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Mike Oldfield - Ommadawn CD (album) cover

OMMADAWN

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

4.34 | 877 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars While the sophomore jinx hit Oldfield with "Hergest Ridge", he effectively banished all demons with "Ommadawn", a hauntingly varied effort in which he scales back both quantity (to a normal LP length) and his own insistence on utter domination of every aspect of the sonic spectrum. As a result, it is a far more compelling and dynamic work than "Hergest" while more focused than TB. It is in a large sense an amalgamation of the best of both releases.

While each LP side was divided into 4 tracks, we are really again looking at a single piece. Beginning with a delicate and unforgettable melody, like a more textured TB, it features Oldfield's delightful acoustic guitar work along with other instruments that enter and exit the fray. Synthesizers are included for the first time, but more for spacey and stringy effect, and we get to hear his intensely melodic lead guitar style that is neither totally fluid nor distorted, the blueprint for much of what would to come in future releases, by Oldfield and his cadre of imitators. Integration of Leslie Penning's recorder played in a tin whistle style shows greater commitment to the folk idiom, as does Oldfield's own banjo accompaniment. The choral work of various female singers including his sister Sally is noteworthy, especially when combined with powerful African drumming as the first half builds to a wrenching climax.

Part 2 begins ambiently and yet with a wall of sound, but as the layers are slowly peeled back we are introduced to a breathtaking air delivered on Northumbrian pipes. My favourite part of the disk is Part 3 of Side 2, beginning with echoey recorder, or perhaps pan pipes, before the synthesizers mass in a simple almost Christmassy melody. They suddenly break and we have a near jig on bouzouki that is added upon in stages until finally Oldfield cuts loose on spirited Irish lead guitar. Again a crescendo, and it's over. Well., almost, because there is a short break indicating in some sense the end of Ommadawn and the beginning of one of Oldfield's classic little hits, often called "Horse's Song". The spoken verses alternate with a chorus to die for while off kilter guitars and children's choirs swirl about. An ode to the big brown beastie and its big brown face. Mention Hergest ridge one more time for good measure, reprise and end in peace. Simply, and I do mean simply, wonderful.

The best early Oldfield album, "Ommadawn" also marked the end of his first phase before he secluded himself, a few simple horse's song styled hits notwithstanding, and re-emerged a minimalist for a couple of albums. To see what this still early 20 something fellow was on about before he changed, this is the album to get.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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