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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

4.12 | 1225 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Some good music, but no clear thematic cohesion.

I've always liked this album, but could never LOVE it as much as some people do, mainly because I just don't know where it's going. Fair enough, it's a debut, but given the number of songs and the length of each of these, you would expect there to be some sort of theme or concept upon which this suite was constructed.

There isn't.

It's just music. Which is a good thing in terms of reviewing the sound, but a bad thing in terms of focus and direction. I, like most prog-heads, could happily sit through the 20-minute suites of Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, etc. Those songs have at least one thing to say. And even the lengthy epics without lyrics, have relevant musical divisions and some sort of conceptual goal. 'Tubular Bells' has no lyrics, no concept, no point, and it is named after a random instrument that's used sparingly towards the end of Part 1. And it can't even be forgiven in a classical or compositional sense, as none of the musical themes in part 1 and 2 are even similar, and nothing is repeated even within each side. It's very linear, which given the lack of a unifying theme, suggests that Oldfield literally "made it up as he went along". I believe such a method of creation (no matter how original or innovative) is sloppy and prevents a lot of potential enjoyment that could be had from an album with predominantly GOOD music. The music is good, often very emotive, but each theme passes by never to return again, and nothing has a point to it.

I like listening to this album in a passive, "background" kind of way, but I could never enjoy it in the same way as anything else of similar quality, because it has no completeness. It's like watching a film where each scene is very rewarding and of high-quality, but none of the scenes make sense in the presence of each other and the whole movie has no narrative. That would be a good, but limiting experience. Such is true of 'Tubular Bells'. And whilst I can appreciate the fact that Oldfield plays all the instruments himself, I think that hiring some musicians would have helped turn this linear experiment into an actual album, a concept one or otherwise.

If you thought the cover artwork was random, expect the same from the music...

thehallway | 3/5 |


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