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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells CD (album) cover

TUBULAR BELLS

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

4.10 | 1146 ratings

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Xonty
5 stars Mike Oldfield peaked straight away in my opinion, with his unique blends of world music, thrash rock, and more delicate acoustic passages, to produce the one-of-a-kind "Tubular Bells". Quite substantially better than "Ommadawn" for me (as on PA, if you just look at the ratings). Excellent instrumental melodies, variations and climaxes all the way throughout and quite rightly sold millions and millions of copies worldwide. It managed to break down some of the barriers of progressive music to expand to a wider audience, because of the multiple connections a person can experience with it. Just a masterpiece really.

Where to start with a 2 track album... The beginning perhaps? The intro, of course very famous for its use in the blockbuster film "The Exorcist" is very hypnotic and eerie, in a slightly disjunct rhythm of 31/16 (15 and 16), and the introduction of the Farfisa organ and glockenspiel. The bass then joins to create great harmonies and backing to provide more ground to build the piece, and a left hand piano to represent a heartbeat in a polyrhythmic 3/4 time, exploring minimalist techniques as used by one of Oldfield's influences: Terry Riley. The track builds and builds, with additional new instruments entering (i.e. the flute, electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, etc.), which all individually take their solo parts. All of this harmonious turns into something a little heavier, with more prominent electric guitars and organ about 6 minutes through. Superb melodies - very basic but effective, and adds a great texture to the album. It then retreats into gentler territory for a while, and eventually gets back into the swing of things, with a delicious honky-tonk piano, a choir of kitchen staff, and a chorus of thrash guitars playing odd offbeat chord progressions - very fun to play along to! The whole piece manages to maintain a beat despite the lack of percussion on the best part of the album. Anyway, the steel-strung acoustic chords just show Oldfield's experiences and interactions with the world of folk/acoustic rock. Absolutely gorgeous, with more diverse chords abruptly ending and giving way for a whole new symphony to build up, with yet another memorable line. Practically, a rock orchestra is then brought in, instruments one at a time, by none other than Vivian Stanshall and his caressing English voice, adding an important timbre to the work. You almost get woken up when he says "grand piano", reminding you of language and words in the real word away from this progressive realm, and helping you not sink into it, get bored and to listen harder. Side One just keeps to a definitely majestic atmosphere, and is swiped away by Oldfield's extremely intimate guitar picking. A great way to end.

Side Two is perhaps a bit more experimental and less symphonic, even romantic, than the first. It sort of indicates the direction Mike is going to reach on the following couple of albums. A very pleasant ambient room of music, that you could easily put on in the background or scrutinisingly listen to note after wonderful note in a darkened room. The beginning of this track builds a completely different orchestral sound, with various acoustic instruments scattered about the place, setting a beautiful image of frolicking about in some fantasy woodland or something. Perhaps goes on for a little too long, but still incredible. The organ solo that joins the guitars about 5 minutes through too just feels so specifically warm, whilst giving off sorts of pastoral vibes. The female vocals, timpani, fuzz and tremolo guitars that enter remind me furthermore of what's to come in "Ommadawn", although this album is probably more melodic (and too my liking) than an ambient droning harmony. Building to another climatic volume, the most unexpected thing happens at 11 minutes: the "Caveman" section. A confused wolf-man growling, backed by many acoustic instruments plus very talented and intricate electric guitar passages by the one and only. Often seen as a predecessor to the "death growl", just goes to show the diversity of even its influences, let alone what's going on in the piece. A classical guitar duo (knotted with rocky vibes) then arpeggiates some very expensive chord inversions and such, complementing each other so beautifully, and so well written, with terrific backing organ and bass. After ending the section on a thrilling major modulation, the piece ends very light-heartedly with an accelerating rendition of "Sailor's Hornpipe" - in a way, one of Mike Oldfield's signature live songs. Shows great musicianship and what a brilliantly obscure and eccentric way to conclude a meaningful progressive rock album. Outstanding!

A(+): Pushing the boundaries of music altogether, combining unlikely instrumental appearances in such a seemingly effortlessly manner. Having written this at the tender age of 19, clearly shows bags of potential for Mike Oldfield and his future!

Part 1: ***** Part 2: *****

Xonty | 5/5 |

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