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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells II CD (album) cover

TUBULAR BELLS II

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

3.58 | 325 ratings

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thief
3 stars If we decided to disregard Heaven's Open - I choose to believe it's nothing else than a finger pointed towards Virgin label - it'd occur Mike Oldfield came back to form in early 90s. Amarok was a powerful statement in itself, and kicking off his new Warner contract with Tubular Bells sequel meant a lot at the time.

Although I don't think anyone expected it to MIRROR the original!

It's not an outright plagiarism, mind you. Structures are largely the same - piano intro followed by tremolo picked, poignant motif, then touch of bluesy slide guitars, then rockier "fuzzed to 11" section and so on. Sometimes he changes chord progression, at other times he picks a parallel scale, but in the end the feeling is similar. So there is a very clear pattern, but we still have much variety when it comes to arrangements, instruments, that sort of thing. New melodies, at times, drift off in a completely different direction, or at least Mike fooled me time and time again.

So that must be said before all else. Some of us are looking for unique music experience on every occasion and don't fall for cheap tricks. Some of us don't see rearrangements or modal shenanigans as a genuine act of composition. Especially if the most distinctive ideas come up again after 20 years - you might find it bothersome or dishonest, and I get it.

But can we deny its charms for that reason only? Shall we turn our backs to beauty simply because the music follows his own well-established blueprint?

And yes, there are moments worth a bunch of spins. I always found "Sentinel" very potent and refreshing. Some of the credit goes to production as it's very clear, dense and liquid - a quality shared by majority of his 90s records. It has a very special, New Age feel to it, even more so than Crises and Discovery Era. Mike provides variety with dozens of sounds, be it Midnight Express style synthesizers in "Dark Star", tribal rhythms & clapping in "Sunjammer" (another highlight) or frolic, balls out keyboards in "Altered State" (mirroring "Piltdown Man").

As in the original, Tubular Bells II goes for a number of moods and atmospheres. I hear the simple men of Pacific islands rejoice on the beach, contemplative choirs in "Weightless" (I dubbed its counterpart "kite over Copenhagen 1800s") and triumphant conclusions. "The Bell" is obviously led by Master of Ceremonies, the great Alan Rickman; even if less ambiguous than Part One finale in 1973, this one infuses tons of unadulterated joy. Not bad, not bad at all!

Much can be said about each track. I haven't even mentioned all the hidden gems, such as fantastic celtic motifs in "The Great Plain" or grandiose bagpipes in "Tattoo", but it's hard to go over 60 minutes long album. There's A LOT of music to explore and digest. I like it very much, even more so than Voyager and Guitars - another underrated albums from the era.

So when it comes to rating, my heart says 4, but I have to take account of shared structures with the original. Tubular Bells 1973 are idiosyncratic, mysterious and deep. Tubular Bells II tried to achieve it with imitation, if not replication. You can't copy ideas and expect them to carry as much weight.

In the same time, it doesn't mean you won't enjoy this one. On the contrary - you'll marvel at its beauty more than once, I think. I know I did.

thief | 3/5 |

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