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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells III CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

3.37 | 221 ratings

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4 stars While "Tubular Bells 2" merited the famous moniker by virtue of its re-interpretations of many of the original themes, "Tubular Bells 3" seems to have been so named cannily. Sure, the requisite bells appear less than a half minute into the opening piece, and "Outcast" proposes another fuzzy guitar crescendo, more memorably than before in fact. Towards the end, "Secrets" reprises the bells briefly before taking up aspects of the first cut, and "High Above the Clouds" pilfers the bass theme of the introduction of the instruments, but in a dance floor frenzy of sorts. In between, this is Oldfield's first world music dominated album since "Five Miles Out", and also, perhaps not coincidentally, his best of the 1990s.

For one of the first times a middle and far eastern bias is discerned in "The Source of Secrets" and "The Jewel in the Crown", thanks in part to British-Indian singer AMAR, the use of sitars, and the general timbre of the melodies. This theme continues in "Serpent Dream" with some of Oldfield's best acoustic guitar work, an area where I felt TB 2 fell down a little. Then there is the odd choice of trademark quirky pop, "Main in the Rain", which congenially offsets the generally dour mood of the album. It's a track with a long history and its clearest lineage would be "Moonlight Shadow", employing similar guitar and sampled drums. In fact it dates from that era and nearly surfaced several times before. The vocals by CARA DILLON are a near ringer for MAGGIE REILLY as well. This is followed by the masterfully developed "Top of the Morning", with the layering you would expect from Oldfield but a simpler less off kilter structure built on a sparkling piano melody. It's so conventionally brilliant that I have to remind myself it's Oldfield.

The name "Tubular Bells" has been so entwined with the history of pop since the 1970s that we completely forget it was an instrument first, just like tissue must have existed before Kleenex. From an integrity perspective, this 1998 release should have had a different name completely, since for every fan intrigued by another version, there is another who wants no part of it. That's why it's taken me 15 years for me to luxuriate in its belle airs.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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