the time).

The new version likewise still employs the same grade-school music primer in the now oddly named "Finale" (on vinyl it closed the first side of the LP; now it's in the middle of a single CD suite). Here the repeating motif is played more for comic relief, with each additional instrument (all of them presumably played by Oldfield himself) named by ex-Monty Python John Cleese, acting as 'master of ceremonies'. And the album still concludes with an unexpected but lively rendition of the "Sailor's Hornpipe": thus completing a strange musical journey from the rotating head of Linda Blair to the bulging biceps of Popeye the Sailor.

The remake of course sounds far superior to the original, with smoother transitions, stronger performances (after 30 years of practice, let's hope so), and a much cleaner production. But any flaws in the first edition, technical or otherwise, were strictly in the mind of the composer. Please note how Oldfield didn't alter the form or content of the music itself by so much as a single note.

I enjoyed the unique experience of hearing both the 1973 and 2003 versions (and both for the first time) together in one sitting. Never mind, by the way, how I could have missed it back in the '70s: maybe the saturation airplay of the opening "Exorcist" theme on every AM radio in the known universe turned me off at the time. Listening to the two albums back to back was certainly instructive, providing a not unpleasant sensation of déjà vu. If the original was a textbook product of its era, then the re- make is a weird time-capsule hybrid: a glossy new 5.1 surround-sound product of the same earlier age.

Think of it like the chassis of a classic sports car with a supercharged digital engine under the hood. It may offer a smoother, more fuel-efficient ride, but you won't arrive at your destination any quicker.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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