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Mike Oldfield - Hergest Ridge CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

3.95 | 620 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars While Oldfield's incredible debut album "Tubular Bells" served as a particular highlight in the world of art rock and remains a major cornerstone in the history of rock, it will be in his next three recordings that he will refine and perfect his writing skills, solidly developing long pieces of music from a reduced number of main motifs. In my opinion, "Hergest Ridge" is Oldfield's first perfect masterpiece in a lifelong career full of peaks. This album finds the organ more featured than the grand piano in the keyboard department, as well as a more constraint role for the electric guitar sections in favor of an enhanced presence of the classical and acoustic guitars. This album is also less patently colorful than its predecessor, keeping a strong focus on melancholic ambience and contemplative emotion. The Celtic thing and the Philip Glass influence are the most predominant elements in the compositions, but you can also notice traces of symphonic art rock and exotic textures. Part 1 starts with the initial development of the two recurring main motifs successively, with Oldfield providing a meticulous sense of texture and subtlety with his multiple organ layers, acoustic guitar chord progressions and electric guitar's soft flourishes. In the times when things begin to get more intense, the presence of additional wind instruments (oboe, trumpet) helps to create a moderately orchestral mood; meanwhile, the female choral arrangements appear here and there, sometimes adding quietness to the calmer sections, sometimes adding intensity to the most extroverted passages. The development and slight variations around the two main motifs occupies more than half of Part 1. At one moment, things shift tenderly toward a bass-and-organ motif (the same one that will reappear on Part 2 in the guise of the multi-guitar Thunderstorm section) that builds a bridge to the closing theme of Part 1, a playful motif that brings some of the celebratory mood of the infamous closing theme of the debut album's Part 1. The sustained climax, the hypnotic repetition, the majestic chorale, all of it leads the way toward a calmer ending based on a reprise of one main motif on classical guitar. Part 2 begins with a similar atmosphere as that of the aforesaid Part 1's closing theme, albeit a bit more relaxed and introverted. The constraint colorfulness that Oldfield had so amazingly created so far finds a particularly genius expression here. A main motif returns briefly, building a dense bridge whose final steps are led by the interaction between guitar leads and tympani. A bridge to where? It appears that something sinister is on the way. And yes, here comes the Thuderstorm section, arguably the most demented musical idea to ever come out of Oldfield's musical mind. Besides the choral duet of Clodagh Simmonds and Sally Oldfield (and perhaps some hidden organ), the listener is left to face an angry exhibition of multiple guitar layers, riffs and leads, carefully arranged to sound like a massive orchestra of tension and bitterness. Some guitar leads, partially hidden by the dark cloud of a thousand electric strings, seem relatively related to the prototypical Frippian fashion, which only comes to show how familiar Oldfield used to be with the avantgarde side of prog rock. Once the Thunderstorm is abruptly over, a soft duet of organ and classical guitar momentarily retakes a fraction of the Thunderstorm section, in this way creating a clever combination of contrast and continuity. The album's last minutes are filled with an eerie reprise of a main theme, this time delivered with a sense of serenity oddly mixed with melancholy: those organ layers are really emotional. A beautiful end for a perfect Oldfield masterpiece.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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