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David Bedford - The Odyssey CD (album) cover


David Bedford

Crossover Prog

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5 stars This is certainly Bedford's most accessible and prog album, and the one I'd advise Mike Oldfield fans and prog fans in general to start their exploration of Bedford's music with.

The album has a distinctly 70s prog feel to it, while still noticably written by someone with a classical / avantgarde background. Synthesizers and Solina Strings abound, beautifully complemented by orchestral instruments and choir. Mike Oldfield lends his unmistakable guitar tone to two tracks. (Intriguingly, Andy Summers, later of The Police, plays on another.) There is no drum kit, only orchestral percussion.

As the title suggests, the album is a musical retelling of the well-known Homeric epic. A lot of the album is rather tranquil, dreamy in mood; the exceptions are the somewhat more lively The Phaeacian Games and The Battle In The Hall. The former will be known to most Oldfield fans through the Collaborations part of the Boxed compilation. I must admit I'm finding it hard to describe the music on this disc; the best I can offer is that it does indeed convey the atmosphere of a story from long, long ago, set in a world very different from that known to us.

The album starts off with an interesting sonic experiment, an ascending scale that never seems to get anywhere, representing the continuous weaving and unweaving of the shroud by Penelope. Next comes the introduction of the album's main theme, a dreamy tune suggesting the unfortunate event that drives Odysseus' ships away from Ithaca, far across the sea. This tune is to reappear several times throughout the album.

The Sirens bears a certain similarity to the final track from Gustav Holst's famous Planets suite, Neptune, the Mystic, in its choral arrangement. (In fact, there's an even stronger similarity with a much lesser known Holst piece, Hymn to the Waters from the Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda.) Here, Oldfield's playing is much more restrained and adds to the piece very effectively.

The final track, The Battle in the Hall, adds an element of vigour and aggression that is largely absent from the rest of the album, providing a climax before a fittingly triumphant conclusion as Odysseus defeats the suitors.

All in all, I definitely consider this album a masterpiece, if a somewhat oddball one. For what it is, I find it to be flawless and therefor deserving of the high rating. It is however certainly an acquired taste. Oldfield fans really should check it out, particularly those that love Hergest Ridge and Incantations. It has an identity all of its own, however. Symphonic Prog fans who can see themselves enjoying an album that is pretty much tranquil throughout, yet manages to keep you interested at all times, should also consider giving it a try.

Report this review (#184057)
Posted Monday, September 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Along with Star's End, Odyssey from 1976 marks David Bedford providing arguably his strongest album releases. Much more accessible than Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, which if guilty of anything was being too avante garde at times ( which is no crime anyway) but this album provides the best all round sound IMO. Mike Oldfield and Andy Summers both guest on guitars. This is agreat concept album with some beautiful choral arrangements from The Queens College Choir. Highlights would have to be ' Sirens', the hugely orchestral ' Phaecian Games' ( This song can also be found on Mike Oldfield's Boxed set) and ' Scylla and Charibdes. Overall a very strong release from David Bedford, some excellent wine glass effect accompaniment from the backing singers too. I would recommend listeners perhaps starting with this album or the debut ' Nurses...' Three and a half stars.
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Posted Friday, January 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars Fourth album, but this is the first overtly commercial one for Bedford, thus leaving the experimental and avant-garde realm for a more electronic and ambient sound, surfing and gliding on the wave of Oldfield, Tangerine, Schulze and Eno. Again, on the present, Bedford plays most of the instruments (which is mostly synths anf kbs), except for guitars (Olfield and Andy Summers of the future Police) and some wind instruments (recorder and oboe), but the vocals are entirely feminine and for the most part choral. Graced with Bedford's golden portrait, this concept abum (not too difficult to figure out about what, uh?) was released on Branson's Virgin label in late 76,as were previous works of him and his protégé; but the Sex Pistols were just around the corner for the label.

When hearing the present album, it is difficult not to think of Oldfield's Herdgest Bells tainted with Eno's Summer's Star or Tangerine's then-current works, and other Virgin label oddities. Often hovering over semi-symphonic ambient music, the album would've been called "new age", had it been released a decade later, but then again, I never fund the present particularly relaxing because it often makes me cringe in horror at the derivative nature of the contents, especially given his previous ventures. This is the kind of album that some would call timeless, but to this writer, it sounds rather dated and cliché, partly because of the technology used on it, but also the supposedly grandiose and pompous matter of the music. No wonder the punk wave would sweep some of that complacent stuff. Don't get me wrong, there are some rather interesting moments, sometimes almost (key word, here) innovative passages, but it's quickly lost in the shuffle.

Don't know if this album sold in significant quantities, but it would turn out to be his second last for a few years, as he will concentrate on producing some electro-pop acts in the 80's. Anyway, The Odyssey is really too derivative for me to appreciate it, but if you're into symphonic- new-agey stuff, this could be up your alley.

Report this review (#506606)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars In the 1970s, David Bedford gravitated towards producing more melodic fare than the avant-garde style that had been his stock-in- trade in the 1960s. 'The Odyssey' is the first of his solo projects where melody takes centre stage throughout. It is also the most well known of his four Virgin albums, and by all accounts caused quite a stir on its release, with full page ads in the music press and a star- studded live performance at the Royal Albert Hall no less (including Dave Stewart, Neil Ardley, John Lord, Mike Ratledge, Mireille Bauer, etc.).

Alas, as an album, it doesn't really work. There are some decent enough tunes ('King Aeolus', 'The Phaeacian Games'), some pleasant enough textures ('The Sirens'), but is "enough" enough? Mr Bedford was by all accounts less than happy with the results and one has the sneaking suspicion that he had reluctantly bowed to pressure to be a bit more commercial. Needless to say, Mike Oldfield turns up, twice in fact - first time bad, second time good - as he was clearly a selling point in those days.

'The Odyssey' sits at the end of Prog's golden period, just as punk cynicism came and spoiled everything. Compared to, say, The Damned's 'New Rose' or the first Clash album, it must have seemed very tame fare, breathing the air of private school privilege rather than gobbing in the face of authority. ('The Odyssey' is hardly unique in that regard, but the Ommadawnish full-beard head shot on the front cover adds a distinct touch of yesteryear. The BBC 'Omnibus' programme about Bedford's 'Song of the White Horse' made the following year began with Bedford shaving off said beard, bidding adieu to the 70s two years early.)

So why if 'The Odyssey' is not that good does it get a four star rating? Simply because the album has one superb track which transcends its historical moment. 'Circe's Island' is a stunning piece of music: creepy yet seductive, with ethereal voices, an incongruous yet highly effective slide guitar (Andy Summers) and a hypnotic synthesiser sequence, all backed by tuned wine glasses. It is one of the strangest and yet most beautiful creations that 70s prog has to offer. It's just such a shame that none of the rest of the album can match it.

Ratings: Circe's Island: 5 stars; everything else: 3 stars

Report this review (#2543203)
Posted Sunday, May 16, 2021 | Review Permalink

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