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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells III CD (album) cover

TUBULAR BELLS III

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

3.35 | 232 ratings

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thief
2 stars Despite its name, Tubular Bells III seem to have more in common with its successors than the mighty debut, recorded 25 years earlier. Bookend tracks bear some resemblance to original concept, but everything in-between is very loosely tied to TB I & II, if at all. So if there is some truth to the claim that Oldfield cynically branded mediocre records with trademark name just to increase the sales, well, perhaps you can find some evidence here.

I don't mind him abandoning structures already explored on two preceding albums, not in the slightest, but it's not like Oldfield cut ties with the past and went in the opposite direction. Quite contrary! The first single, "Man in the Rain", is astonishingly similar to "Moonlight Shadow", even featuring the same vocal style (this time it's Cara Dillon's voice, but you'd never guess without looking at the back cover). Same groove, same feel, same lightly strummed acoustic guitars - I mean, it's 1983 again, with marginally revamped sound maybe. Now, while we're at self-referencing, I just realized that "Outcast" - although genuinely satisfying and interesting, no sarcasm here - has very much in common with that heavy guitar section from Tubular Bells, later known as "Thrash" on 2003 Edition.

Split personality? Yes, this might be a better description of TB-3 contents. On one hand, early representative of half-baked electronica/chillout of "Tr3s Lunas" or "Light + Shade" breed; on the other, a handy excuse to rehash his biggest hits without breaking a sweat. Some songs really sound as if they were composed, played and recorded on second gear. I have no recollection of "Moonwatch", even though I listened to it earlier today - twice! "The Inner Child" must be the worst though, I find pseudo-eastern girl wails very uninspiring and cheesy, and this one has loads of it. Essentially, there is nothing more to this track: very vague synths in the background and four minutes worth of moaning, seriously.

Despite all this, I think Tubular Bells III is enjoyable at times, if you can look past distinctly 90s sound and accept simpler songwriting than before. The recurring theme, first played in "The Source of Secrets" and "The Watchful Eye", has a soothing, "aquatic" charm to it. "Serpent Dream" showcases Mike's aptitude with Spanish guitar and is always recommended, while "The Top of the Morning", albeit predictable, delivers hopeful piano melodies and has a great flow. I definitely listen carefully to "Secret" and "Far Above the Clouds", as both put me in a very pleasing mood - there is a great balance of relaxing and epic elements, you should check it out. And the bells, well, they are featured during coda in a slightly dramatic manner, but without jumping the shark, thankfully.

I have no doubt it's the least thrilling part of Tubular trilogy. Original was a force to be reckoned with, a freak of nature really. Sequel - quite deep, inspiring, a pleasant surprise to many. This one? Correct. Alright. But flawed! I can't get over the "Moonlight Shadow" ripoff and frustrating "Arabian widow" bit. I'd say there is enough evidence that Mike could come up with a worthy sequel to "Tubular Bells II" if he really put his mind to it... now, it feels a lil' rushed. Would love to give it 3 stars, if there was more passion.

The kid has talent, but parties a lot. Too much money and too close to Ibiza night clubs, I guess!

thief | 2/5 |

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