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Mike Oldfield - Ommadawn CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

4.31 | 1220 ratings

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4 stars A very ambient but dynamic offering from Mik Oldfield that generally stays in the realms of a well-constructed, organically developing and, above all, an original and very influential piece of work. The Rock aspect is borderline, verging on the non- existent, but the production, arrangements, composition and execution are excellent - truly progressive in the literal sense.

It's a trip that exists over the two roughly twenty-minute sections that go to make up a vinyl LP, so program your CD player to play Part I, listen, then program your CD player to play Part I, and you'll have the right gap. As other reviewers have commented, the overall feel is more of "New Age" music - but roughly 15-20 years before the boom in that genre, and not entirely dissimilar to the more ambient moments of Gong/Hillage of around the same time. That said, this is an entirely different composition to anything by either.

A floaty wash of keyboards and simple guitar ostinato over a pedal provides a soothing backdrop, with engaging melodies, but there is a pleasing dark edge to Band I that provides a decent amount of tension that maintains the interest.

Band II is altogether lighter in tone, and, perhaps, Venetian in feel. The entrance of Timpani and keyboard wind and brass sounds gives a great swell in sound - and Oldfield resists the obvious at every turn.

The sugue into band 3 is well constructed, but this part threatens to descend into cheese with every passing moment. "Bright and chirpy" would be good adjectives here, until it drops into a tinkly interlude with a rather mysterious recorder backing that's certainly unique - and exceptionally mellow.

Other sounds fade in, including vocal "Aahs", and Mike's distinctive guitar leads, and the piece suddenly drops in to Band 4, a more edgy number with little guitar cascades and an unsettling percussive and rhythmic keyboard backing.

This reminds me of Karl Jenkin's Enigma projects, nearly 20 years later - particularly in the choir vocalisations - but the ambience here seems more tangible.

To round off side 1 of the vinyl, the atmosphere intensifies, thanks to denser percussion from Pierre Moerlin's Timps and the African drums. Close shifts in harmony and a rolling Hawkwind-style bass line make for a track that is to all intents and purposes, heavy, despite it's overall ambient feel.

Part II begins with keyboard washes of a different nature to Part I, and acoustic guitar - which provide the feeling that Mike is about to launch into a Genesis number... this never happens, of course! He experiments more with the pedal approach, sliding from one to the other in a manner that reminds me a little of bagpipe music... then accordians emerge from the background textures.

You could spend all day listening out for the little snippets of texture that emerge, re-merge and spin around inside this captivating piece - and that goes for the whole album too, of course. The range of moods and atmospheres that the lister is taken through is quite stunning, and the album rarely goes down a dead-end passage, or ends up simply counting down the bars until the next change - all changes appear to happen at the right kind of time. No precision is applied here - it's all very loose, and, if you're simply going with the flow, the flow is imaginative and paints clear and detailled images without being particularly challenging.

But then challenging is something we don't always want from music - sometimes it's nice to let the music do all the work, and just drift away to it; and with "Ommadawn", Oldfield has produced a work of exactly such a quality, yet with a distinctly primeval, some might say earthy feel to it, with the exotic range of instruments and attention to detail in their use to conjure just the right atmosphere... although I find some, like the Northumberland bagpipes, a little hard to digest.

These soon pass, however, and the build-ups and pull-downs of tension and ambience in the music in Part II, while not as consistent or compelling as Part I, certainly don't completely lose the interest - indeed, it maintains a stronger pulse throughout, and some of the highs are higher - while some of the lows...

A really Good addition to any collection of Prog Rock - it's unique, so I guess I would go as far as to say Excellent - but only just. It would need to be more consistent for that.

So buy, and chill!

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


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