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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells CD (album) cover

TUBULAR BELLS

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

4.11 | 1153 ratings

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ThulŽatan
Prog Reviewer
5 stars One of the most popular albums of all time, and a rare case where critical acclaim and true worth can match that popularity. 1973's 'Tubular Bells' is the intense musical output of a troubled man just barely into his 20s, wandering passages of classical depth presented in the dark tones of psychedelic symphonic rock.

It is needless to attempt to chart the styles that Oldfield employs, since they are so numerous, exploratory, and in some cases startlingly unique, all expressed near- singlehandedly by this multi-instrumentalist. When put together the result is music that always seems unfamiliar... yet timeless and evocative, right from that eerie, mesmerising piano and tuned percussion phrase which just keeps coming and plunges the listener into the whole experience at the start of the album.

Being instrumental, the themes of the album are necessarily abstract, which is the case with most of Oldfield's masterpieces. Even in this debut he was quite simply taking huge slices of life, the good and the bad, the deepest states of mind, and channeling them into these living, breathing musical tapestries. I would say 'Tubular Bells' is in fact the piece with the most uncertainty and confusion, be that by intention or simply by Oldfield's own personality at the time, with sometimes huge shifts between surging, positive venetian crescendos, and lonely acoustic guitar passages of profound sadness. The sound of the bells themselves are spine-tingling when they appear, producing when played loudly that ambiguous wall of sound that gives the album its title and concept - is that the sound of celebration or doom, life or death? What this album brought to the world was a method of performance that broke other artists' needs to stick to one format (a rock five piece, a string quartet, a synth outfit) and used a whole variety of instruments to achieve a far wider range of moods and sounds (kind of like how the Beatles did, only here not limited to pop songs). Since instrumentation is arguably the largest factor in what gives music its depth and distinctiveness, Oldfield's pushing of this diversity into the rock arena was a very significant move in the music world - this was prog itself starting to flourish. Here also are the beginnings of Oldfield's trademark vibrato guitars, his strong, catchy but most of all emotive melodies, and generally unmistakable playing all round.

Forget the legend for a moment, abandon your preconceptions; just listen to 'Tubular Bells' and hear the sound of your own mind and the world around you. It's hard to believe it could ever get better than this, but it did... this genius of our time was just getting started.

ThulŽatan | 5/5 |

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