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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells CD (album) cover

TUBULAR BELLS

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

4.08 | 1001 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars After 35+ years, a neophyte to Mike Oldfield's debut might be excused for wondering what the fuss was about. After all, didn't JADE WARRIOR, TANGERINE DREAM, BRIAN ENO, et al do more convincing sprawling, ambient compositions? Wasn't PHILIP GLASS the original "rock" minimalist? Weren't the 80s deluged with new age dross? Didn't death metal bands do much better growls? Didn't BIG COUNTRY play guitars that sounded like bagpipes? Isn't the sea shanty at the end someone else's tune? I could go on, but the comparisons quickly veer into absurdity when one considers that this album appeared in 1973 and was essentially a first in so many of these areas for a popular artist. Add to it the fact that Oldfield consummately played virtually every instrument and at 19 had mastered the point of 25 minute compositions, to blend seemingly disparate segments into a seamless whole, a lesson for most of today's neo artists. And, for the record, there are no synthesizers on TB.

Nonetheless, this is not a perfect work by any stretch, and I am quick to point out parts that have not aged all so well. I also don't simply award 5 stars to a work for pioneer status. Imitators can improve upon innovators, and Mike Oldfield is a case in point. While many of his musical ideas began here, he explored each more deeply in subsequent albums. But to understand this, one must go to the source, a splayed sweeping amalgamation of musical ideas, many of which I covered above, but including every manner of guitar style from sweetly plucked acoustic to raunchy leads, repetitive loops of melodies that interweave in a courtly dance. Just when you think you've got it down, something comes at you from the side and keeps it all interesting. True, the introduction of dozens of instruments as band members is not a keeper, but the ambient organ sounds prior to "Sailor's Hornpipe" are the essence of profound new age reflections, before it got all too glossy and superficial over a decade later.

Ultimately, TB is a hard album to rate because, while it is an undeniable masterpiece, it casts its net just a bit too wide, almost as if Mr Oldfield feared that he might not get another chance. In the case of these bells, I've lost track of and interest in all the versions. Start here.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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