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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells 2003 CD (album) cover

TUBULAR BELLS 2003

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

3.77 | 216 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

thief
4 stars Four facts to kick this off: 1. Mike Oldfield always felt that Tubular Bells were imperfect; 2. Technology of the era couldn't produce all the sounds he imagined in 1973; 3. As a twenty year old, he wasn't as proficient with instruments as later on; 4. Fortunately, he found the strength to re-record the album in 2003, just in time for his 50th birthday and 30th anniversary of the first release.

This pretty much wraps it up.

If I come off as cynical or indifferent, please excuse me. It's just, well, quite uncommon to revisit the album after decades and remake it from A to Z. Tangerine Dream, Exodus (thrash metal) and, more recently, Transylvanian Negura Bunget have done something similar... but "Tubular Bells 2003" went a step further - it's not reimagining, it's almost note-for-note, beat-by-beat duplicate, with crystal clear production and impeccable technique this time around.

Everything I said about the original applies here as well. Fantastic, dream-like, multi-faceted musical experience led by prodigious guitarist of Berkshire and Celtic descent. It's hard to find a flaw in his vision, and Tubular Bells never ceased to amaze me. This album is worth any attention it gets, so I can't really complain about the re-recording. I'm a fan.

Obviously there is a good number of moments that sound even more powerful and convincing here. "Introduction" itself is so reinvigorating, especially its culmination! "Basses" section is maybe twice as heavy, Mike applied HUGE palm-muted distortion giving it more oomph... same effect is achieved in "Thrash" and "Bagpipe Guitars". The list could go on. Vibratos are fuller, overdrives more compressed, basses more prominent, and so on. The differences are apparent once you listen to both albums side by side.

TB2003 is hypermodern. Does it mean it's better though? I, for one, don't mind the 70s production or timing missteps at all. It's part of the experience really, that's the way I heard it for the first n- times and how I grew to appreciate its content. Original version may even be superior for its earthy feel and more human approach! Another advantage of 1973 release is Vivian Stanshall as Master of Ceremonies (announcing instruments in Part I coda). I feel his delivery is much more interesting and fitting than John Cleese's clowning.

All in all, once I acquired "Tubular Bells 2003", it's become a core part of Mike Oldfield's catalogue. I don't listen to Tubular Bells that often, but when I do, the 2003 version is played 1/3 of the time (one for every three listens, roughly). The busiest, hectic parts clearly benefit from modern technology and meticulous approach. It also shows how important Tubular Bells are for Mike Oldfield himself. I hope he finds this version satisfactory and feels it couldn't be done any better, not without rearrangements.

I recommend it to all Oldfield and progressive rock fans alike. It's the same mythical land, but revisited on a much brighter day.

thief | 4/5 |

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