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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells CD (album) cover

TUBULAR BELLS

Mike Oldfield

Crossover Prog


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5 stars Although 'Ommadawn' may rate higher in my list, this record is essential in the history of prog (or rock: let's not forget this is the album that helped launch the Virgin empire). For lovers of melodic instrumental prog, things can't get much better than this.
Report this review (#27270)
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars SIMPLY ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ALBUMS OF ALL TIME. It made Branson a millionaire and is the work of a troubled young genius. It's length of stay in the charts was amazing and everyone seemed to have the album, although sadly many would deny it now, not me!! Mike Oldfield has a distinctive guitar sound and is one of the finest players I've ever seen live. Sadly, Oldfield has ruined the TB legacy by flogging the brand to death in recent years with the awful TB3 and Millennium Bell.
Report this review (#27271)
Posted Thursday, February 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars One of the most over-rated album in history but was and still is a fave with the public. In the soft aerial genre you might want to try his following two albums (Ommadawn and Herdgest Ridge) and JM Jarre's Oxygčne or some Vangellis. Actually maybe the main merit of this poor album is that it sold in such great amounts that it allowed the Virgin label such financial freedom that they dared taking chances on unlikely and uncommercial acts like Gong or even more daringly Henry Cow.

I suppose one of the reason why I rate this album poorly is the over-exposition of such a musical idea-poor album: a few good ideas but greatly overly-extended and an incredibly cheesy instrument announcement part around the close of the side 1 of the album. As if we b-needed him to know what a grand piano or a slightly distorted guitar is.... Let's face it: very few albums managed such a great commercial success on so few ambient ideas. As the little old lady once said about her hamburger: Where's the beef?????? Oh, yeah, although there are some slight folk influences (Mike was in a folk-rock band Sallyangie with his sister Sally at the start of the 70's) throughout the whole album, they become insufferable in the semi-jig-like finale

Of course, the fact that he has redone the Tubullar Bells thing about 20 zillion version to fill up his bank account, it has not helped my views on the original work.

Report this review (#27272)
Posted Thursday, February 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an album that you would hardly find in the Rock and Roll Sections in the stores, anyway some people think is not a prog but a new age album, in fact I found it in the New Age section...Wherever it was is not the theme that matters when you hear a classic with such a good instrumentation played Mike Oldfield (he played almost every of the instrumets you hear). You hear the two parts and both are great pieces...And that is just the first part of the three...Prog Rock or New Age?...Who cares?...You can't die without hearing it
Report this review (#27274)
Posted Monday, February 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Richard and Mike strike (bells of) gold

"Tubular Bells" is where it all began both for Mike Oldfield, and for Richard Branson with his fledgling Virgin Records. Had it not been for this one album, the whole history of what is now the Virgin empire would have been radically different. In brief, Oldfield recorded this album entirely by himself, and without a recording contract. After unsuccessfully pedalling it around the major record companies in search of a deal, he eventually persuade a young budding entrepreneur with a few record shops, to release the album on his newly formed record label. The album become one of the most successful releases of all time and, as they say, the rest is history.

While for many of a certain age "Tubular Bells" is as familiar as an old pair of slippers, it remains even now an excellent piece of work. Those listening to it for the first time now may well wonder what all the fuss was about, as others have trodden the same road many times since, and a whole genre (new age music) has developed as a result. Note however that this is not itself new age music, it is far more complex and dynamic that that.

When it was released "Tubular Bells" was a real breath of fresh air, totally original, and bursting with energy. Others may been down a similar path before (Bo Hansson for example) but their efforts remained obscure (in Hansson's case outwith Scandinavia at least).

The first part (side 1 of the LP) contains the stronger material, something Oldfield would rectify on "Tubular Bells 2". This is a case though where the migration to CD has improved the package by offering it as a complete piece without interruption. The music, which was composed and performed throughout by Oldfield, is entirely instrumental. He uses a wide array of instruments, multi-layered with frequent changes of pace and melody. A selection of the instruments is introduced during the famous closing section to side one. The performance is remarkably mature for someone at the time so young, and while music critics and Oldfield himself will now point to many flaws in the product, to the casual listener these are either transparent, or now form an integral part of the piece.

Oldfield appears to be at his most comfortable and proficient when using guitar, resulting in many different types of guitar being used, and a wide diversity of styles and sounds.

In all, a remarkable effort, which is rightly acclaimed as a landmark album. I suspect this is the type of composition which will be performed by musicians in 200 years time in the same way as classical pieces are now, and rightly so. Essential listening.

Oldfield has revisited "Tubular Bells" several times. "TB2" was a very similar album, almost a facsimile copy. "TB3" bears little relation to the original. "TB2003" was a faithful re-recording of the original album, which allowed Oldfield to "iron out" all the things which had niggled him about the original for so many years.

Report this review (#27277)
Posted Saturday, March 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Over the years I have owned several copies of Mike OLDFIELD's classic debut album "Tubular Bells" which I am sure all of you have in your collection as well. I actually only re-purchased it on HDCD recently which brings new color to this classic recording which is also one of my all time favorite albums. I still find it hard to believe that this album was mostly conceived and performed by 1 person. A youthful OLDFIELD performs a vast array of instrumentation here with a list too long to capture here but each instrument brings forward a different feel into the album and of course the classic countdown in Part 1 to the climax of "Tubular Bells" is one of the most anticipated parts of the album.
Report this review (#27279)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Well it's quite superfluous to remind you of the importance of this work, an original soundtrack for the movie "The exorcist", whose production was good at least (of course the remastered version is another thing!!) and the harmonic solutions very interesting. An excellent work in progress, produced thanks to his strong determination and a great versatility as well.

This work is absolutely recommended, even though the main theme of "Tubular Bells 2" is much better and less monotonous too!!

Report this review (#27280)
Posted Saturday, April 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Tubular Bells" is the album that started everything! There are tons of instruments well played. The synthesizers are omnipresent. Lots of percussions, particularly "Bells", female background vocals, different guitar sounds... You have the Popeye music and the Exorcist movie too. Sometimes serious, sometimes funny, the pieces are very long and the listener has many beautiful little things to discover. On the original LP, the sound is sometimes bad, actually there is a bit where the bass background is too strong. Try the remastered version.
Report this review (#27281)
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the landmark records of all times, even more new age than prog, still shows a great and a large amount of instruments and instrumentation in just 2 songs, this record is actually the response to many things around that time, and sometimes overrated, is a great concept album that has been mention and copied since then, perhaps, the idea of publishing 2 songs was a regular of the 70's, who knows. anyway, is a great record, enjoy
Report this review (#27283)
Posted Friday, April 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
richardh
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars An album very much of it's time.Quite breathtakingly brilliant in places but extemely disjointed overall.In fact it is a series of peices that have been knitted together into some sort of coherent whole.Unfortuantely the origins of this album cannot be masked and the word 'masterpeice' is often overused when describing this.I would sum it up as an interesting but flawed instrumental work.
Report this review (#27276)
Posted Friday, May 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
frenchie
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Tubular Bells is one of the most experimental progressive rock albums in history and one of the best too. The fact that at his youth, Oldfield managed to create such an incredible piece of music using a vast range of instruments that he had managed to learn, is one of the most inspiring concepts if there ever was one. This album has branded Mike Oldfield a legend amongst many. The album itself is true progression, using countless amounts of instruments this is not just a prog rock masterpiece, but an experiment in music. The only flaws of this album is that it can be a challenge to listen to with the everlong introduction and a middle section that's all over the place. Even with its demand in patience this album still manages to flow exceptional well and surprisingly keeps the listener captivated throughout. Even though the album can get very repetitive at times, there are many different changes in tempo and volume, with layered instruments to keep the music fresh and focused. Tubular Bells will always remain to be one of the best pieces of experimental progressive rock and a milestone in music.
Report this review (#27286)
Posted Tuesday, July 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album overrated? Please have a rethink. If anyone cannot see the genius in Tubular Bells they are definitely missing something. It is not a matter of personal taste either, one can not like an album but at the same time recognise the excellent artistry at work.That would be fair. Plagiarism? Please, this is as original as the awakening it stirred in so many people all over the globe.Tubular Bells immediately put Oldfield in the company of Bach, Beethoven etc.and let noone deny that.
Report this review (#27288)
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is class A inspirational music, with a few great guitar solos in it.This is Mike's masterpiece and a fine debut and is probably his best recording so it sure has a place in your record collection...I reccomend to download the part 1 mp3 of this fantastic record from this site and then go out and buy it.The music on this record is very relaxing and it gives you a very comfortable feel if you listen to it with your eyes closed.Anyway, it has a funny ending which is very different from the other tunes on this gem.Ah...go out and buy this piece of plastic, so you can enjoy the music and live in satisfaction.
Report this review (#27290)
Posted Sunday, August 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
Thulëatan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars One of the most popular albums of all time, and a rare case where critical acclaim and true worth can match that popularity. 1973's 'Tubular Bells' is the intense musical output of a troubled man just barely into his 20s, wandering passages of classical depth presented in the dark tones of psychedelic symphonic rock.

It is needless to attempt to chart the styles that Oldfield employs, since they are so numerous, exploratory, and in some cases startlingly unique, all expressed near- singlehandedly by this multi-instrumentalist. When put together the result is music that always seems unfamiliar... yet timeless and evocative, right from that eerie, mesmerising piano and tuned percussion phrase which just keeps coming and plunges the listener into the whole experience at the start of the album.

Being instrumental, the themes of the album are necessarily abstract, which is the case with most of Oldfield's masterpieces. Even in this debut he was quite simply taking huge slices of life, the good and the bad, the deepest states of mind, and channeling them into these living, breathing musical tapestries. I would say 'Tubular Bells' is in fact the piece with the most uncertainty and confusion, be that by intention or simply by Oldfield's own personality at the time, with sometimes huge shifts between surging, positive venetian crescendos, and lonely acoustic guitar passages of profound sadness. The sound of the bells themselves are spine-tingling when they appear, producing when played loudly that ambiguous wall of sound that gives the album its title and concept - is that the sound of celebration or doom, life or death? What this album brought to the world was a method of performance that broke other artists' needs to stick to one format (a rock five piece, a string quartet, a synth outfit) and used a whole variety of instruments to achieve a far wider range of moods and sounds (kind of like how the Beatles did, only here not limited to pop songs). Since instrumentation is arguably the largest factor in what gives music its depth and distinctiveness, Oldfield's pushing of this diversity into the rock arena was a very significant move in the music world - this was prog itself starting to flourish. Here also are the beginnings of Oldfield's trademark vibrato guitars, his strong, catchy but most of all emotive melodies, and generally unmistakable playing all round.

Forget the legend for a moment, abandon your preconceptions; just listen to 'Tubular Bells' and hear the sound of your own mind and the world around you. It's hard to believe it could ever get better than this, but it did... this genius of our time was just getting started.

Report this review (#27293)
Posted Friday, January 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have a hd cd version of this album. For mike oldfield he had excellent Success with this album and a debut one too!!!. I like the britishness in this Record and it's artistic sound, folk, symphonic,space and canturbury all Rolled into one. He one of the most talented multi instrumentalists Around, nice album mike!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Report this review (#27300)
Posted Friday, March 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I agree this album has historical values, and is a pleasant classic record from the magical progressive rock's releasing year 1973. However for me this album never grew as an essential favorite. I knew from other instances the curious Vivian Stanshall narrating the themes of the album, and all these used compositional themes are formed as solid entity with Mike's really respectable effort. I'm happy the tunes were also used in the cinema soundtracks for their proper value. There is a personal memory for me about this album, as I found it from a special and kind lady's record collection, long time ago in the youth. Thus the album has some special meaning for myself outside of its musical merits, these main elements of the albums however never growing very important for me especially. Would recommend this for any young person searching for escape from popular music fences, I believe the logical structures and kind atmosphere of the melodies would help to reveal glimpses of a world behind radio play lists. Sadly Mr. Oldfield later directed himself to those directions, and I would recommend using the gained perspective for scanning something different instead.
Report this review (#27301)
Posted Sunday, April 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars A truly masterpiece. Even the weak sound can't cloud the eternal shine of this piece of music. I think it's a really visionary and anticipated album, even the grunts of the caveman's part can be seen like an anticipation of extreme metal... And the bass line of the final part of the Track 1 can be taken like an anticipation of the discotheque techno music of the 90's. Simply marvellous. Eternal thanks for this work, Mike!
Report this review (#39884)
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
kunangkunangku
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars What else can we say exactly about an album that is so perfect in combining a variety of instruments to create a unique and wonderful music?

This album really is a huge musical showcase, one which displays not only Mike Oldfield's proficient in playing himself almost every (more than 20 different) instruments used here, including tubular bells, but also multitude of rhythms, tones, pitches and harmonies. Both of which captured in a long passage of astounding dark yet soothing melodies.

As one may guess, there are varied tempos and mood, each of which mercilessly excites the listeners' ears. Oldfield uses them in such an order, from soft to intense to utterly surprising, with each instruments find its way (none unnoticed!) into the moving tune that is heard, so that in the end they all make an excellent musical culminations -- where the tubular bells enter with their powerful sound.

With this album, Oldfield not only shot to fame, but also opened the gate of the realm of new age music. It is truly an all-time classic.

Report this review (#40755)
Posted Thursday, July 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of the best albums ever! Mike Oldfield basically has us hooked from beginning to end. Virgin's first album (and Oldfield's debut as well) basicaly launched Oldfield's career. It's too bad Virgin had an unfair view of Oldfield's next instrumentals to be "TUBULAR BELLS II", so Oldfield left after "AMAROK" (in which, 48 minutes into the piece, Oldfield sent a morse code to Richard Branson spelling "F--- Off, RB!"["RB" being Richard Branson]) and its following album. Still, I think that "TUBULAR BELLS I" is ONE OF THE BEST in Prog-Rock History.

5 of 5

Report this review (#40780)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars It is debut an album of MIKE OLDFIELD. The introductory part was used by movie "Exorcist". The introductory part fuels the anxiety of the person who hears it. However, music will show a wonderful extension before long, and be drawn in to the world of this tune. It is possible to hear it with freshness still though this tune is the one announced four half a century before. Very mysterious tune.
Report this review (#43067)
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I know many progheads that have this album in their 'Personal Progrock Album Top Five Of All Times' and I know many progheads that hate it, using words like "crap", "boring", "nerve-racking" and "it makes me puke"! This evening I played it for the first time after many years and I still find it difficult to listen to it for the whole running time. It has some very strong and beautiful parts like the sequencer-like melody and the work on instruments like the mandolin, fuzzed guitar, Farfisa organ and Spanish guitar. And the musical idea behind this album is so unique and creative. But at some moments it sounds too fragmentic to me and my attention slips away. This happen both on side one as on side two. Nonetheless, I regard this album as an essential one, despite my critical remarks because I have such a huge respect for the way Mike Oldfield has recorded "Tubular bells", what an innovative progrock effort!
Report this review (#46336)
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars A very delirious album, with some fun, some calm, some experiments, some classical-like compositions, you can find anything in it !

It begins with the famous theme of the movie "The exorcist" (too famous ? This celebrity has not helped Oldfield in being recognized for his next works). The theme slowly evolves into a "fast guitar" section, and so on...very memorable moments everywhere, until the finale, which is mainly Mike Oldfield having fun with his synth and creating an impressive superposition of instruments on a particular theme.

The second part is divided into four sections, the first one being a very beautiful acoustic guitar-driven soft melody, that grows slowly into a transition... and suddenly breaks into a "hard" and funny rhythmed section, with a sort of caveman howling and growling over a guitar riff ! When it all crashes things become calm again, and you expect the last five minutes to be like the end of "Shine on you crazy diamond" by Pink Floyd, but surprise ! It ends up in a funny acoustic tune accelerating...very enjoyable, and a sign that Mike Oldfield wasn't taking himself too seriously.

Report this review (#47323)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
ttaylor102003
5 stars This is one of the most important progressive rock albums ever made. It is also completely instrumental (except for a few Choir parts and one weird Caveman part... more on that later.) One piece in two 20+ minute halves. Also not boring for one second.

So the first half opens up with the familiar and memorable Exorcist Theme, which features a hypnotic piano/glockenspiel riff with one awesome bass line, which continues for about three minutes, after which the flute enters and then an awesome guitar riff comes in and then it goes all upbeat and cheery and reminiscent of that opening part of Close to the Edge. After a while and some more cheery and upbeat riffs, this really awesome distorted guitar riff comes in which is followed by a really awesome dark swirly guitar/organ riff. The next section of the first half (actually it is just a bunch of little sections which flow together seamlessly) is mostly dreamy little acoustic pieces with a few rocky bits thrown in for good measure. The last ten minutes or so of the first half is a slightly repitive set of clean guitar riffs which are pretty upbeat, and during this part the Master of Ceremonies Viv Stanshall introduces many different instruments to the mix, culminating in the entrance of the Tubular Bells themselves, and the first half ends ina dreamy hypnotic way.

Whereas the first half was a large mixture of a bunch of smaller sections, the second half has pretty much 5 distinct sections, the first of which is another dreamy acoustic section, which may seem to drag on for a tad longer than it should. Anyway after about 8 minutes of acousticness the 'Guitars sounding like Bagpipes' section comes in, playing some very spacy hypnotic riffs, and its one of the best parts of the song. It is followed by what is easily the worst part of the song, although it has grown on me a little over all the times I have heard it. It is some great music ruined by some Death- metalesque Caveman growling gibberish. It is kind of dark rocking part, and although you may think the Caveman ruins the whole integrity of the song, but really it will grow on you, trust me, because I thought I would always hate it, but I almost like it now. Anyway, this goes into a really atmospheric and ambient kind of Floydish dreamy section with the organ. After a while, this is followed by the excellent cheerful rendition of the Sailor's Hornpipe which fits perfectly in the song and ends it on an upbeat cheerful note.

So this is one of those absolutely essential albums that every prog fan should have, not boring for one second, not one part is really bad either, they just take time to grow on you. Besides, there are enough truly amazing parts to make up for the slightly embarassing Caveman thing, even if it doesn't grow on you.

Report this review (#50796)
Posted Saturday, October 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
Prognut
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I fully agree with Sean regarding this one! Maybe is that I do not get it fully or is just the fact that MO has recycle this one so much, that I am getting tired of it!! No matter what I said on this review, MO has a distinctive place on Progressive Music; He has created basically his on style, and has influenced many artists. So, the MO affair is pretty much, love or hate!!. In his long span career of more than 30 years, he has crafted some of the most beautiful and interesting music, but also he has like anybody else some stinkers!!.

I guess, and this is just my opinion!, that for an artist must be difficult to top or surpass success once achieved. Most of the progressive artists, and band in general will achieve this pinnacle after several attempts, meaning years on the making. However, MO largely achieved stardom and commercial success almost immediately after this album! and will be, I think even frustrated for somebody not to top this success afterwards.

In any event, to me Mike is a Genius musically, and I have to divide his career into 3 periods:

Early Period: From "Tubular Bells" to "Q.E.2", pretty much his Golden era, which expand thru the 70's... My highlight in this era definitively Ommadawn!!

Mid-Period: From "Five Miles Out" to "Heaven's Open", where we see Mike giving his best shot to what he feels is Pop Music, or at least mainstream! but without compromising totally his progressive roots!!!. I have always said, if I would have to listen pop music, what better that this MO period. He was lucky and smart enough to surround him self with a big and excellent variety of artists, but specially singer wise the celestial voice of Maggie Reilly, which in my opinion was the main engine for the success of the type of music that Mike was doing in that period of time. The only exception in this period is the mesmerizing "AMAROK" which is a really good surprise, and came along at the time Mike was having problems with Virgin Music, and was trying to get out of his contract, an so on... That is something; I have sense on MO music thru the years. Mike tries to give you in every album, I thing, a piece of his life, or at least each album is influenced by what is happening in his life at that moment... Classic examples "Five Miles Out" and the close encounter with an airplane accident!" Islands" a lot of family issues! That carries into ""Earth Moving" and of course, "Heaven's Open" and his general discontent with Virgin Records, making an album where Mike also SING!!!!!. In this period also Mike give a shot to music for movies on "The Killing Fields" which is a great effort overall!!

Late Period: From "Tubular Bells II" all the way probably to the present time with "Light and Shade" which still not showing in our website!! Most of my prog-heads friends would probably not like this era!! Experimentation is the name of the game! We see Mike here crafting, IMHO another Masterpiece in "The Songs of Distant Earth", where you can enjoy lush atmospheres that give the chance to the amazing guitar playing that Mike thru the years have let us enjoy!!

Mike does not stop here, he experiment acoustic with "Guitars", Celtic with "Voyager" and start to experiment something, that is not my favorite, European Techno. Again, I think influenced by what he probably was living at the moment on Ibiza (Spain) and maybe in contact or relation with the band ENIGMA, I maybe wrong, but is very compelling and I would have to say that the music for moments seems very similar; Anyways, I do not think MO has run out of ideas, but lately has not come back with a really strong album IMO, that has made me jump, and actually he has chosen to continue recycling old ideas. Come on! Mike you can do better than that, I am sure!!!

Now, going back to this album. My score would be 3.5 stars, approximating to 4; but suffice to say to me one of the most over-rated albums of all times!!

Report this review (#53845)
Posted Saturday, October 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
afro_thunder1
5 stars Album took me by a great suprise from watching The Excorsist at a very young age i was scared [&*!#]less but the music makes you feel at piece untill part two, when still too this day i have no clue what he says...

but very original no one can compare to Mike Oldfield best out of all the albums Tubular Bells is a must have. Set your mind free

5 out 5 stars people begin to feel the music

Report this review (#56033)
Posted Saturday, November 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Oldfield's debut blew me away back when I first heard it. While already being familiar with his "Crises" album from 1983, I picked up this one just after I started collecting CD's when I was younger and it didn't leave my CD player until several weeks after. It was mesmerising at that time and re-visiting it now it still is. Starting off with it's instantly recognizable intro, the music goes through a myriad of different impressions, moods and emotions, constantly progressing into a sort of climax in the end and it never get's uninteresting. This is partly due to the eclectic instrumentation (all performed by a 19 year old Oldfield!) but mostly because of the excellent structure of the whole thing. This album sold extremely well when it was released in 1973, boosting both Oldfield's career and giving Virgin Records a name (sadly, other Virgin performers like Henry Cow, Gong and Faust didn't get the same attention because of the sucess..)

An extremely influential album, both in prog and music in general, therefore five stars.

Report this review (#57620)
Posted Wednesday, November 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
FloydWright
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Created in 1973, Tubular Bells is the contemporary of PINK FLOYD's Dark Side of the Moon, but while undoubtedly groundbreaking for its time in many ways, the album as a whole lacks the sort of timelessness of the PINK FLOYD album. This music is very pattern-oriented in the way of modern classical musician Steve Reich rather than relying on more traditional soloing. From a sound quality perspective, the mix seems very quiet and in some places the synths cause very odd effects, getting too buzzy for my taste, and sometimes even seeming a bit off key. On the positive side, I give OLDFIELD a lot of credit for being able to put so many parts together in synch with each other without modern technology at his disposal--it must've been a real accomplishment.

Part 1 is by far the strongest section of this album. To me this song seems to hang together very well as a long epic--it is generally upbeat in feel, but there is a creepy "Dies Irae"-like bit with some odd effects that I enjoyed for its change in mood. Another interesting aspect, unique thus far among the albums I own, is its reference to Chinese music, particularly in the way the mandolin is played. Throughout the whole album, that instrument is a favorite of mine. While I have albums with other types of Asian music, this is one I think is less frequently heard in the rock arena. The non-distorted guitar tone reminds me a great deal of the MOODY BLUES at times--very reminiscent of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and I'm not always a fan of it when it gets too prominent. Still, it's not as bad as the "distorted" guitar which seems too distorted to me.

It's odd how standard rock riffs can move in and out of this strange setting-their ordinariness makes it all the more striking, how it can go from "Moody Blues"ish into the totally bizarre. There are even some odd chord progressions around the 8-minute mark that I found myself wondering if they inspired prog-metal band OPETH later on. Odd connection? On the surface, yes...but when I talk about Part 2 it should make a tad more sense. Overall, while Part 1 doesn't seem to hang together in a "traditional" sense, the chorus repeats itself often enough that you still get a sense of cohesion. Uniting themes are there but must be carefully listened for at times.

The ending section of Part 1, where each of the instruments is singled out and brought forward in the mix, wouldn't fly today, but it's a neat curiosity to me, and I imagine it would've been mindblowing in its time to hear how the album was put together. I admit I'm impressed at how (for the most part) he was able to make the double-speed guitar sound natural. And it's also a nice climactic moment when the tubular bells themselves emerge in all their churchy glory. The choice to end with just the natural, acoustic guitar and gentle choir voices after all of that craziness is perfect.

The beginning of Part 2 is very relaxing, a bit reminiscent of how the Part 1 ended, and to my mind it's a plus that it's not too artificial-sounding. Unfortunately, the part around 9:30 where it intensifies a bit into a more orchestral sound starts to sound very fake and tinny. The timpani sound in particular is very dry, a la Berlioz in "March to the Scaffold". Without richer, more resounding elements, this wasn't the best idea. Still, has a good rhythm and drive to it as it gets more chaotic-reminds me of the kind of change SIGUR ROS did in the middle of track 8 on ( ).

However, this track has two major problems. First, the Piltdown Man.is that Klingon? It sure sounds like it. Is this the precursor to death-growls? Ironically, my complaint as a metalhead is that he needs to just go ahead and growl unashamedly like MIKAEL AKERFELDT of OPETH or something. The wolf-howl isn't bad, though. To me I keep feeling like the music during this Piltdown Man section, if that must be kept in, needs to be more intense and less MOODY BLUES cheery, more like it was before that section started. That guitar tone to me starts to border on country which starts to get aggravating..

After 16:30 or so, we get a PINK FLOYD-like journey with a Farfisa organ, rather like "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" or the end of the studio version of "A Saucerful of Secrets", very calming once again like the beginning. Perhaps there was some sort of a direct influence? Had the album ended that way, I could've forgiven the Piltdown Man embarrassment. But no--there has to be a complete and total redneck hoedown at the end which didn't even fit the rest of the piece from a musical standpoint--it feels slapped on rather than well thought out as were the more intricate parts of the album. For that it is a severe disappointment. This album's really more of a 3.5.loses its 4 because of how many mistakes there are in the last song.

Looking at the credits, this was a one-man show. I give a lot of credit for managing that.though I think he could've used someone else's input or advice to stop him from doing the idiotic things he did that brought down the good parts.

Report this review (#60130)
Posted Monday, December 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have been quite hard on late Oldfield, so maybe it's time I wrote about the things I really like. Tubular Bells from 1973 is one on my favourites by Oldfield. It was released quite shortly after "Thick as a Brick" by Jethro Tull, and there are some obvious similarities between these two, as they both have long tracks in modern (by the time) "folk-ish" and more or less prog-rocky style (in Oldfield's case it's less rocky). Both had parts 1 & 2 in approx 20-25 minutes each. Both albums are today considered as masterpieces. For Oldfield this was only the first of several long-track albums. I have only one small problem with "Tubular Bells", and that is that it's too much of a medley in the way that the parts go into each other. I think that on for example "Ommadawn" the parts float together more naturally. The good thing about "Tubular Bells" is that no parts are there to fill out. Every moment is quality time. It's hard to say which of Mike Oldfields albums that is the best, but for me it's obvious that his "golden age" were 1973-78 with "Tubular Bells", "Hergest Ridge", "Ommadawn" and "Incantations". I love them all!!
Report this review (#63168)
Posted Wednesday, January 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars I remember buying this and loving it in 1973 (I was 10) - I think that maybe I was caught up in all the hype. Anyway, being older and I hope somewhat wiser, I've listened to this again. Oh Dear. Aside from the production and arrangement (both are bloody awful), there's very little here to commend it on the musical front.

Still, this album does have a certain historical significance (Virgin's first album release, Exorcist soundtrack) and that would be the ony reason to buy it.

Report this review (#71633)
Posted Saturday, March 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Fitzcarraldo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars During an advert break on TV tonight what should appear on the screen but the ubiquitous bent tubular bell from the cover of this album, advertising another MIKE OLDFIELD compilation featuring the album we know so well. How many times now has "Tubular Bells" been regurgitated in various guises since it was first released in 1973? Talk about a milch cow. With worldwide sales in excess of 25 million albums according to some, very few other progressive rock albums have had such an impact (on someone's wallet). Not bad for a teenager who had played briefly with KEVIN AYERS and THE ARTHUR LEWIS BAND, and recorded a demo tape which he played to Manor studio boss Tom Newman. Newman in turn played it to Richard Branson who, so one version of the story goes, only reluctantly gave the go-ahead to record an LP. Whatever the true story, it must have been one of the best decisions Branson ever made, as the album -- Virgin Record's first release -- became a money-spinner. The album was released in May 1973 just a few days after Oldfield's twentieth birthday.

The album has stamped itself so decisively on the public mind not just because of that eerie, repeating piano and glockenspiel theme at the beginning of the album that ingrains itself on the brain, but because the theme worked well as part of the soundtrack for the creepy and disturbing The Exorcist, which came out in the same year and turned the album into a hit in the USA (the album was already selling well in the UK before The Exorcist was released). The opening theme also makes a fine ringtone for one's mobile phone (Google lists 307,000 hits for sites providing the ringtone); in fact I used it myself for just such a purpose for a couple of years.

"Tubular Bells" is an odd album in many ways. The music sounds to me like a mixture of rock, folk, ambient, medieval and goodness knows what else. It consists of two LP-side-long, almost entirely instrumental, tracks. The two pieces are a real mishmash. I say instrumental, but there are a few vocalisations from a couple of females (one of who was Oldfield's sister, Sally) and from a nasal chorus and, bizarrely, a guttural, demonic voice (sounding very like Klingon) and howling briefly in the second track. The voice is Oldfield's and the sound is credited in the sleeve notes as "Piltdown Man". For those of you who don't know, Piltdown Man was a hoax in the UK in the early Twentieth Century: supposedly the fossilised bones of an early hominoid, the fraud was finally exposed in 1953 when the 'fossil' was proved to be the skull of a medieval man with the jaw bone of an orang-utan and chimpanzee teeth.

Also oddly, the rather amusing voice of the late Viv Stanshall of THE BONZO DOG DOO DAH BAND -- who happened to be in the studio recording their final album at the time -- makes a short 'appearance' towards the end of the first track as a compere introducing the instruments one by one as they come in and the music slowly builds to a crescendo. I suppose Oldfield thought it a good idea at the time but, much as I love 'The Bonzos' and Viv Stanhall, I'm not keen on the use of his voice in this case. Mind you, I'm not keen on the bizarre 'Piltdown Man', either.

Oldfield played almost all the instruments himself, layering musical sounds and themes over each other, mainly guitars (bass, electric and acoustic) of various types but also organ (Farfisa, Lowrey and Hammond) and piano, with some more-unusual instruments for rock music: the glockenspiel, flageolet, concert timpani and the tubular bells themselves. (Contrary to what some of the reviewers here have written, no synthesizers were used on this album.) There is much repetition in the music, as themes weave in and out, and the themes themselves consist of short, repetitive sequences.

Well, what do I think of it? It's generally pleasant, has a few memorable moments (apart from the famous beginning I like, for example, the brief distorted strummed guitar around 14:10 and remember it being used as a link on a favourite radio station), and is particularly impressive if you consider that it was conceived and played almost entirely by a teenager. But I have to say that I find parts of it just plain monotonous and unexciting. Overall, barring the few catchy riffs and themes, I find much of it unmemorable and, dare I say it, mediocre. It's often relaxing, almost hypnotic at times, but one or two parts are so repetitive that they start to grate, at least in my case (the acoustic guitar on the second side, for example seems to go on for ever). And it's a real mishmash. I'm almost certain I didn't buy the LP in the 1970s, as I seem to recall being thoroughly unimpressed with it at the time, but I did make the effort to buy the CD a few years ago so I can't say I think it is bad. I do dig it out occasionally for background music. For that reason, for the catchy main theme and for the sheer bizarreness of the project I'm going with 3 stars (good, but not essential). But I suppose it's one of those albums of the 1970s that everyone has to hear at least once. Hats off to Oldfield: what a lasting impact for a first album.

Report this review (#71853)
Posted Monday, March 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a legendary album, actually. But I never paid attention to it by the time it was released mainly due to the repetitive nature of the music. By the passage of time finally I can see the value of this album especially when I listen to it during the "right" time i.e. in midnight while everybody else is sleeping. Or probably this is best played while accompanying me at a solitude - being alone - contemplating about the meaning of life and ways forward. Well, I think that's the best thing to describe about this album. The music flows continuously in a very repetitive way and guitars give its roles while keyboard plays background music of rhythm section. When I say that it's repetitive, you must put it in a context in which this happen in, say, 5 minutes or 8 minutes of duration with the same pattern of music. Texture-wise of course the music forward into different style, gradually with the fills of choirs or chanting. I have to be patient listening to the music this album offers. Of course there are memorable segments with great melody augmented with rich textures using guitars or other sound effects. Fortunately there are differences in terms of melody and music patterns of Part One and Part Two that make this album is not a boring one. Keep on proggin' ..!

Report this review (#75856)
Posted Saturday, April 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars MIKE OLDFIELD Tubular Bells - A masterpiece of 70's, a great and amazing project of a young man (in 1973) and of a new artist with high quality. The first edition of Tubular Bells there's a high progressive profile. In my opinion, this record was the pioneer of a big tendence in 70's. After, in 1980's, the son of this tendence called New Age.

Masterpiece of five stars

Report this review (#95530)
Posted Monday, October 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A close 5 Star album, but Oldfield just misses the target. To think that a 18/19 year old wrote this piece of classically influenced prog by himself is beyond my belief. Oldfield has incredible talent, and used his god given gift as it was meant to be used. How he flies from melodies seamlessly is fantastic! And the melodies themselves are great and memorable. This is a bit of an overlooked album with the younger generation getting into prog. There is fantastic imagery and atmosphere in mid Part 1, and the start of Part 2 specifically. The whole album is great, but Part 1 is maybe a bit better than Part 2 with its abstract wordless speaking. At first listen it almost sounds demonic, but the music is upbeat enough to smuther any assumptions concerning that. Overall, this is a great album with very compelling atmosphere, and countless memorable melodies, played by a countless amount of sounds and noises.
Report this review (#105090)
Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a start of the several iconic symphonic albums produced by Oldfield in the 70's. This is NOT electronic rock like some people imply, the creativity and alive atmospheres of his records are high above those like "Kraftwerk" or Tangerine Dream". Oldfield is more of a technical version of bands like Yes, he came up with many extraordinary musical ideas, and many of the best symphonic albums of the time.

His music is all that more personal because of being a solo artist. Throughout his work you can sense that this is only his idea and his ideas only being represented in the music. I would describe is first four studio albums to be works of pure symphonic genius, exhibiting his personal art of constructing pseudo-classical instrumental works through his outstanding compositional skills.

Having only been 19 at the time, this record shows the amount of maturity and understanding never before seen in such a presentation. He was neglected a picture perfect childhood, his mother being a schizophrenic, he was not a very social kid as I understand growing up. Perhaps this acumulated the maturity and builded on his musical and producing talent, spending days tampering with a tape recorder to make splices and loops, or teaching himself to play the guitar.

So having been finally taken into consideration by Richard Branson after pitching his Tubular Bells to various record companies wary of releasing something this bizarre, blending vast instrumental landscapes with popular music and incorperating sections acessable to the average hippie, introducing new people into taking an interest in music past the average rock song.

The album was recorded haphazardly, many instruments being either poorly recorded, untuned or both, and was a generally rushed project, being destined to the virgin record companies first LP release. It has the unmistakeable feel of an epic album, but in touch with naiviety and native creativity, coming off as an extrodinary debut extremely subject to personal opinion on how individual people interpereted it.

But the genius of the whole album is undeniable, a wide spectrum of instruments being played by this one teenager, a new kind of rock album. It suceeded admirably, being even more popularized by the inclusion of the main riff in the Excorsist movie.

Soon it was being broadcasted on telivision through a intimate performance, receiving rave reviews from every music magazine in publication, and playing through stereo systems world wide. Truly an extraordinary starter of the destiny of the genius of Mike Oldfield. It shows what the man was capable of, and this kept people interested in his work, which is what was needed for people to consider his later albums that dive even deeper into the mind of his superb creativity and uniqueness.

A masterpeice of progressive music, essential to all those interested in the development of pop culture and the decline of society.

Report this review (#105229)
Posted Tuesday, January 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is perfect from beggining to end, a huge effort from a young and inventive Mike Oldfield. Years light ahead of other people, Oldfield builds a pleasant landscape of sounds that, in opposition of more.. err "difficult" works like Yes's Tales From Topographic Oceans or Jethro Tull's A Passion Play, can be listened to very easily all the way through. Sadly, parts of the album were included in the Exorcist soundtrack. Too heavy subject for a music that is so gently and so nice (and complex). This is essential, you must have this album. Period.
Report this review (#108799)
Posted Thursday, January 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I remember when 25 years ago my older friend who introduced me to MO was praising this album all the time without having it but having several excerpts from radio broadcastings. In the communist Hungary it was quite uneasy to get any Western musical material, so we had only ideas what it could be like. 10 years after I managed to buy the symphonic version and I was really amased (I was deeply in classical music that time) and I could hardly wait to get the original version but I had to wait another 10 years for that. I was blown away from the first notes to the last bar of the closing folk song. I like the opening piano in 15/8, I like the powerful electric guitar, the humble bass, the merry whistle, the caveman, everzthing. It was and it is so exciting when listening, the music is sometimes raw and sometimes sophisticated, I like the metric changes, I like the Irish and new age feeling and I like the tons of instruments (cos it is nothing else but cavalcade of them). And that's the point. MO simply invented new age and world music with this album and since music is simply instruments used at the right time and place, he just puts the instruments in the right order to create the unbelievable feeling of freedom which lifts the listener to celestial heights and my friends, to feel freedom is the greatest gift from God. Just go and live it through!
Report this review (#110865)
Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This... Thing... They call it music... It's more than some damn music!

A masterpiece! Every moment of Tubular Bells is art. I'm only 15 years old so it would have been least excepted from me to like this. Well I don't like it. I love it! I have also listened Amarok and I don't think there is any way I would give it higher points than to Tubular Bells.

Part 1 starts all ok with the part well known from Exorcist. Soon we will get the first of two bad things in Tubular Bells. The damn orchestral hits... First time I listened to this there were few of my friends in my room. Volume was very high and when that orchestral hit stroke I almost [&*!#] my pants and all my friends started to roll around the room laughing. But with time I started to get used to them and now they don't feel so much anymore. But anyway the song is instantly saved. Ahh those overdriven guitars... Best part of the song in my opinion.

The ending of part 1 is great. The music growing all the time with new instruments joining in. Even the "ceremonial master" ain't bad. 5 stars to this part, 6 when the tubular bells start.

I don't much remember part 2. But I remember it was very good like the part 1. Only thing is those... Umm... "Voices" at the end. I'm scared of them god damnit! I stop the song almost every time I get there. But that isn't enough to drop points from 5 to 4 in this masterpiece.

5 stars is way too low for Tubular Bells. The feeling in beginning of the song, in middle of it and right before ending and after it are something that no one but Mike Oldfield can create.

Report this review (#112732)
Posted Monday, February 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars TUBULAR BELLS 1973

I was 16 I think when for the first time I heard Mike Oldfield. Not Tubular Bells. It was The Songs of Distant Earth, and he was just releasing Tubular Bells III. I didn't know anything about the 1973's original... I was captivated by the track Tubular World. Then I bought a compilation album with various artists, among them Mike Oldfield with a track titled Tubular Bells. It was 4:16 in length and reminded me of Tubular World from The Songs of... I payed these two interchangedly and couldn't decide which of these was better. The track from the compilation was fading out abruptly and I was SO curious what was after the guitar solo, I was sure there was some more music. Then another compilation album, Pure Moods and a slightly longer version of the Tubular Bells theme. I was thrilled! By then I learned the track was actually Part One of a two-part opus and the track was actually 25 minutes in length. My interest grew on. Then - WOW - I bought the album in some market for 10 zl (less than 2 British pounds), not the original cover. Otherwise a well-remastered (I think) version but not denoised so it retained the clicks from the vinyl. I loved the music. I don't remember if it was actually right then, but as for NOW, my fascvination with Oldfield is resurfacing AGAIN, from that first Tubular Bells my Oldfield discograph has been growing, but I'm still returning to the very first opus magnum, Tubular Bells. I haven't yet bought the original Virgin release, but I will. As of now, I love the album. Especially the opening theme (my very first encounter with the great work) and the 'ambient guitar' part from towards the end of the Part Two. It still gives me chills............................................! Simply beautiful!!!

Report this review (#114381)
Posted Wednesday, March 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Let me play psychic with you for a moment. You've no doubt heard the haunting melody on the Exorcist soundtrack. You know it's from Tubular Bells, you know that a lot of people seem to have liked the album, but you've never really gotten around to listening to the whole piece. What you're wondering is: should I bother?

My advice is, no. It's not really an enjoyable or interesting work. It sounds exactly like whiat it is: a collection of recordings of someone with a little talent and one or two ideas fooling around in various studios from time to time, and eventually splicing all the (just barely) related elements together. There's little sense of structure or progression; what dynamics do exist rest simply on contrast beteen adjacent passages. You can expect to almost like some of the passages, probably dislike a few others, and generally come away ambivalent.

If you want pleasant background music, there's plenty of new age soundscapes that will work better (even JARRE would be a better choice). If you want an extended contemporary work, again, there are dozens of real composers who will impress, interest, and/or move you much more than Tubular Bells (try STEVE REICH, for one). Even if, for some reason, you want to hear somebody messing around in a studio, others have had more creative and interesting results (BRIAN ENO may be a good place to start).

...and that advice still stands if you're already a fan of Tubular Bells.

Report this review (#115827)
Posted Tuesday, March 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars For whom the bell tolls.

Oldfield's signature album is a prog classic, though it's a bit patchy in parts. Even still, it's one of the most impressive debut's of any artist. Those who are fans of instruments may surely find something in this album, as their is an array of instruments used to promising effect. Side 1 exceeds side 2 in quality.

Aside from the recognizable theme from the movie, Tubular Bells part 1 has many extraordinary and majestic passages. The closing buildup of all the instruments at the end is hypnotic, grooving, and easily stands out as the best passage. The guitarwork is quite simply exquisite and rare to find. Unfortunately, part 2 is much of a letdown. The "demonic" like voices are nothing short of laughable and cheesy, and ruin any timelessness the song might have had. The parts also seem unconnected and therefore lessens the impact the music might otherwise have. Perhaps a bit overrated as well given that following albums were much better and help from fame of the Exorcist gives it its status.

Despite some of the albums many faults, it is still a nice album that helped spawn many careers. Oldfield's Dark Side of the Moon, if you will.

Report this review (#116032)
Posted Thursday, March 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Enjoyable, accessible, melodic, "large" in all meanings and overrated. Mike has managed to mix together Symphonic Rock pompous attitude and easy-listening atmosphere. A music to relax to, the stuff later re-made by ENIGMA and dozens of new-agy performers (think of GANDAKF first). I even hear OLDFIELD's influences in recent bands like THE GIFT and KARFAGEN. It should mean, that the album is the same way important and essential as PINK FLOYD, GENESIS or KC ones, but I don't think about it this way. Just another good trip to fall asleep too. A music that won't irritate my mom and dad. A 50 minutes of guaranteed enjoyable background.

Recommended nevertheless. It's kinda Classic, even though not that much Proggy.

Report this review (#117828)
Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Kotro
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The Rise of Two Geniuses

Tubular Bells is a masterpiece - a raw project drafted and recorded within record time by a young genius; launched in a formed-for-the-purpose recording company, itself genially led by another ambitious young man. Mike Oldfield and Richard Branson pulled their heads together and the result is an album that competes with itself on two grounds, that of historical importance and musical quality - there are those who state the victory of one factor over the other, but to me, they are both perfectly justified: Tubular Bells is a five- star record, both for quality and influence. Influence even on Mike Oldfield subsequent albums: you cannot cease to hear Tubular Bells in albums so further apart as Hergest Ridge and The Songs of Distant Earth or Ommadawn and Crises (not to mention the whole array of T-Bells derivatives). Sure, that is nothing special about the use of the instrumentation, nothing groundbreaking. But it's the arrangement that matters here (and boy, is Mike good at that - take Voyager, for instance). It's not easy to make a complex, quality piece of music using simple chords and rhythms. Thank God this one worked out great.

Report this review (#120594)
Posted Wednesday, May 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I find this tough to rate; one one hand it is a major music milestone from the 70's, an album that it seemed had to be in everyone's collection, along with Dark Side of the Moon - a whole album with all (well almost all) instruments played by just one man; one long, continuous peice of music (except fo changing sides), varying from the sublime (the "Exorcist" bars that start the proceedings) to the plain ridiculous (the caveman bit). On the other hand, in the cold light of day some 30+ years on, it doesn't sound as good as a lot of other music from that era; there are some very weak spots in the composition; and whilst the playing is OK it isn't actually all that brilliant. So it has to be 3.5 stars...rounded up to 4 on the basis of nostalgia, and the fact that at the time, it really was one of THE albums to have. PS - thanks to the Daily Mail (which I wouldn't otherwise dream of buying!) for having this as a freebie some weeks ago); PPS Oldfield is a Grade A guitar player which this album doesn't really show. Try for example his solo on the final track on Robert Wyatt's "Rock Bottom".
Report this review (#123051)
Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Hercules
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Where it all began for Oldfield, Richard Branson and many prog fans. Tubular Bells exploded on the world in 1973 and I, like most students of the time, coughed up the Ł3.99 to add it to my collection even though I'd never heard it. And I loved it. I loved that one man could have played almost all the parts. I loved the rousing and occasionally silly melodies, the late, great Viv Stanshall doing his master of ceremonies act and most of all, I loved Piltdown Man on the second side. When drunk, I still can do a passable imitation over 30 years on. Looking back now, it's limitations are obvious. Some of the compositions don't link too well; it's a series of joined bits rather than one epic (same criticism could be applied to Thick as a Brick) and some of the musicianship is a bit dodgy, except of course his wonderful guitar work. And Piltdown Man is complete rubbish really. But there's plenty of variety so noone will get bored. Oldfield has never been completely consistent but several of his later albums were far better (QE2, Five Miles Out, Discovery and the Lake). I have never heard the remade versions and never will; I would once have given the original 4 stars but, older and wiser as I like to think I am, it now gets 3. Still great fun.
Report this review (#130408)
Posted Friday, July 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Aarrggggg ! The Bells !!!! The Bells !!!!

It may seem paradoxical that one of the most prosperous business empires would evolve from a piece of music written by an English teenager which was rejected by several top record companies because of it`s poor marketing prospects. It had no words, no drums and was for the most part a discordant collection of minimilistic meanderings.

Back in the old days of 1972 during a lull in in recording sessions with producer Tom Newman when 18 year old Mike Oldfield was recording with his group, The Arthur Lewis Band, he had a chance to laydown a demo track of this rejected music at the now famous Manor studio. After much coaxing, Newman convinced the then " virgin " Virgin Records president Richard Branson to release the finished product on his blossoming record label. The working title, Opus 1, was changed to Tubular Bells and the rest as we know now became things that legends are born of, Tubular Bells becoming one of the top selling albums of all time and Branson, because of this instictive decision, expanded his business conglamorate to include communications, railways,airlines and more recently flights into space for those who are made of money.

Fortunately you don`t have to be made of money to embrace some of the wonderful musical ideas which weaved their way out of the spooky introductory passage which was popularized by the 1974 horror film "The Exorcist". Whilst countless words have been written on this work, which is up there on the prog-rock obligatory scale with Dark Side Of The Moon, Foxtrot and In The Court Of The Crimson King, it is worth it to make some brief reflections and observations.

Following the extended classical suite format with a folk-rock twist, Tubular Bells didn`t really contain any revelations or breakthroughs but was innovative in the sense that a teenage kid took advantage of his ingenuity combined with what came natural to him to piece together a series of musical concepts which were not necessarily related, to paint themselves into one another with fluid dynamics and harmonious layering. In addition, he played almost the all the musical instruments which centered on his soft touches on the guitar and various keyboards. The sections would feature furious electric guitars, thunderous orchestral effects and primordial grunting noises in lieu of conventional vocals amongst the 30 or so musical instruments and devices he would employ throughout the 50 minute piece which would reach a high point with the majestic chimes on a set of tubular bells which Oldfield had located hanging around gathering dust in the Abbey Road studios. Perhaps the most interesting device which demonstrated the prodigous teenager`s creative gifts was what he called a " tape motor drive amplified organ chord "which was essentialy a crude tape loop experiment which actually worked, much to the amazement of the engineers at the Manor recording studio. It was the fact that he accomplished so much on his own that would take a whole orchestra or an array of modern synths to accomplish made it all the more wonderous. The listener had the sense that he/she was listening to some sort of magical music wizard. One might also say that he was in the right place and right time as Oldfield himself has stated many times. Much in the same way as J.K. Rowling was when she penned the first Harry Potter adventure.

Being as ambitious as it was from both a musical point of view as well as a technical one it is hardly suprising that the album was re-issued in 1974 using the quadrophonic sound option. Quadrophonic sound was a novelty which was being applied in particular to classical music recordings in the early `70s. Basically, it formatted 4 channels to fit into the groove of a vinyl disc and then decoded it on the playback mode back into 4 channels played on 4 separate loud speakers to achieve a wider more expansive sound. It was effective but the equipment was expensive and it had all but disapeared by 1979.

From an audiophile and historical point of view there are a few considerations to bear in mind regarding the Tubular Bells quad re-issues. The first 40,000 UK quad re-issues were not really quad but electronic simulations and it was only after this first 40,000 that the problem was rectified and all subsequent pressings contained bona fide quadrophonic sound. However, this was not indicated on the album jackets or labels! So one would actually have to playback one of these discs on a quad system to distinquish the improved pressings from the "fakes"! Tubular Bells also appeared as a picture disc in 1978 and for those who actually wanted to play it they would get a stereo remix of the quadrophonic reproduction!

The Tubular Bells concept has been reworked by Oldfield several times over the years including a full orchestral version with The Royal Philharmonic Orcestra in 1975. But, love it or loathe it, it is the original work which remains one of the most important pieces of modern music ever recorded and a must have for any progressive rock completist. What else, 5 stars.

Report this review (#130830)
Posted Monday, July 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Who would think that Bells could sound so good?

Here's an album that I'd put off buying for quite some time, threatened by the thought of a sheerly instrumental album by someone considered "pop" and "new age" by some. However, from the slow intro, to the Spanish guitar, to the ringing of the Tubular Bells, to the grumbly pre-death metal vocals in part 2 this album is quite a ride! Both Parts 1 & 2 have their moments of absolute brilliance, with the climax in part 1 (albeit with a few audible errors... maybe intentional?) being likely the peak of the album. Part 1 is a bit lower key and part 2 tends to experiment on the, well, experimental side ranging from pseudo-Canterbury sounding to full out evil achieved, usually, by the likes of the Crimson King or some form of VDGG that uses guitar.

Although at the time of writing this review I haven't heard any other Mike Oldfield albums I can say right now that this is a grand GRAND piece of work that demands listening. What's even nicer is that it goes from being listener-friendly to full out prog over the course of the album, so it's not one that take a hundred listens to get into (for me anyways).

4 Stars! Perhaps not essential, but I'd definitely recommend it to... well... anyone.

Report this review (#133405)
Posted Thursday, August 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars As much as it is tempting to be all revisionist and downplay the achievement of this album, it's only right that 'Tubular Bells' seminal influence on the progressive, folk, ambient and world music genres be acknowledged with a resounding five stars.

This oddity, comprised of two sides of instrumental music, one track per side, reached number 1 on the British charts and stayed in the charts for over five years, paralleling the success of PINK FLOYD'S 'Dark Side Of The Moon' - and, to me, it is every bit the equal of that much-lauded disc. There are those who argue that MIKE OLDFIELD is not a progressive artist, and he has been given the perjorative 'New Age' label. It's enough to note that within the first few minutes he makes use of timing in 15/8, 3/4, 4/4, and 7/8. By turns eerie, joyful, edgy and triumphant, the first side culminates in an eight-minute piece in which OLDFIELD runs through a tune using consecutive instruments, overlaying a building bass line. This dramatic conclusion is one of the premier moments in '70s prog, and is certainly one of the most well known. 'Plus ... tubular bells!' cries the announcer, and the bells ring in chills as OLDFIELD rounds off the first twenty-five minutes of music.

Like any dramatic piece of music, familiarity can breed contempt. It's easy after thirty-four years to forget the profound impact this music had on many members of a generation. When reviewing such a familiar and much-loved album, I try to listen to it with 'fresh ears': the act of writing this review has refreshed the sweep and grandeur of the music. I'm also aware of the album's sonic inadequacies, but these are more than corrected on the numerous remakes (including the 25th anniversary edition and the 2003 version).

Side two is pleasant enough, with long ambient sections sandwiched by some outstanding melodies not fully realised until the superior 'Tubular Bells II', but the reason to buy this album is the first side. One of the more difficult things about this album, and MIKE OLDFIELD'S music in general, is his offbeat sense of humour, expressed here in the grunts and screams of 'Piltdown Man.' OLDFIELD can't sing in tune, and this cheesy offering, halfway through side two, was the nearest he'd get to vocals until his third album. His prodigious talent on the guitar is showcased on 'Sailor's Hornpipe', the last section of the album.

So MIKE OLDFIELD found his voice, and a sophisticated and mature one at that, at the young age of nineteen. Of course, he'd been a professional musician for years before convincing Richard Branson to back this album, so this isn't really a first effort. But the enormous success of this record was, in an artistic sense, the worst possible thing that could have happened to this shy, reclusive man. I contend that he spent the rest of his career trying to emerge from the shadow of those damn tubular bells, and, of course, he never rediscovered this level of success. MIKE OLDFIELD will always be defined by this fifty minutes of music.

Report this review (#137823)
Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Tubular Bells was an amazing debut work for the great Mike Oldfield. It was the unexpected rookie home run that allowed this young man the chance to continue on with an amazing degree of artistic freedom. But it is not his best work and it's ironic that there are many people for whom this was the only Oldfield album they ever heard. It is historically important yes, and so long as that is noted it is not revisionist to point out that it is far from Mike's best.

I am right there with Sean Trane and James Lee that this is an overrated work that may be overflowing with musical ideas, but just having ideas and executing in a satisfying manner are two different things. So much of this album is full of little ideas, bits and pieces of things that are never entirely fleshed out. There are some very nice little melodies that appear from nowhere but they languish. And then you have the unfortunate and cheesy instrumental introductions and the caveman vocal to deal with, the kinds of things that may be fun once or twice but don't exactly enthrall listeners by their 50th spin. Oldfield would quickly learn that developing good melodic flow over the chaos of the TB approach would lead to more mature compositions. I really enjoy every album from Hergest Ridge through QE2 much more than I ever have Tubular Bells. All of them are more musically satisfying. These days I'll even take TB2 and TB3 over this one because they are much more fleshed out thematically as opposed to tinkering ad infinitum.

This won't be a popular opinion to those who see this album on the same level as Dark Side Of The Moon (or above it), but there are a few of us who believe Mike was still junior-varsity on this debut. Promising to be sure, but not there yet. 2 3/4 stars.

Report this review (#148074)
Posted Monday, October 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is so brilliant and inventive, with every listen I discover something new. There are spine-chilling moments, majestic moments, and even totally scary moments. Every twist and turn comes as an unexpected revelation, and just when you think you've heard it all, you hear... a sea shanty. WOW! This is a rock symphony in the truest sense of the word, with the emphasis on SYMPHONY. One of the most creative albums i've ever heard.
Report this review (#148198)
Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars I always smile at the perspective of an almost unknown 19 years old MIKE OLDFIELD going from label to label asking to release his album with only two 20+ minutes tracks and answering the question.Who plays with you? With a laconic: "I play almost every instrument."

After many expected rejections he found Richard Branson who with his new label (Virgin Records) was willing to support the ambitious project and catalogued it with the V2-001 number, the first album ever released by Virgin Records..

But it's even funnier to imagine all those guys who rejected him, pulling their hairs when William Friedkin bought the rights for "The Exorcist" and the album reached the United States being N° 1 in the charts even before officially in the market.

But lets go with the album.

"Tubular Bells" is not the best album in the music history, the most complex or the most spectacular, don't misunderstand me, it's a fantastic record and I believe a masterpiece, but the real merit is in "MIKE OLDFIELD" who had the courage to pursue a dream and wrote this incredibly weird album despite all the risks that the project would carry.

Part one is probably the best known by the people because the repetitive introduction created the perfect atmosphere for ""The Exorcist", the interesting fact is that it's not really a repetition of the same section over and over, it's more like successive variations over a same theme, because each time he comes back to the original chorus, he adds a new instrument or a chorus, it's an excellent arrangement that introduces us to his world.

After a few repetitions, suddenly comes the explosion, out of nowhere a distorted guitar solo takes the listener by surprise then everything becomes really complex and it's hard to follow the radical changes.

About the 16th minute everything gets weirder, a bass solo announces the unexpected and long final section when the perfect pronunciation of Vivian Stanshall starts to announce one by one each instrument that is added to the equation until the track reaches the climax with the tubular bells, simple and brilliant way to close part one.

Part two starts more calmed and even pastoral, the music flows gently giving Mike the chance to prove his versatility in some unusual instruments for Rock like Bagpipe sounding Guitars, Mandolin and Glockenspiel, but again he has something totally unexpected reserved.

About the 8th minute the wonderful dissonance starts and again out of nowhere some haunting voices that I would describe as Klingon Opera join the band, it's shocking but at the same time full of passion, strong and dramatic, even if the listener doesn't has the slightest idea why is anything there, you don't need to understand it, was made to be enjoyed by the adventurous listener.

But again a radical change comes, a calmed section only interrupted by short explosions of metallic guitars that prepares us for the even more unexpected final. An almost Baroque organ solo changes as magic into "The Sailor's Hornpipe" (Better known as the Popeye theme), sounds a bit odd in the context of the album, but the reality is different, originally this section was even weirder, because Viv Stanshall provided a comic narration (in his Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band style) as tour guide showing the listener around the Manor House where the album was recorded, but this was obviously too strange even for Richard Branson.

I simply love this album from the first to the last note, but as I said before, even more inmportant than the music itself (which as I also said is outstanding), the trascendence of this album goes way beyond in the fact that he dared to release it.

Five solid stars despite all the contradictory opinions I read over the years, at the end,this is my review and I rate it as I feel it.

Report this review (#152582)
Posted Saturday, November 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars MIKE OLDFIELD was only 20 when he produced this album, yet it has a lot musically in it. Sadly, the most interesting part of the album to me is the famous intro to Part I, which is well known from The Exorcist. I really enjoy the whole buildup of the intro, but the music in the rest of it gets a little bit boring at parts, and the production is far from perfect (which Mike later tried to fix by rerecording the entire album). I do however enjoy the repetitive ending section of Part I. I was never able to get into the second side of the album, I find it to be too slow for me, and nothing much really happens. I will still give this album a strong 3 Stars, because of those parts in it which I do really enjoy. Good, but non-Essential.
Report this review (#157160)
Posted Sunday, December 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Aaaaargh. "Tubular Bells". What to say about this one?

That only a musical genius could have done this while being only twenty years old? Maybe!

That the multi-layered instruments played by (almost) a single musician was extremely original in 1973? Probably!

That the hypnotic main theme automatically links the listener to one of the greatest movie ever? Certainly!

That there are some fantastic and melodic passages all along these almost fifty minutes of music? No doubt!

That Part Two is not as good as the Part One ? Obviously!

That Part Two took a hell of a time to be completed? Rightly!

That the great guy who refused Oldfield's work at EMI was fired while the album reached the UK charts? You bet!

That this album remains in the UK charts for over five years? Incredibly right!

That it took one year of being already in the charts to reach the first position? Amazingly true!

That "Tubular Bells" supplanted "Hergest Ridge" from this first spot? Astonishingly!

That the high ratings on PA are fully deserved? Definitely!

That four stars is my judgment? Accordingly!

There is little need to go deep into a detailed and technical description of this work. Other reviewers did this far much better as I could. I have listened to this album many times and can't really get bored with it even if I spin more the first part, obviously. IMHHO, it is a very fine piece of music. Influential, maybe self- indulgent but very well crafted and enjoyable. It sold over fifteen million copies worldwide (probably a record for an all instrumental work, but I have no confirmation of this).

Thanks Mike.

Report this review (#158363)
Posted Friday, January 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album's reputation is far bigger than the album. We are talking about one of the icons of the history of British recording industry. Last year, it was even been included as a free CD with one of the big newspapers here in the UK. So how do you approach an icon ? Walk around it and marvel at it's reputation ? Grind it down just to show that you are not in awe of this icon ? Or just take it for what it is; the debut album from Mike Oldfield ?

The opening minutes of this album, Part 1, is almost as iconic as a play by William Shakespeare. The music then settles into an acoustic bit with heavy use of mandolin. This part and most of this album has a New Age, medieval feel and some long stares back into the history of Great Britain. Well, that's the vibe I get. The music is good, although not superb. The track then ends with a variation of the opening minutes of this track. I rate the 25 five minutes long Part 1. I think it is good, although it sometimes loose it's way.

Part 2 is not as good as Part 1. The music tends to be forgettable and the introduction of electric guitars does not feel as good as the pretty acoustic part 1. The use of voices here does not particular please me either. It feels like another album than part 1.

When I do up the sums; I feel that the status of this album is far bigger than it's musical value. For me; it is only a 3 star album.

Report this review (#163451)
Posted Saturday, March 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I often wonder what my first encounter with prog was. It could well have been this one. I was fourteen years old when I first explored this with a classmate and we both agreed this was something special. When you are that young and hear something like this it has a deep impact on you. At least that's how it is with me. Even then I drew the conclusion that even though it was a quite monotonous and repititive piece of music it still had that special breath of class over it. The change of instruments all the time, it is a sort of build up in a perfect way that still has my admiration.

This is what you call essential music, to me it's the same sort of milestone as Oxygene by Jean Michel Jarre was. A breath of fresh air, highly original and something that was never done before. It's sheer nostalgia, I know, but it's the kind of experience you never forget. And still this whole song of praise for this piece of art doesn't have really something to do with the way I feel about it objectively. Because despite my nostalgic feelings I don't consider it a masterpiece musicwise, that is where my personal taste for prog music is concerned. All things considered it's just a notch less and so I will give it 4 stars.

A few words about Tubular Bells part II: I think this is the wrong title because there are no tubular bells in this epic and it hardly resembles part I. So I do'n't know why Mike Oldfield decided to this. I saw an interview with him on TV where he stated that part II is much better than part I. Well, what can I say. He is the master and composer, so he will be right. But it will never have the same impact on me as part I because of my personal history with that part. So in the end it's the ever applying conclusion about music and art in general: it's a matter of taste and that's the only truth.

Report this review (#163729)
Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Because of the second side, which is less interesting than the first, I don't give Tubular Bells an all-stars rating (it probably deserves 5 stars, but not for me). I don't think the 'caveman' (or 'piltdown', as credited in the sleeve) part is good, or even funny, it's just stupid. The end, with the Sailor's Hornpipe traditional, is a little bit unconsistant.

But the remainder, and especially all the first side/part, is absolutely wonderful. This is probably Mike Oldfield's most acclamed work. I know some of his albums (Crises, Ommadawn, Hergest Ridge, Discovery), and this is the one I prefer.

Report this review (#164148)
Posted Monday, March 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars MIKE OLDFIELD is not just an ordinary musician,he is most of all a pure artist of music.Born in 1953 in Reading,UK he learned acoustic guitar and formed the folk duo ''Sallyangie'' in 1967 along with his sister Angie.As time passed by,MIKE OLDFIELD turned to be a multi-istrumentalist composer and thus,he composed in early 70's a demo version of ''Tubular Bells''.Finally this album came out in 1973 by Richard Branson's Virgin Records.

Soon this well-crafted work topped the UK charts and part of it was used as a soundtrack for the horror-movie ''The Excorcist''.''Tubular bells'' consists of two side-long instrumental music pieces.The two compositions contain extended orchestrated sessions,a variety of used instrumentation,up- and down-beat grooves,spacey keyboards and a lot of changing atmospheres.From its pure rockin' moments and the symphonic hints to the new age feeling and the experimental mood,this work was a ground-breaking release back in 1973 and marked MIKE OLDFIELD as one of the most famous modern music composers ever.However,and despite its undenieable majesty,I found this work to be too ''electronic'' and ''mechanic'' to my ears...My appropriate rating is 3.5 stars...

Report this review (#166419)
Posted Saturday, April 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Mike Oldfield did a amazing job on this album. He composed the whole thing at a very young age and learned a lot of instruments. This is a very famous album and it's great that lot's of people have heard this. The 15/8 melody is really great and spooky. The only point is that I think it's not really one piece. Sometimes melodies (great melodies however) get out of nowhere. He could have maked it more subtle. It's very progressive, very inspiring, but not quite a whole. I would have given the record five stars, if he could create such wonderful melodies, but also with consistency in it. This is the reason i gave this record three stars.
Report this review (#174949)
Posted Monday, June 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
JLocke
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I have only recently heard this work for the first time, so maybe that's why I like it. Honestly, I think it's a masterpiece. People who complain about it usually cite the fact that it's been done to death by this point as their reasoning behind their dislike. Frankly, I think that's unfaifr. I mean, I've heard it for the first time and fell in love with it (Yes, like everyone else, I heard the first few opening minutes of the song that was used for the Exorcist movie, but other than that I was completely in the dark).

The first part is the better work, and the second part feels a bit drawn-out and pointlessly long at times. But, filler aside the album as a whole is very solid and beautiful. I have yet to hear anything else from the man, so I must be in for a treat, because I keep hearing that he has done better work than this, and this is already pretty damn good. The fact that he composed it all himself is equally impressive, then again I'm always a sucker for multi-talented musicians and composers (Steve Wilson, Peter Gabriel, and others, now including Mr. Oldfield!).

This review is shorter than most that I have written, because honestly there isn't a very good way to describe part for part what this record does to me as I listen to it. I recommend to listen to it and decide for yourself if all the hype is well-deserved. I think it is. After all, just because something is commercially successfull doesn't automatically make it not good. It just means a prog artist in this case has managed to equally captivate prog-heads and lay people alike. That in itself is an impressive feat. To me, that's further proof that TUBULAR BELLS is an excellent addition to any collection. Is it essential? Probably not, but you sorely will be missing out if you never even give it a try.

Happy Listening.

Report this review (#180721)
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars One of the albums you must buy before you die - but does it live up to the hype?

Tubular Bells remains one of the best debuts for an artist in music history - a man had a dream and pursued it vigorously and Oldfield's almost obssessive attention to detail on this album is staggering.

It begins with the trademark theme that was later used as atmosphere for the chilling Exorcist movie. Then the guitars kick in and the awesome bass lines, all played by the great man himself. The track gets into weird territory about 16 minutes in and transports the listener to another realm. The sound is incredible and even though it is bombastic, it is so endearing and intelligently crafted it hits the listener right between the eyes.

It seems to mesmirize with every listen with hypnotic effect encapsulating all that is great about prog rock - the wierd off kilter time signatures, the lengthy sections of overture, the use of a variety of instruments, and the melody that haunts with every listen.

One of my favourite sections is when Oldfield introduces each new instrument - it has the potential to be mocked of course, and indeed has been, however it is quite compelling to listen to each instrument chiming in including Mandolin, glockenspiel, up to the Tubular Bells sound itself. So familiar has this theme become it brings with it instant recognition par excellence. I would give if 5 stars except track 2 is not quite as endearing as the rest of this effort. The hornpipe section is OK but strangely annoying, with its foreign worldy sound, I prefer the space rock futuristic style personally.

Oldfield triumphs on this album and it has been sequelled numerous times, but this is the quintessential CD for instrumental music. Beautiful, haunting, compelling and played with musical virtuosity.

Report this review (#188738)
Posted Monday, November 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
MovingPictures07
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Who hasn't heard the opening few minutes to this album? This surprisingly successful album is quite a piece of work, yet it is not Oldfield's highest achievement.

Interestingly enough, my CD version has only 1 track (not the 2 parts), so I'll keep it as one track. 1. Tubular Bells (Parts 1 and 2)- Oldfield is an amazing multi-instrumentalist and it shows here. Considering his inexperience, this really is a great release. The musicianship is great, the production is good for its time, and the ideas are interesting and fresh. Hearing the vast amount of instruments that Oldfield is proficient with and composes on the album is impressive. The songwriting, however, is good but not fantastic. This is where the piece does not warrant its place upon Oldfield's 5-star masterpieces. The parts really have an overall disjointed feel to them and some parts are not as interesting as others. The segment where Oldfield introduces each instrument and then plays the themes is actually pretty intriguing and enjoyable, but is representative of how the whole track feels. SO close to being a complete piece but tending to feel like a bunch of good songs put together that sometimes connect pretty well but other times not as well. Nonetheless, I can't be too critical of this song because it really is good. It's just not perfect. 8/10

For historical purposes, you should probably hear this album. Additionally, this is definitely an excellent addition to any progressive rock collection!

However, it is not a masterpiece. If you want Oldfield's most glorious masterpieces, check out Ommadawn and Amarok. Not too bad of a starting point though and the music is great.

Report this review (#191141)
Posted Sunday, November 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars Intriguing, iconic and an impressive effort from someone who decides to make an album all by himself at that age. All true of course, and yet I feel it's necessary to mention the all-important "yes, but." that arises upon hearing Tubular Bells.

Seeing as the views regarding album is pretty much divided between those who consider it excellent and fascinating and those who think it's not (when you don't take the qualities mentioned above into consideration), it's really tough to tell where a potential new listener will end up.

First things first. What you can expect is quite boundary-less music, freely moving between familiar sounds of rock, folk, symph and/or classical. As such it's not an album that challenges by being new and exciting, but rather more as being something that's well-executed and pleasing. Count on drawn-out atmospheric pieces with pulsing and flowing sound being what you really remember after playing it without really focusing on breaking the sound apart. It's never really far from the ill-defined ethnic, folk symph-electronics that fall within the umbrella term of new-age music. Upon second or third listening you'll really appreciate the often humble and sweet (at times even dreamy) melodies and applaud the sprinkling, clear and sparkly keys and percussion that permeates much of the sound. Perhaps your interest is piqued by the non-intrusive but nicely complementary guitar work. Altogether it's a lightweight, somewhat shallow (due to both the instrumentation and structure - I often miss more textural and rhythmic backing) but still strangely rich piece of music.

But then (there's the ugly word, yes), when spinning it for the fourth or fifth time, and finally can start to digest it as a whole, some ugly truths could start becoming apparent. Many of the segments are stretched really thin, with a minimum of overlaying changes to cover up this fact. Given the conceptual nature of the album, it's understandable that there is a certain amount of recycling of themes going on, but it really becomes rather grating after a while, when the initial excitement vanishes. The best example of this is perhaps the outdrawn segment where the tubular bells themselves are given a triumphant countdown via a number of different instruments playing the same motif over the same basic underlying pattern - time after time after time. Understandably a great and in-your-face way for Mike Oldfield to show his multi-instrumentalism in the most tangible way possible, but rather naďve and non-rewarding for the listener. There are a number of equally questionable parts and segues scattered through the album, two of them being the times when Oldfield in the name of dynamics shatter the atmosphere by rocking out with some badass riffs; the first time plagued by the horrible distorted guitar sound of this album, the second made even worse via nonsense semi-growls.

But (now in a reconciling manner) I still like it more than dislike by the end of the day. When it's successful it's really successful, and it masks its structural straightforwardness, familiar melodies and even a good number of hooks under a delightfully applied layer of musical make-up.

3 stars.

//LinusW

Report this review (#191843)
Posted Thursday, December 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Are the tubular bells the kings among instruments?

Tubular Bells was Mike Oldfield's first release on his own and he was very young at the time. To (probably) everyone's surprise, this somewhat immature work became a giant commercial success. Nobody quite knows why this struck a chord with the public, but it did. The idea, or concept, behind Tubular Bells seems to have been to fit every musical instrument and almost every style of music known to man intro a single piece of music. The result is, not surprisingly, more than a bit disjointed. There are some very good and memorable passages, but also quite a few false starts and silly ideas. I fail to see any overall structure of the piece; rather, it goes from one theme to the other without really connecting them together in some intelligible way. I think it is fair to say that Mike's success was a bit premature and, even if this was his commercial peak, he had yet to reach his musical peak.

The worst parts are the silly spoken introductions of the instruments and the "growling" vocals. These parts are really ridiculous! Yet, with all these flaws, Tubular Bells is still a classic and it remains a reasonably enjoyable listen from time to time. I hesitate to assimilate this with progressive Rock though.

Mike did better later on.

Report this review (#200868)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The original album in what appears to be an ongoing franchise was an odd piece of music even in the free-wheeling 1970s. And today it's no less hard to understand how such a curious mishmash of mood and style could have been a huge international success. A good deal of credit (to Mike Oldfield's chagrin, I'm sure) goes to William Friedkin, who wasn't yet familiar with the music of TANGERINE DREAM when he filmed "The Exorcist".

Approaching such an influential work with fresh ears might have been difficult, but here's a shameful confession: until recently I never actually heard the entire album, start to finish (the ubiquitous popularity of the thing was reason enough for a teenaged Prog Snob like me to shun it back in the '70s). So what's my belated first impression? There's a lot to admire here, but the album strikes me as nothing more than a novelty item: a one-man studio band of only loosely related themes and ideas, designed and organized for no other reason except to showcase the multi-instrumental prowess of the composer.

This becomes more or less explicit in the climactic passage of Part One, where each of Oldfield's instruments is introduced in sequence. Every addition to the short, repeated motif is identified by 'master of ceremonies' Vivian Stanshell, building in gradual layers to an ecstatic apotheosis of sound with the final appearance of the percussion named in the album's title. It's a dramatic finale, to be sure, but it properly belongs at the end of Part Two, where it might have provided a more fitting resolution to the album than the tongue-in-cheek "Sailor's Hornpipe".

Part Two (the original album did not employ sectional sub-titles) has to then re-engage the listener's interest from scratch, an easier proposition on a vinyl LP needing to be flipped over. This latter half flows together in a calmer, less thematically disjointed fashion, despite the comic relief caveman grunts (a comment by Oldfield on Neanderthal rock 'n' roll manners in the 1970s?) And then there's the unexpected nautical non-sequitur of an ending, recalling the soundtrack to an old AAP cartoon.

One thing is certain: record buyers must have been more adventurous back in the '70s. But in the long run the overwhelming success of the album might have done Oldfield more harm than good: he's been dragging it around like a gold-plated ball and chain for over three decades now. Still, it remains an essential artifact (for better or worse) of the era. And I can (now accurately) say no self-respecting Proghead should miss it, if only for historical perspective. Better late, so forth.

Report this review (#203929)
Posted Saturday, February 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Tubular Bells is the debut full-length studio album by UK progressive rock artist Mike Oldfield. The album was an instant succes and propelled Mike Oldfield to superstardom. The album spend more than five years on the British charts and even peaked at number one for a while before being pushed away from that place by Mike Oldfield´s second album Hergest Ridge (1974). A quite rare and spectacular honour. The album has today sold an estimated 15 - 17 million copies. It´s also worth mentioning that Tubular Bells was the first ever release on the Virgin label ( a bit more adventurous back then it seems).

There are two side-long tracks on the album called Tubular Bells part 1 and 2. The music is slow building and a bit repetitive to my ears. Ambient but not in the respect that nothing happens because there are plenty of layers in the music. Piano, guitars, bass and synths play seperate complimenting melodies most of the time. But maybe it´s the ( almost) total lack of drums that gives the music it´s ambient feel. About 10 minutes into part 2 there´s drums though and something that actually sounds like rock music. Mike Oldfield is clearly a skilled composer and musician ( he plays almost everything on the album) and some of the sections in the songs are very cleverly build. To my ears ( and I know others feel differently about it) the songs seem too fragmented though and I miss the feeling that this is two cohesive songs that are composed to be songs. To me this sounds like a lot of small melodic sections put together. It´s more of an experiment than a musical composition which is only emphasised by Vivian Stanshall´s recitation of which instruments are being added to the mix at the end of part 1. I feel like I´m being educated more than entertained.

The production is enjoyable but the sound on the distorted guitar sounds horrible to my ears.

As an experiment Tubular Bells more than succeeds but as a cohesive musical composition I´m not so sure my criterias for what makes good music is met in full. A 3 star rating is fair IMO but I fully understand those who love this album to death. It is a unique piece of art. Just not really to my taste.

Report this review (#205482)
Posted Thursday, March 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars After 35+ years, a neophyte to Mike Oldfield's debut might be excused for wondering what the fuss was about. After all, didn't JADE WARRIOR, TANGERINE DREAM, BRIAN ENO, et al do more convincing sprawling, ambient compositions? Wasn't PHILIP GLASS the original "rock" minimalist? Weren't the 80s deluged with new age dross? Didn't death metal bands do much better growls? Didn't BIG COUNTRY play guitars that sounded like bagpipes? Isn't the sea shanty at the end someone else's tune? I could go on, but the comparisons quickly veer into absurdity when one considers that this album appeared in 1973 and was essentially a first in so many of these areas for a popular artist. Add to it the fact that Oldfield consummately played virtually every instrument and at 19 had mastered the point of 25 minute compositions, to blend seemingly disparate segments into a seamless whole, a lesson for most of today's neo artists. And, for the record, there are no synthesizers on TB.

Nonetheless, this is not a perfect work by any stretch, and I am quick to point out parts that have not aged all so well. I also don't simply award 5 stars to a work for pioneer status. Imitators can improve upon innovators, and Mike Oldfield is a case in point. While many of his musical ideas began here, he explored each more deeply in subsequent albums. But to understand this, one must go to the source, a splayed sweeping amalgamation of musical ideas, many of which I covered above, but including every manner of guitar style from sweetly plucked acoustic to raunchy leads, repetitive loops of melodies that interweave in a courtly dance. Just when you think you've got it down, something comes at you from the side and keeps it all interesting. True, the introduction of dozens of instruments as band members is not a keeper, but the ambient organ sounds prior to "Sailor's Hornpipe" are the essence of profound new age reflections, before it got all too glossy and superficial over a decade later.

Ultimately, TB is a hard album to rate because, while it is an undeniable masterpiece, it casts its net just a bit too wide, almost as if Mr Oldfield feared that he might not get another chance. In the case of these bells, I've lost track of and interest in all the versions. Start here.

Report this review (#205584)
Posted Friday, March 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
CCVP
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Painfully underrated milestone of progressive rock

It really amazes me that such an important album to progressive rock in general like Tubular Bells have so many negative reviews. This album was not only Mike Oldfield's biggest commercial hit, but also the album that made Virgin Records possible, since it sold so many copies, specially in England, and an undeniable cultural reference for the decade, specially because Tubular Bells part 1 was in The Exorcist soundtrack against Oldfield's wishes, but that is another story.

A possible reason for this album being so ill-fated and have so many mixed opinions amongst reviewers is that it has some kind of complex simlicity that cannot be easily percieved by all. Let me explain that: unlike other great prog bands, like ELP, Yes and Genesis, who delivered beautiful and yet incredibly hard-to-be-played music, Mike Oldfield was able to make great music that was actually simple. He just used simple melodic lines and played with them using some variations and many different instruments , at least in part 1. However, since he added many different variations of a simple melodic line, the music, in the end, became complex as a whole.

In part 2 Mike is a bit more experimental than in part 1, becuase he mix a bigger amount of different music genres and instruments together. Despite that, the song is not hard or difficult to listen nor it is very complex, pretty much like part 1.

Another reason why Tubular Bells has so many mixed opinions about it is the lack of the rock factor in the album. Indeed, it is hard to understand why this album, and many other Mike Oldfield albums, are listed as belonging to the rock genre if they don't have that rock feeling. Anyway, instead of doing rock music, mister Oldfield decided to create a pleasant landscape of sounds (could this be a sonicscape?) with rock instruments, like electric (and distorted) guitars, electric bass guitars, synthesizers, etc.

Yet another reason for the low grade is that this albums is Oldfield's most well-known album and, because of it, it is obvious that a larger amount of people that don't like his work will listen Tubular Bells and consequently will give it a low grade.

Grade and Final Thoughts

Why an amazing album that is a milestone of progressive rock has such a low grade i will probably never know, but one thing is clear to me: Tubular Bells is a masterpiece. This is one album that you can enjoy at any time you play it, showing how brilliant Mike Oldfiled was in his early days. One of the easiest 5 stars ratings I ever gave.

Report this review (#211636)
Posted Saturday, April 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars Tubular Bells was an innovative and wonderful experiment at the time of its release. Nobody before had ever utilized such a clever use of multitracking and instrument playing by one person before.

But does that make this good music? Not really.

Sure, everyone's familiar with the all-too-eerie beggining of Pt. 1, which is an excellent theme by the way, but it repeats itself all too much. And in an attempt to be symphonic in structure and composition, Mike Oldfield goes on too many tangents at once. He feels that he has to build the piece incredibly slowly, and utilize an instrument only once until the outro when everything comes together for even more repetition.

Pt. 2 doesn't fare much better. It is far more repetitive, and the 'piltdown man' vocals that Oldfield uses midway through the track don't improve the song at all, and are in fact a failed immature experiment. The ending is somewhat neat, in a rapid accelerando of 'Sailor's hornpipe'.

This album is a milestone in terms of how it was made and the experiments made on it. Musically, however, it doesn't fare very well. Prog fans may be eager to get it for the innovation found on Tubular Bells, but they should know what they are getting themselves into.

Report this review (#218096)
Posted Sunday, May 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Mike Oldfield was never Prog to me, but ever since the day I found progarchives, and read the reviews, Mike Oldfield really became prog to me.

Tubular Bells is Mike Oldfield's most famous work, with it's main theme being featured in the horror movie, "The Exorcist". Tubular Bells' theme is a piano riff in 15/8 time, a very complicated time often used by heavy Prog bands (very progressive, not the sub-genre). The song later transforms to a very weird combination of parts for around 12 minutes, until finally reaching the last 5 minutes of part 1. Except for the main piano theme, the last 5 minutes of Part 1, also known as the Introduction Phase, are the most famous part of Tubular Bells. (Vivian) Stanshall, the Master of Ceremonies, starts introducing instruments, until the whole thing becomes an orchesta, then the last minute features a fade out of all instruments but the acoustic guitars and a female a capella, which continue until the end of Part 1.

Part 2 is only half as famous as Part 1, as no section of Part 2 has anything more special than the other whole album prog songs out there. Part 2 is just like the middle of Part 1, featuring no specific pattern for a long amount of time, but short patterns, of around 3 minutes per section.

Overall, Tubular Bells is a masterpiece and must be bought by everyone who hs yet to purchase this album. It makes all the other 1-song double-sided albums much clearer, and helps understand the meaning of real Prog.

BUY IT PEOPLE!

Report this review (#225041)
Posted Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
poslednijat_colobar
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Unpolished potential masterpiece.

There is very much to be said about this album. It's the beginning of one significant career in the world of multi-instrumentalist musicians. Tubular Bells remains the most well-known album by Mike Oldfield, but it's quite far from his best works. I'd grown up with its successor - Tubular Bells II and it is one of my all-time favourite albums and the best of Mike Oldfield. So I've decided to hear it's famous predecessor and I'm truely not impressed.

These two albums are very similar in terms of songwriting as the names show, but the biggest difference come when we speak about the musicianship and the production of the album. If they are perfect in Tubular Bells II, in Tubular Bells they are just amateur. It is not so surprising for a debut album of musician - debutant, who want to play all the instruments on the record. This album contains the biggest variation between songwriting and musicianship in favour of songwriting I've ever heard.

So, it's time for my main thesis of this review - if this album was preformed by a band (for example - Supertramp) it would be just unique... Mike Oldfield probably came to this conclusion only two years later and materialize this obligatory project with The Orchestral Tubular Bells. he do this not with a rock band, but with an orchestra - just a fantasy...

Recommended for crossover prog fans, but I advise you - just try the orchestral version and you won't regret. For now 3 stars.

Report this review (#247806)
Posted Monday, November 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I guess that for a lot of younger progheads, coming to this album years after its issue, might well feel that it was overrated. However, when taken in its historical context, it deserves to be regarded as an all-time classic. I still vividly remember hearing it for the first time on the radio, and beingexcited by the sounds and concept of the album. It was a truly progresssive album in its time and while it has been surpassed many times, it still sounds fresh and innovative now. A final warning to prog-metal vocalists- don't sound like 'Piltdown Man'. Too many do!
Report this review (#261721)
Posted Wednesday, January 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
Kazuhiro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Pursuit and details of musical directionality of Virgin Records established in 1972. And, the artist including Gong and Faust goes forward Virgin Records. A fatal meeting Virgin Record was done of course in shape that this Mike Oldfield also gets on the flow. For both to agree exactly, the pursuit of the music character that this album expressed and meeting of label might have carried everything before one the market through music.

Sales of this album were valuable income sources for Virgin Records of just establishment. And, the creation of music for Mike Oldfield to listen in this album might already be exactly a set of the sound that should be called the top. And, it is guessed that done consistent theme and meaning are the appearance of the environment, the situation, and the creation where Mike Oldfield is placed in this album. As for various elements projected to this album, a lot of memories of him and the parts based on the environment might be included.

Mike Oldfield paired Folk Duo with the elder sister at 14-year-old time and acted. However, the range in the place of the activity of music is gradually expanded by the confrontation and the dissension and it moves. And, the situation connected with the base of this album for Mike Oldfield visits. The invitation and participation in The Whole World by which Kevin Ayers was on the register will have been preparations to a surely new creation.

It is said that Mike Oldfield absorbed the element of minimal from David Bedford by this situation. And, the element of Folk and Rock that Mike Oldfield originally has is woven and the original music character is constructed gradually. Competing and the situation with Kevin Ayes might have exactly run to the prototype of this album. And, Mike Oldfield begins the production of the demo tape of about 50 minutes at this time. The reaction of label to the sales promotion of this demo tape was not so good. However, Richard Branson that tries the offer of music along with the establishment of Virgin Records contacts receipt Mike Oldfield this tape. And, Mike Oldfield begins the production of a new work along with the contract of Virgin Records.

This album was produced with the studio for the recording that Virgin records had owned. Mike Oldfield has introduced various musical instruments for the recording of this album. And, it played a musical instrument voluntarily. It is said that the work for coming in succession and the composition of the sound reaches about 2300 times. The recording and the work said that it started in June, 1971 are done very deliberately. And, this album is announced through the work of the recording and the edit in May, 1973.

There is an opinion made that the theme that Mike Oldfield should express it in this album is music based on his put environment, nature, and experience, too. He calls the content of this album and is making remarks, "Feelings entered too much". And, it is said that mental directionality was reflected in the album as an expression of the music character since this album. However, opening the music that he had done in this album will have been exactly establishment of music by opening the self-consciousness. The level that was this album might already have been established to his music character. The music expressed in this album might be appearance of the involved consideration of height and Mike Oldfield of the perfection.

"Tubular Bells Part 1" starts by development that there is a tension in the melody of the repeated keyboard. The repetition of seven rhythms and eight rhythms is complete. Melody of guitar in close relation to flow with transparent feeling. Construction of grand sound with piano and glockenspiel. Development that flows intensely. The composition with expression of feelings might be splendid. Feelings are opened. Sound of organ in close relation to acoustic part. The scene might be described well. Shift to part of stroke with guitar and repeated melody. The construction of the melody that calls coming in succession and the impression of musical instruments used might succeed as a challenge to an exactly grand theme.

As for "Tubular Bells Part 2", the music character that Mike Oldfield exactly has might be remarkably reflected. And, uniting the melody with the keyboard might be one result of his attainment exactly and establishment. Construction and development with beautiful guitar and piano. A pastoral flow continues. Coming in succession of the melody and the sound in which nature was felt might have been considerably calculated. The part of Folk where it gets on a steady rhythm and the contribution of the keyboard are progressive. Part of introduction of progress of good Chord and effective voice. Development and the flow with fast and slow are splendid.

This album might certainly have contributed to respect of sales. However, it might have had zeal and the creativity that Mike Oldfield had poured into this album in the place where listener's category had already been exceeded.

Report this review (#265780)
Posted Friday, February 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Tubular Bells is the first in a strong batch of albums by multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield. It contains two continuously flowing musical pieces with a floksy-acoustic feel and an entirely original sound and approach.

Oldfield's musical roots can be traced back to the Canterbury scene, where he co-operated with Kevin Ayers's solo project the Whole World. Oldfield's debut somehow continues the typical warm and smooth sound and the lightly jazzy atmosphere. Especially the extended guitar noodling at the start and in the second half of part 2 have that soft texture and also remind me of Camel's later instrumental album The Snow Goose. The piece has a humorous or at least intentionally humurous bit in the middle and at the end that breaks the mood for me. This first part is more consistent then the second but suffers from the shrill electric guitar sound. The intro has reached world fame as it was used in the well-known horror picture The Exorcist and the ending crescendo is another well known classic.

Because of its status and historical importance, 3 stars is a bit disrespectful, but there are too much ill-fitting experiments with both sound and song development to be a 4 star album. If you would not own any Oldfield album yet, I certainly wouldn't recommend Tubular Bells as a starting point. Better take one of the ensuing albums instead.

Report this review (#267424)
Posted Monday, February 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I won't hesitate when I say that Tubular Bells has become something of a farcical album in the world of progressive rock, like a joke. My deliberation is that this, Oldfield's first opus, is a landmark in both mainstream pop music AND progressive rock music.

There's no doubt that Mike Oldfield's 1973 chef d'oeuvre has an abundance of progressive musical ideologies; however, its colossal commercial success (which was due almost entirely to its inclusion in William Friedkin's '73 film the Exorcist) has seemingly disillusioned many prog listeners' opinions of the album.

Although the production isn't particularly consummate and certain segments are arguably unlistenable, the overall feel of the album is extraordinary.

The innovation here is quite astonishing as well; no other 48-minute, entirely instrumental rock album was written and composed entirely by one single composer and contained use of over 20 instruments in its entirety.

I think my rating here is clear and justifiable.

A+

Report this review (#273334)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
thehallway
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Some good music, but no clear thematic cohesion.

I've always liked this album, but could never LOVE it as much as some people do, mainly because I just don't know where it's going. Fair enough, it's a debut, but given the number of songs and the length of each of these, you would expect there to be some sort of theme or concept upon which this suite was constructed.

There isn't.

It's just music. Which is a good thing in terms of reviewing the sound, but a bad thing in terms of focus and direction. I, like most prog-heads, could happily sit through the 20-minute suites of Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, etc. Those songs have at least one thing to say. And even the lengthy epics without lyrics, have relevant musical divisions and some sort of conceptual goal. 'Tubular Bells' has no lyrics, no concept, no point, and it is named after a random instrument that's used sparingly towards the end of Part 1. And it can't even be forgiven in a classical or compositional sense, as none of the musical themes in part 1 and 2 are even similar, and nothing is repeated even within each side. It's very linear, which given the lack of a unifying theme, suggests that Oldfield literally "made it up as he went along". I believe such a method of creation (no matter how original or innovative) is sloppy and prevents a lot of potential enjoyment that could be had from an album with predominantly GOOD music. The music is good, often very emotive, but each theme passes by never to return again, and nothing has a point to it.

I like listening to this album in a passive, "background" kind of way, but I could never enjoy it in the same way as anything else of similar quality, because it has no completeness. It's like watching a film where each scene is very rewarding and of high-quality, but none of the scenes make sense in the presence of each other and the whole movie has no narrative. That would be a good, but limiting experience. Such is true of 'Tubular Bells'. And whilst I can appreciate the fact that Oldfield plays all the instruments himself, I think that hiring some musicians would have helped turn this linear experiment into an actual album, a concept one or otherwise.

If you thought the cover artwork was random, expect the same from the music...

Report this review (#279711)
Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Some albums just rub you the wrong way. Tubular Bells is one of those with me.

Do you wonder what would happen if you had the band room to yourself in middle school? I think this is what happened with Mike Oldfield. Hey, listen to the cool sound I can make with this wood block! Listen to this to this little tune I just came up with! Isn't that great?! How about this sound---it's called a tubular bell! Neat!

(The irony for me is that Richard Branson encouraged this and somehow made the resulting album a cult classic. I attribute this more to marketing than musical quality.)

Imaging sampling these bits together into one "song" and calling it an album. That's honestly what Tubular Bells sounds like to me.

Of course, I'm over-simplifying. Oldfield could play decent guitar, and he was young, which meant there was plenty of potential to make meaningful contributions, which I think he has to progressive rock. However, that doesn't turn his early cutting room floor droppings into great music, even if there were indeed some diamonds in the rough in those cuttings.

The notoriety of this album brings home 2 major points for me: 1.) marketing works: an attractive young man with the novelty of playing numerous instruments can sell; and 2.) there is a larger market for prog, but most people just don't get exposed to the best stuff in the right context.

I'm not trying to tear this album apart, because it sparked some good things to happen after. I should also note that I'm not a fan of ambient music, so that could bias my rating. That said, this is one of very few prog albums that I simply would not buy again if I could do it over.

Report this review (#285137)
Posted Saturday, June 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars The first time I heard anything from this record, it was an excerpt featured on the first Pure Moods anthology (insert embarrassed emoticon here). I occasionally enjoy this album, but it certainly shows a degree of inexperience (and drunkenness). It sounds like several unrelated pieces glued together. Yet most of these segments have a pleasant sophistication to them.

"Tubular Bells (Part 1)" That main theme is a well-known one, having been used as the theme for The Exorcist (a film which, at the time of this writing, I still have yet to view). It is eerie and unsettling. The gradual layers of sound build until the piece becomes more fanciful than haunting, like seeing horrific eyes in the darkness, but as the sun rises, discovering that they are only cute, whimsical forest creatures. Bringing the main theme into a major key has this very effect. One of my criticisms of early Oldfield is his electric guitar tone. It is the worst tone I think I've ever heard. Speaking of which, the piece becomes eccentrically cabaret midway through- just gaudy in every respect and flaunting that horrible tone. The music practically fades out in a sleepy manner after this, bringing in an equally drowsy acoustic guitar passage. A new theme abruptly follows- this is the beginning of a repetitive yet climactic ending whereupon master of ceremonies Vivian Stranshall names each new instrument. The classical guitar revises the opening theme.

"Tubular Bells (Part 2)" The opening of the second half begins a journey that is more symphonic at first. Lovely acoustic guitar and keyboard weave a majestic musical affair. Even when the shoddy electric guitar comes in, the piece still exudes magnificence. However, it abruptly becomes prehistoric- and appropriately so. Allegedly Oldfield became angry about Richard Branson wanting a segment with lyrics to release as a single, and the musician stormed away, got drunk, and recorded the nonsense growling, grunting, shrieking and wailing during the "Piltdown Man" passage. Even if that's the case, rebellious drunkenness does not always serve as a brilliant muse, and the entire album suffers greatly because of that of one passage- it's like creating a lovely painting only to cut it multiple times with a serrated knife. Fortunately, what follows is a return to the gentleness that came before, this time exploring in psychedelic fashion with organ and multiple beautiful guitars. And then, to ruin things not once but twice, there's the "Sailor's Hornpipe" bit, which became a staple of Oldfield's live performances as he could reach incredible tempos with it. But I'll be damned if it isn't goofy.

Report this review (#288912)
Posted Friday, July 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It seems like the public at large is always looking for something new and different, a new hero to adore. And that's certainly true when we're talking about music. Think of all the bands and songs that you couldn't get enough of when you were in your teens. Yet as time passes by we are often embarrassed that we were so into these songs and bands. This is especially true when it comes to pop music as the flavour of the month slowly turns sour as the years go by. It's almost as if the planets were aligned when 19 year old Mike Oldfield released this album on Virgin Records in 1973. This was Virgin Records first release and it would make both Mike and the label famous and very successful. Listening to this album for the first time recently made me scratch my head as to why it became a number one hit and at the same time stay on the charts for years. It's not that I don't like it or think it's not that good. Quite the contrary actually, I just marvel that music fans fell in love with this progressive album that isn't the least bit commercial sounding. It has stood the test of time very well in my opinion. I like it a lot. Many Oldfield fans will disagree with me but all you really need from Mike is this album,"Ommadawn" and "Hergest Ridge". The rest that follow aren't nearly as good in my opinion. The three I mention all contain two side long suites.

The first time I ever heard this album mentioned was back in 1977 or 1978. Our Geography class was going down to Toronto for a "field trip" and at some point in the afternoon we all had 2 to 3 hours to do whatever we wanted. Most students went to check out a movie while my friend and I hit the record shops. I bought "A Farewell To Kings" and LED ZEPPELIN's "IV" on vinyl. As we went back to board the bus the teacher asked what I bought so I showed him. He really didn't react much at all except for barely a polite smile and gave them back. The girl behind me had bought Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" and the teacher went on and on about how amazing it was. I remember thinking at the time "I have no idea who Mike Oldfield is but there's no way he's better than RUSH or ZEPPELIN". And yes I still feel tha way. I always remembered this album because of that incident though and it feels really good to finally spend some time with it.

It does feel more stitched together than the two that follow but it doesn't bother me at all because it's all so well done. In fact this is a pleasure to sit down and listen to. Easily 4 stars.

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Posted Sunday, July 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Retired Admin
5 stars Being a lover of long tracks, i purchased Tubular Bells purely on the fact that it ran for nearly 50 minutes. But, when I first played through the long track, I was blown away. The incredible musicianship, spectacular instrument array used, the technique, it was all surreal to me. I absolutely loved the whole song. Vivian Stanshall's voice at the end of part 1 makes a very ceremonial-like experience as he announces the various instruments. Part 1 is far better, in my view, than part 2, with more memorable melodies, such as the classic Exorcist theme. Part 2 does open with a great bass solo, though, which is nice. One odd part of part 2 is about halfway through there is a "vocal" part of weird deep growling-ish German-sounding voicings. This alienates you from the track a bit.
Report this review (#292737)
Posted Friday, July 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Not many people seen an album like this coming. Fresh out of Kevin Ayers' band, where he mostly played bass, Oldfield recorded this album when he was 20. The reason this album was so popular had a lot to do with the opening theme being used in the film The Exorcist. Even if that film never existed the opening here would still be one of the best starts to any album. Christian Vander accused Oldfield of ripping off MDK but I don't quite understand the logic behind that. Two totally different albums to me. Oldfield here plays most of the instruments, but is helped out here and there. The one-man-band concept was nothing new (both Paul McCartney and Todd Rundgren had already attempted it), but few of those albums succeeded as well as Tubular Bells.

This album is enjoyable but Mike would do better. I never liked how Part 1 ended. Such a letdown after what came before. Part 2 starts off better but it's not as interesting as the beginning of Part 1. The "Sailor's Hornpipe" section at the end of the album is a nice touch. It makes the album end on a high note. I don't mind the introduction of the instruments part. Dated maybe, but it's a nice addition. If you were even slightly curious as to what a "slightly distorted guitar" sounded like, you need to hear this part. My favourite part of the whole album is the "caveman" part. Many hate it but I think it's brilliant. It's the only part of the album where you hear Mike rock out. The oddball grunted vocals are the icing on the cake. I love in the middle of this part where Mike plays some Canterbury-style fuzz-bass. Sweet. It's mostly guitars and drums, but there is some good piano and organ in this section as well.

Some parts are more interesting than others. Usually the parts where the acoustic guitar is the main instrument are the least interesting. Tubular Bells has the least vocals of any of his '70s albums. What else can I say? This album is like, totally Tubular, dude. I don't think Mike made enough versions of this album, he needs at least three more. One of them should have the introduction part go: "...this is shredding...this is Auto-Tune..." 3.5 but I'll bump it up to 4.

Report this review (#305970)
Posted Thursday, October 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars I've never been a huge Mike Oldfield fan even though there were periods where a really tried my best to get into the groove of his work. I began my exploration of his music with Tubular Bells, which is undeniably his most recognized recording.

A debut album spanning nearly 50 minutes of material by a young artist that got picked up by Richard Branson's Virgin Records is a story that I'm sure that most of you are well familiar with. The result is a massively successful record that not only coined both Oldfield and Virgin Records but, most importantly, proved that instrumental music could still find its way to the mainstream audience. There's also no denying that the horror movie classic The Exorcist played a huge part in the album's success but I also believe that there was a more broader spirit of the time that made Tubular Bells the classic it is today.

Just like most of Mike Oldfield's career, this is a highly accessible album that should make the listener realize pretty early on whether he or she might become involved with Oldfield's work in the future. My first experience was a mixed one. Even though I enjoyed the style that Oldfield incorporated into his performance, I soon discovered that there was a definite formula to his musicianship which became even more apparent with Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn. At the same time, once Mike Oldfield did try to move away from this original style, a whole new set of limitations became prominent in his commercial aspirations in the '80s and '90s.

As for the music featured on Tubular Bells, I definitely think that it deserves to be experienced but make sure to listen to a version that sounds like the original album version since Oldfield does sometimes come off like the George Lucas of music industry where he remixes and re-records most of his original performances every now and then. Not only did Tubular Bells have two sequels that, to me, sounded nothing like the original but there has been over a dozen different versions of the original released over the years. Starting with the very obvious cash-in of the 1975 release titled The Orchestral Tubular Bells, Tubular Bells 2003, Tubular Bells Digital Box Set which features the early 1971 demo recordings of the suite, Tubular Bells - New Stereo Mix and the fairly recent Tubular Bells - 2010 Mix.

Tubular Bells is an album that is definitely worth experiencing especially if your reaction will be different to that of mine. If you enjoy this album then Ommadawn is definitely the next release that is well worth checking out. If you, on the other hand, didn't like Oldfield's style, then you've at least given it a fair try with Tubular Bells!

**** star songs: Tubular Bells Pt.1 (25:00) Tubular Bells Pt.2 (23:50)

Report this review (#306111)
Posted Friday, October 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars There's probably very little left to be said that hasn't already been about Oldfield's seminal, hugely-successful debut album 'Tubular Bells'. Time has certainly not diminished the effect of a complex behemoth of an album that confounded expectations and, with no lead-off single, somehow climbed to the top of the charts and became a worldwide smash, turning it's young and reclusive creator into an overnight sensation. Add the fact that director William Friedkin would go on to use the opening reel for the commercial smash-hit 1973 horror film 'The Exorcist' and 'Tubular Bells' success reaches rarely charted levels. Best described as an electronically-charged, instrumental prog-rock magnus opus, Oldfield's debut still retains the ability to both delight and confound, especially in the eerie opening keyboards and the powerful instrumental passages that adorn the album's second half. It may sound leagues apart from the likes of King Crimson, Yes or Genesis, but 'Tubular Bells' is still quintessentially progressive in it's style and construction. The fact that it was written and created by just Oldfield(with able assistance from producer Tom Newman) is still astonishing. Despite it's occasional shortcomings - indulgent noodling, overlong running time - this is still classic prog. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
Report this review (#353478)
Posted Wednesday, December 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of my absolute favourite works of music of all time, and certainly my favourite MO work.

I think one of the things I love about this album is because there's not time to get bored with a particular portion of a song, as the styles change up. It's really sort of a Frankenstein's monster of a piece, put together with bits and pieces that rise and fall and spin around.

The only thing I don't like is the musical instruments bit at the end of Part 1 -- a total waste of space, which is why I can't give TB 5 stars :(

My favourite is Part 2, especially just before and during the caveman sequence. Super creepy fun, and it's a riot to sing the nonsense words with Pilty, "Fleggum Wach! Doch! Bunnow! Feenum Auf Wach! Doch! Abunnoowow! (x2) Sumah! Sumah! Sach! Sach! Sach! Arroooooooo!"

And then all the freakout music dies out with blunt force, leading into what sounds like being translated out of a nightmare dreamscape to a placcid lake. The boat comes to shore to meet Irishmen sitting beside a fire, suppin' ale in the moonlight.

I know this album by heart, every note, every nuance.

Report this review (#379335)
Posted Thursday, January 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars If today I can go to a Virgin Gym center, or fly on a Virgin aircraft it's partially because of this album and mostly because of the famous horror movie "The exorcist" which took it as soundtrack making Mike Oldfield famous to the mainstream public. Also this big early success gave him the possibility to continue working on his own. This could be considered the birth of "House Music", intended as music created and recorded at his own house.

The piano intro, the one which was made famous by "The Exorcist". I have recently listened to a Japanese band that has copied it totally including the "accents", but I don't remember the name. It means that this music is still actual and it's demonstrated by the several follow-ups and versions that Mike Oldfield released during the years.

The first five minutes are occupied by the initial theme then the sequence of sudden changes starts. This is the limit but also a characteristic of Oldfield's suites. More than an organic long piece is a patchwork of several parts tied together with no solution of continuity. If I remember well, a remastered (or re-recorded) edition was published in 2003. On that version each piece has its own title. It can be of help for a reviewer, but not for his pocket.

However this album doesn't have weak parts. The music is good and well played and all the parts have their disctinctive traits. After 37 years and I don't know how many versions,re- releases and follow-ups I don't think there's much to discover left, but this is one of the most important and seminal albums in the history of prog (and of music in general). Today I would hesitate in calling it masterpiece, but for its originality in 1973 it was surely one.

4 stars but highly recommended because of its influence on many artists and on a way to make music. Some of what we listen to today wouldn't have been the same without it.

Report this review (#379919)
Posted Friday, January 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars How to size up one of the most controversial albums in all of prog rock? Is this an extraordinary masterpiece beyond all things masterpieces can achieve or a 50-minute wax turd? TUBULAR BELLS is both.

The opening few minutes are some of the best in a symphonic-titled record. That main piano theme has become all too well-known in the annals of prog rock, yet the way this riff builds upon itself is immensely enjoyable. The maritime theme that comes in sometime through the second part (the guitars try to emulate bagpipes) is equally beautiful and could send you in a trance. The diverse instrumentation offers a wide variety of sounds, and to his credit, Oldfield doesn't vomit themes all over the place and changes them every 1.5 minutes.

The problem is that half of the ideas are just boring, and the fact that they last for ten minutes usually without drums hurts. The punk-country attempt at the end is nice for about a minute, but it gets too old too fast. Sometimes great spots in an album are ruined by the only vocal attempts on the album. Go to the end of part one and there will be a man announcing each instrument as it comes in; this effect is laughable at best. It's cheesiness is topped by the grunts on Part 2.

Mike Oldfield had his heart in the right place when constructing TUBULAR BELLS, but his head might not have been. It's very free, not in the sense of without structure (there's plenty of it), but in the flow of the album. TUBULAR BELLS works for a prog collection, but the potential upswing or downswing is immense. Get your popcorn ready.

Report this review (#402937)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells (1973)

As a child I was very fond of the Dutch children-series of clown Bassie and acrobat Adrian. The soundtrack of this crime-fighting television circus-duo is the reason why most Dutch people of my age are familiar with the opening section of Tubular Bells, though some would rather refer to it as the soundtrack of The Exorcist. The very exciting opening section with mainly piano in an 15/8 time-scale is perhaps one of the most famous progressive rock themes. Still it's just the beginning of this big experimental and inventive piece called Tubular Bells part I.

Mike Oldfield wrote many themes on many instruments in many odd time-signatures and combined them into this big piece. In it, he goes from world-music with distinctive atmospheric melodies to rock with strangely distorted guitars to classical inspired instrumental music. Some passages are gentle, some are adventerious, some are serious (the opening section is even perceived as 'frighting' by some) and some are really bombastic. The ending section stands out as a great melodic theme in which we are introduced to many different instruments playing the melody. The ending with choral arrangements is great.

Tubular Bells part II is less rewarding. It has a long quiet opening section that doesn't impress me to much followed by a bag-pipe simulation with electric guitars and some percussions. After this we get to listen to an almost hard-rock section with strange, growling vocals that can't be explained in any way. The ending section has some gentle organ chords and experimental guitar solo's.

The production of the album is actually quite refreshing. Some might argue there's a lot of difference in sound throughout, but I think Oldfield gave all passages a great distinctive vibe. I would dare to say that the production has been an important element of the composition itself. It's good to hear that there is lot's of use of stereo sound, with instruments often well spread over the right-center-left spectrum.

Conclusion. This is indeed a record that has lot's to with the progressive rock movement, but it unique in it's own way. The way Mike Oldfield plays his amazing list of instruments is great, but the composition of side two falls short. Side one is however essential for any serious progressive rock collector and recommended to enthusiasts of all genres. I'll middle in saying this is 'just' an excellent addition, hence four stars.

Report this review (#433681)
Posted Thursday, April 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars There is no doubt that "Tublular Bells" is an amazing piece of art. It is one of the most eclectic and original pieces of music I've ever heard. The young Mike Oldfield melded the genres of rock, classical, folk and ambience unlike any other. Very few artists have succeeded at such eccentricity, especially not before this release.

The opening section of part one is very sublime. A piano starts it off and other instruments build around it. It's absolutely beautiful. Some reviewers don't think that the sections link together nicely. I actually think it is all very well-crafted with occasional crescendos leading on to something new.

There are plenty of touching moods throughout. It can sometimes be haunting, other moments are graceful, whilst others are emotional or exciting. The melody that ends part one is very delicate and I personally really like the creepy-cool spoken parts introducing the instruments - "plus! Tubular Bells!" Part two is incredibly emotive, perhaps even more than the first half of the record. I particularly like the work from the mandolin and pipes. It's seamless and great from start to finish. It's hard to explain how this stuff makes me feel but if you haven't heard it, you MUST hear it for yourself. A classic!!! Not overrated. 5 stars.

Report this review (#440720)
Posted Saturday, April 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The album that launched a career. Thanks to a portion of Side One being culled for use in the soundtrack of contemporary blockbuster film The Exorcist, Tubular Bells went on to become a massive sales and PR success for Richard Branson's fledgling record company, Virgin Records. And Mike was young! To have the temerity to convince money to let him record and release a theme album of instrumentals all performed by virtually one man--now that's a A&R meeting and followup board meeting I would like to have been present for!

The concept of adding instruments, track by track, minute by minute, wasn't new (Haydn had done it backwards in his Symphony No. 45 and Sly & The Family Stone had done it recently in their hit "Dance to The Music") and even Terry C. Riley's seminal song "Poppy Nogood and The Phantom Band" from A Rainbow in Curved Air helped pave the way for an album like Tubular Bells.

I remember listening to Side One with its narrator-introduction of each instrument with great excitement and joy. Side Two was often started though often abandoned or simply relegated to background music after a few minutes though it has its very pretty parts--portents of things to come in Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn--it also has its rather raw and abrasive parts. Sound engineering was never great but at least they captured the raw sounds of the instruments rather than the compressed and gated treatments that everything gets now. (I love hearing the wood, picks, strings scrapes and finger nails of acoustic guitars and the sissling of the snare springs!)

Awesome and revolutionary for its day, it stands up okay today, but, even in its day, I never thought this one a "masterpiece," just refreshing and innovative.

Report this review (#459481)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
baz91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Classical Music composed in the 70s

Tubular bells is one of those albums that normally gets rave reviews. When it was released, it was seen as a breakthrough album. It stayed in the British charts for an astonishing 5 years after it was released, and was the kickstart Virgin needed. As a result of this record, Richard Branson is now a billionaire.

However, it's certainly not the easiest music to handle, and I'm quite surprised that the music-buying public felt the need to add this 50 minute slab of instrumental noodling to their collection. It feels almost as if most people were buying it to feel mature about their music tastes, when in fact they'd rather be listening to The Rolling Stones or Elton John. If you haven't heard Oldfield before, this record will certainly be an experience.

Side 1 opens with the theme that many of you will know from The Exorcist. With it's subtle 15/8 time signature, this theme continues in a minimalist way for about 4 minutes. However, after those 4 minutes, it's a bit of a free-for-all as Oldfield experiments with many short ideas, some of them better than others. It's fun to listen to this over and over, until you can remember the order in which each parts come. At approximately 17 minutes, a bass solo begins with a 10 bar chord pattern. This repeats by itself for 3 minutes, at which point Viv Stanshall begins to announce new instruments, which play a triumphant theme over the bass pattern. This is the best part of the album, and one feels truly rewarded at the end of 26 minutes of music.

However, Side 2 isn't quite as good as the first side. Though being called Tubular Bells Pt. 2, there are no musical links with Pt. 1, and no tubular bells, making the two sides completely seperate entities. The music continues in the same vein as the first side, although the themes are less memorable, and seem to repeat far more. That's not to say that this side isn't devoid of entertainment. At nearly 12 minutes into the track, the 'caveman' section begins, which includes nonsensical grunts, and the only drumkit on the album. The track finishes with Sailor's Hornpipe, which feels just a little out of place, but is still fun nonetheless.

I think probably the wow factor of this album is that Oldfield played most of the instruments himself and had to put all the tapes together by himself, an impressive feat when you consider how complex the music is. He is truly a talented musician and composer.

'Tubular Bells' is a great album, if not an easy one to swallow at first. It's perhaps best not to call this music prog, as it is musically leagues away from Yes or Van der Graaf Generator, but in it's own way, it stands up very well.

Report this review (#476025)
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars When someone says that some music is "fresh", one's usually, actually, considering one's own pre-concepts about music, labelling as "dated" anything one doesn't like. So the expression became a common-place in music conversation, with little or none significance. But, when it comes to Tubular Bells, the expression is not only fitting, but accurate. Because popular music can hardly be as fresh as this: original, creative, innovative.

Therefore, I was surprised when I heard this album for the first time, some years ago, as it is as innovative and unique today as in the time it was made. I had never heard anything quite like it before, neither have I since - except for Mike's other works. Mike sort of created a whole new genre, a musical ground of his own, which is a kind of classical, minimalistic, music performed by contemporary instruments.

One can note that, behind its ambitious form, it is not quite too serious, as you can see in the "Master of Ceremonies" and "Caveman" sections. The fact that he chose to close it with a traditional song, instead of a melody of his own, is also a testimony of certainly humility, in my opinion.

Mike would develop and perfect his sound over the following years and albums. So, Tubular Bells was just the first step, and as so was regarded by his own writer as a flawed, uneven piece of work. Therefore, it is actually a shame that it became his most famous music, though Mike himself did much to perpetuate this status, re-writing, re-recording and re-issuing it over and over again, far beyond the saturation point.

The only advantage this album has over its successors is the freshness. It is revolutionary, but not a masterpiece, which is totally understandable. If you excuse me for the comparison, it would be like expecting Beethoven to have the Ninth as his first composition. After one is familiarized with the likes of Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn and Incantations, Tubular Bells loses much of its appeal - except for its historical significance. And if were not for this, I would give it a 3-star rating. But, as a revolutionary, groundbreaking work, it is worthy of any prog rock fan collection.

Report this review (#477648)
Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It might be mega-popular, but that doesn't mean that Tubular Bells isn't also an incredibly good album. Mike Oldfield cut his prog teeth working in Kevin Ayers' The Whole World, and there's the occasional echo of Kevin's low-jazz, high-whimsy approach to the Canterbury scene here, but what makes Tubular Bells such a wonderful album is the way it explores such a broad and diverse musical territory in its running time - including entire regions which were more or less invented by Oldfield in composing this album.

The album deserves credit for creating greater commercial exposure for idea of album-length prog rock compositions than had ever previously been attained. The narration of Vivian Stanshall is probably many listeners' only experience of the work of said musical eccentric; similarly, Tubular Bells has brought a Canterbury-tinted prog aesthetic to the attention of an extraordinary number of people. If I had to pick one album to convince a sceptical listener of the power and possibilities of progressive music, I'd be sorely tempted to pick this one.

Report this review (#507139)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars 10/10

Since its launch in 1973, Tubular Bells has been critically acclaimed for their ambition and the ability of its creator, the brilliant Mike Oldfield, playing many instruments in a single album - not to mention that he was only 20 at the time . Although it is known that most of Oldfield's career has depended on the success of this album (about to be two sequels, a remake of birthday and other orchestral), good to see that this is a great album.

It's hard to say what the musical style of Tubular Bells. The album covers many textures, many sounds that remain unique, singular. The fact that Mike is listed as an artist here in Crossover Prog site is the fact that his music encompasses popular music styles , adding his own style. And this is one of the factors that make Tubular Bells as brilliant.

The other factor, of course, is the instrumentation. There is an incredible range of instruments, mostly by Mike himself, plus some special guests (I personally like listening to Vivian Stanshall as the Master of Ceremonies announces that the instruments at the end of the first part).

What about the title-track of "only" 48 minutes long? It's one of those epics that keeps the heart, but like all the songs from that period, has its good and bad times. For example, part two is definitely not equal to one part, and introducing a terribly boring and dull. However, just start the "caveman" and things get better! this is my favorite part of the song even more after learning that Mike wrote it drunk! It's really fun! In addition, the opening song is another moment in the spotlight (and gained notoriety for being used in "The Exorcist") in addition to its classic ending, the joy that returns the song after a section environment with guitars a la Pink Floyd.

4 stars! A great album!

Report this review (#519051)
Posted Saturday, September 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think everyone has at least come into contact with this album in one way or the other. Whether you heard it in the Exorcist soundtrack, heard it being used and started humming it, played about with the main theme on an instrument of your choice or your just a Mike Oldfield fanatic yourself. Either way, if you have never heard of it, the you need to emerge from that rock you've been hiding under for years.

Now this album really was a landmark in music in many ways in one, especially in the popular music dimension, especially in the way music is composed, recorded, produced, and even thought of as an art form.

This album was made when multi tracking really was a dangerous task to take upon, yet when listening to the album, it doesn't seem like such a task was undertaken, mainly cause the music is so gentle and harmless at times. But it really was a challenge. The 4 track recorders were slowly progressing at this point, and in order to really record something as diverse as this, a lot of time, effort and talent was needed...and Mike Oldfield has it all (he basically did this all by himself)

I think as a piece of modern Classical music, this is a milestone, but even as a prog rock journey, its a masterpiece beyond which we can imagine.

The piece itself is really a delicate piece, which each movement slowly moving into each other, building up throughout into an explosion. But everything is done at a speed which most people wouldn't tolerate, but Mike Oldfield really is able to make it as beautiful as possible.

Now the piece isnt all beauty. At times it can have odd moments. Like synthy bits, funny voices narrating which instrument is playing, howling, death metal esque vocals and even some sea chantys But It all still flows seamlessly into each other.

CONCLUSION: I think if you haven't heard the whole thing, you really need to just sit down and listen to it. Yes it's a 50 minute piece of music, but to be honest...can you really think of anything better to do with your time. Now Mike seems to try and copy this piece over and over and over again, and yes it is annoying to see many doubles and sequels and what have you not, but the original will never be beaten.

8.9/10

Report this review (#532054)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Known as "The Theme from 'The Exorcist' ", the intro is a very good place to start on the record. Hey, why is it the intro of the record, after all. But to me, really, the nature of that intro has nothing to do with the nature of the film. So, let's discuss the music itself.

I like both parts. According to their individual ratings given by me, they are both equally good, but in different ways. Here go the details:

I like everything on the first part, particularly the rough, rocksy rhythm guitar strumming at about 14:20. The ridiculous, unnecessary repetition of the same dull theme on various instruments and the inept stitching of the myriad of snippets only justifies the rating instead of pulling it down. Why? Because some of those snippets are good and some are really good.

The second part enthralls me all the way through 11:40, capturing two musical ideas, each one of which I would give a five. They truly show one of the many points of what prog-rock can be about: that New Age can be essential to the whole prog-rock development. Unfortunately, this whole bulk comes to an end, only to be interrupted by Mike's ludicrously comic vocal mix that is just totally out of place.

For a very long time I thought that if you really want to know what prog-rock is really about, listen to the quintessential classics of the genre. If you heard those, you don't have to listen to Mike Oldfield's debut, because you have heard all that before. Themes, riffs, and ambient "filler" gets stuck together to create a proper work of art, and "Tubular Bells" does not have that special something. Now, after writing this review, I have realized that there are actually some very valuable moments on this album too. It's not some kind of an average prog-rock record. It's just that the special something is in the ocean of other ideas, that is, lost in Oldfield's ambitions.

If you ask me which part I like better, I would say: "It used to be the first one. Now it's the second one, he-he!"

Ratings and comments:

'Tubular Bells, pt. 1' - ****

'Tubular Bells, pt. 2' - ****

Stamp: "I like it."

Report this review (#613550)
Posted Friday, January 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars A one-man band consisting of the 19-year old Mike Oldfield is delivering here something totally original. So good, that he alone was responsible for the succes of a new plate-lable called Virgin.

Tubular Bells consists of two long compositions which contain an excessive amount of instruments, which were all played by Mike Oldfield. The openingtune became welknown because of the movie The Excorsist, which used it as a moviesoundtrack. The succes of this record however is not just because of the popularity of this movie, but of the amazing quality of the music.

The styles played on this record are (pyschedelic) folk, rock, hardrock and some protometal. The mainstyl however is folk played by many acoustic instruments like spanish guitars, mandolin and timpani. The progression of the compositions are really interesting because the many changes in timescales. The maintheme comes back a several times, but always slightly different, because of these different timescales.

There are no drums on the record, but only the timpani. Therefor this record can be seen as an early example of new age music, but the compositions are more in the folkrock category. On the second composition is an early example of grunting. I don't think these cooky monster vocals have influenced the death metal scene, but Mike Oldfield certainly was one of the first examples of using vocals in a demonic way.

Mike Oldfield sounds really different then the ongoing progressive scene at the time. It's really amazing how innovative he was, while progressive rock was on it's peak. This is one of my favourite records for a long time now, because this belonged to the first records I own. I've listened to it at least a hundred times and reached some kind of overkill. But after some time I listen to it again with an enhanced stereo set and I get the same joy by listening as if it was the first time. A great record and recommended for several reasons: it's highly original, it was a boy's dream coming true and it's full of nice melodies and ideas.

Report this review (#692421)
Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, a guy that plays all the instruments of an album is sure interesting. Mike Olfield's first album is very well composed, well played, but has little flaws. The production is a little faulty, and sometimes, the piece is not precise. But it is so beautiful. It's the closest thing to classical music.

The first part is one of the most beautiful things ever. Only the introduction can make my day but after, here's Mike Oldfied showing his amazing talents on guitar. After, there are other beautiful parts until the grand finale comes in. Vivian Stanshall introduces the instruments with a repetitve theme in the background and the grand finale of the theme comes in.

. The second part is not as memorable. It is though the funny part. I laughed histeriatically at the Caveman part. And with the Sailor's Hornpipe dance at the end, it is the less serious part.

Tubular Bells is brilliant. I compare Mike Oldfield to "The Beethoven of Prog Music". He's very hard working. And this album proves it well.

Report this review (#860494)
Posted Friday, November 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
1 stars This album has no meaning, no concept and no purpose: it's just a bunch of random melodies played with random instuments and glued together. There are a few good ideas here and there, but that doesn't make it a good album: there is no cohesion at all. And he managed to record almost FIFTY minutes of it (don't ask me how).

This is possibly the most overrated prog album. I simply cannot understand all the hype. Personally, I find the >4 average rating of it offensive: it is offensive towards the real prog bands.

tl;dr Listen to this album. And after that, toss it out of the window.

Report this review (#868747)
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
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: *****

Report this review (#984547)
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars The debut album from Mike Oldfield is without a doubt one of the most diverse and experimental prog albums in existence. Oldfield was experimenting with a plethora of different instruments, many of which are odd even by prog standards, to create a nearly 50-minute piece of music that is complex yet accessible, melodic yet atmospheric.

The opening theme alone is testament to the creativity of Oldfield, and despite its popularity, is actually relatively complex, containing alternating measures of 7/8 and 8/8. From here, the album progresses through the many vastly different sections, most of which convey a particular genre of music, some of which include Latin, Blues, Jazz and even Thrash. The conclusion to the first part of the song is a crescendo of different instruments playing the same melody, each being introduced over time, and is certainly a bone-chilling experience.

Unfortunately, Part Two isn't nearly as strong as the first. Perhaps it is because of the complete lack of intensity due to it being almost entirely soft and down-tempo. There is nothing really interesting happening, no good melodies of the sort to grab the listener.

Even with the greatest of creations, there are flaws, and this one has plenty. The most noticeable is the lack of cohesion, one may even go as far as to say it is just a mess of sections mushed together to form a 50 minute epic. I would say this isn't too far from the truth. The experimentation and extreme diversity is nice up to a point, but not when just glued together for the sake of it. Perhaps this would have fared better with a bit of artistic control of the amount of content going into the album, a as I fear the problem is in the arrangements, not lack of content (at least for part one). However, if such a thing is not overly bothersome to someone as it is to me, than perhaps that person may find some enjoyment. But unfortunately for me, the lack of cohesion and the weak second part make this somewhat of an underwhelming experience.

5/10

Report this review (#1040105)
Posted Friday, September 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
ALotOfBottle
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Tubular Bells is quite hard to classify. I think Crossover Prog is the right label for it to be under. However, it is far more than just crossover prog that. A thought by other member about this work that I really liked was that "Tubular Bells" put Mike Oldfield among greats like Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky or Wagner (not sure if those were the composers he named). Anyway, that is very much true. Despite being laid on more rock-oriented (although not rock per se) basis, "Tubular Bells" is a piece of modern classical music. Extremely well crafted music.

Part 1 is more of a "Tubular Bells" signature, an overall more epic piece with an incredible climax in the end (a main atribute of the album). This very climax is carefully planned, we are being driven towards it for 20 minutes, everything is very proficiently built up.

Part 2 is a great ambient part, mellow, very melodic with much British flegm. I feel though like the closing is a bit of a let-down.

Well, this is an undeniable masterpiece, but I will give it 4 stars, because despite my warm words, it is boring at times.

Report this review (#1542935)
Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Some love it and some don't, some find it overrated and others couldn't live without it, but an essential point is often missed : "Tubular Bells" is a monument, a genuine turning point in the history of music. Where would Richard Branson and the whole Virgin empire, including the space travel projects, be now if, on a fine morning of 1972, Oldfield hadn't seen studio workers move out the rented instruments used by John Cale, and among them the most improbable and rarely seen of all symphonic ones? Yes, Oldfield was a genius then, the first one to make a full use of the 16-track recording technology, or rather the first one to realize that it meant he could dispense with tiresome bandmates and do it all by himself. "Tubular Bells" is essentially the result of days and days of musical onanism, fuelled by LSD and Oldfield's almost permanent state of mental depression. Fiddling with tape speed, hiring the studio staff (including the cook!) when he suddenly needed a male choir, grabbing a passing Viv Stanshall to have him voicing the megalomaniac "hey guys, listen how I can play all those instruments" Part 1 ending piece, all of this is the stuff of legend. Of course Mike Oldfield was a genius, and "Tubular Bells" his monument, his Leonardo's "Mona Lisa", his Rodin's "The Thinker". You don't wonder if "Mona Lisa" is a good or beautiful work of art, you just go to the Louvre and stare at it. All the same, don't wonder if "Tubular Bells" is a good album, just go get a copy and listen to it. Everyone should do it, because it's history.
Report this review (#1649947)
Posted Monday, November 28, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars Mike Oldfield's debut album 'Tubular Bells' definitely has a lot to live up to. It put Mr. Oldfield on the map. It made Richard Branson's Virgin Records a household name. It was featured in The Exorcist, one of the most famous horror films of all time. It spent approximately forever in the charts, and a good portion of that forever was the number one spot. It's right up there as one of the most famous, iconic and recognizable albums of all time.

With all that hype behind it, I felt a little underwhelmed when I heard it for the first time (probably around 35 years after its release). I felt the production hadn't aged well, and the compositions just weren't exciting enough to pique my interest.

Don't worry, it grew on me.

Of course, this isn't the sort of record you put on and memorize after one listen. It takes a bit of time and perseverance to get into, but once you do, there's some pretty good stuff to be heard. At times the music is very random and creative, at others it's simple and elegant. It's just a whole new musical experience, and a great starting point for progressive, world or new age music (although, wouldn't it now be... "old age"?).

That's not to say that this is the best album I've ever heard, because it is nowhere near. Nor would I consider it Mike Oldfield's finest work. But I can understand its cultural significance. It's just one of those iconic albums that everyone should own. Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'. The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper...'. Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells'. It's up there in that handful of elite releases that no music collection in the world should be without.

Oh yeah, and Oldfield wrote and recorded the whole damn thing by himself, at just 19 years of age. Bloody 'ell.

Report this review (#1692118)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars You have to have been there in 1973 when this came out. It was an era of stark musical contrasts: Glam piss-Pop, late 60s Brit Rock leftovers; momentary super nova acts like Ziggy and Roxy shined before fug and a smattering of 'head grops' still high on 60's misplaced 'new' realism.

This appeared... >> IT WAS PRICED /SOLD FOR ONLY Ł1.00 !! <<

As such people gave it a spin and found that it was quite good for having a spliff too or just being on whilst clumsily exchanging body fluids on a bean bag in the corner of someone's bedsit!

Then your parents quite liked it and thought at last you were starting to grow up and leave all that awful music behind you. So it instantly created a dichotomy.

It made Richard Branson and felled Mike Oldfield, but it stands as an iconic snapshot of social change as the 70s became the excruciating polar opposite of the 60s lovefest. By 1973 The batons had all but been passed over, but this one dropped on the final leg.

Report this review (#1704738)
Posted Friday, March 24, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars The dawn of a New Age through folk and hyperactivity: 9/10

I promised myself I'd listen to both OMMADAWN and RETURN TO OMMADAWN this year, so I thought I should begin this process by actually writing a review rather than just leaving a rating on the only product I listened to by the creator. So yes, this is an edit.

Turns out that MIKE OLDFIELD has an interesting trajectory, although the success made through TUBULAR BELLS has more to do with luck than anything else.

A self-taught guitarist, Mike entered the folk scene and received considerate (local) exposure to the point of forming a short-lived band with his sister and releasing an album, CHILDREN OF THE SUN, in 1968. Returning to rock music two years later, he would join SOFT MACHINE's vocalist side-project and actually contribute on two albums. During that time he met [future avant-garde] musician David Bedford which then assisted Mike to arrange and compose properly his long lived dream, an uncanny track named Tubullar Bells. After recording a demo of the track Oldfield unyieldingly voyaged all Britain looking for a label to take on. Well, at least until Sep. 1971 when legendary investor Richard Branson decided to harbor Tubular Bells on his new ambitious project: the Virgin Records label.

While Pt. 1 was swiftly outputted, Pt. 2 took several months - mostly because the first was relatively complete thanks to Bedford's support whereas Pt. 2 was done pretty much from scratch. Right after, Mike Oldfield had the privileged opportunity to play on Queen Elizabeth Hall along legendary names such as Canterbury Scene associates or HENRY COW. He was unwell with the idea but did it nonetheless. Shortly after he was too featured in BBC TV 2nd House and by the end of 1973 Tubular Bells was - really luckily - chosen to be part of The Exorcist movie. Those three events culminated into TUBULAR BELLS selling over 2,340,000 copies in the UK (34. best-selling album of all time in Britain) and hitting #7 on the US Billboard.

Apparently, it kickstarted the New Age movement because... reasons. But the music! Oh, the goddamn music. Is it good? Well, I think it is.

Tubular Bells suffers from the Rushis Hemispheris syndrome. Sometimes it has repetitive, long sections, so you either love them, hate them, or become really bored (and then hate them). Well, for me I didn't feel the repetitiveness was a turn-off. They are mature, well composed, rather unconnected among themselves, but overall interesting. The music sounds cheerful, don't expect some Steven Wilson gloom. Actually, I think its upbeatness and optmistic tone is what makes it a precursor of New Age. I mean, weren't those two characteristics the core of NA? Hmm, maybe.

The musicianship is competent. But it becomes spectacular if you consider that an 18-years-old composed most of the fifty minutes and played all the twenty odd instruments. You won't find astounding complexity but its sheer lack of eclectism is what makes it a truly progressive release. Although I must admit that folk is the biggest influence here - but hey, that was Oldfield's field (pun intended) until short time ago.

Pt. 1 features glockenspiel-led caroller joy followed by heavy lead guitar riffs; energetic passages that slowly fades to calmer sounds - such as the delicate midsection - only to bring back at full force cowboyish guitars and Honky Tonky playing and soothe back again.

It also has the legendary "master of ceremonies" section, where the instruments are progressively introduced as Oldfield's British accent summons them. The thrill gradually builds up until the illustrious last instrument invited bursts the bubble of accumulated excitement and as it begins playing I'm sure it will bring a smile to your face.

The song is closed on tranquil acoustic-ness.

Pt. 2 sounds initially meditative (with its serene guitars) and epic (thank the drums/barrels for this). The midsection suddenly blasts much heavier than hitherto with its double lead guitars and powerful drumming.

And too, comes in the growled vocals, intended to sound literally as an animal since Oldfield actually howls once or twice, well god knows why. Don't be a fool, though, Oldfield's growls are if anything an isolated case of anachronic musical usage (one of the first instances where guttural vocals are featured), it didn't in any way influence extreme metal. I assure you - DEATH or MAYHEM won't cite Mike Oldfield as their vocal inspiration.

Things go calmer right after, perhaps it was the last taste of Oldfield's outburst of adrenaline. With atmospheric keyboards filling the background, Mike takes a jazzy guitar lead to calmly outro to the song... well, except the outro changes to a really folksy section. You'll probably yodel along it while banging your Dutch clogs as there are very few tunes that sound countryside European as this; you'll eat waffles drinking, uhm, Burgundian wine, and... I don't know, while doing more European stuff. Well, you get my point.

The 19-years-old Mike Oldfield became a ravaging success, an absolute star, thanks to TUBULAR BELLS. Whether or not he was ready it didn't matter - all the cool cats were listening to him. Prog was a pretty mature movement by 1973 so no one was weirded out by TUBULAR BELLS' quirky length and creativity. Well, maybe some people actually were. Maybe you, dear reader, actually are. But if you know prog and you trust it; prog, your Lord, and your shepherd, then there is nothing to fear. Go for it!

Report this review (#1706392)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Brilliant and Unique.

Mike Oldfield's first album is in my opinion his second-best (after Ommadawn), and a wondrous piece of music that remains unique still today after over 40 years. There are a number of keys to its success. First is how Oldfield (on side 1) keeps the rhythm if his opening repeated line going through the series of themes the follow each other, sometimes receding it into the background then bringing it back, then modifying it in new ways with new melodies over top. It keeps your interest by constantly changing melodies, and even keys, while still keeping to that basic rhythm and always referring back on itself; culminating in the famous 'master-of-ceremonies' section where a repeated bass line forms the foundation for a repeated melody played by different instruments whose entrance is announced by the mc with the tubular bells marking the majestic ending to the side. The end of this side, and the beginning of the next side (the album was originally written for two-sided vinyl album) have brought the listener deep into the musical world of Oldfield. The second side is a bit more fragmented, and moves from theme to theme without being rooted in a constant rhythm or repeated pattern, but is still quite good. The 'caveman' section is notably bizarre for having Oldfield 'sing' some unique passages in a made-up grunt-language. Nothing like it before or after, and it works really well musically. The album ends with a cover of a speeing-up Sailor's Hornpipe, which seems to bring the listener out from Oldfield's musical world and back to reality - it sort of wakes you up again, and when you do, you marvel at the wonderful musical journey. While the album is not 'perfect' - there are a couple of timing or tuning glitches, this being Oldfield's first-ever experience recording his own album and sequencers and the like were not available then - it stands today as a very unique musical statement, really a brilliant composition. It marked Oldfield as an original composer, and in a way introduced a whole new style of composing which very few have been able to master. A really essential statement. I give it 9.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 5 PA stars.

Report this review (#1718274)
Posted Saturday, May 6, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's one of the most inspiring stories I've ever heard.

Shy, nineteen year old English boy pitches his instrumental demos to EMI, CBS Records and other prime companies. He fails initially, but with persistence and some luck he finally gets the chance. Unexpectedly his music tops the charts, makes critics shake their heads in disbelief, and sets the bar for future albums unreasonably high. The success is so immense that it puts the fledgling record company instantly on the map, and the boy becomes so ridiculously rich he can buy an island for himself. And he's pleased with it, since peace of mind and safe shelter is all he wished for.

"Tubular Bells" always had its mysteries. How such a young person came up with music so unobvious yet lyrical. How did he manage to play all the instruments. How did he produce the "Piltdown Man" sound. What was going on in his head. Was he really nineteen then. And the album cover, what does it mean. Heck, what does the music mean. Does he even know. Is it just a joke, exercise in songwriting, or a Book of Secrets.

Why can't I stop looking at the artwork, what is so captivating about waves splashing at southern England shores? Is it linked to our dreams and memories? Or the instincts, and the archetypes? Is it burned down in my mind because I heard it as a child. Or rather the music evokes the themes we were all born with*?

Now I'm pushing it perhaps, but the point stands. Ideas behind "Tubular Bells" are powerful, and I doubt that Mike Oldfield tried hard to impress us. It's not highly technical, it's not reliant on cheap tricks, rehashed popular melodies or massive advertising. In fact, there was no advertising. The success came after few months and it only happened thanks to word of mouth, before William Friedkin incorporated the opening theme in his celebrated horror classic. I believe the intentions were honest.

Yes, there are imperfections. A botched note here and there, two or three dull bends, a buzzing string on higher frets. But aside from that? Well, I'm not able to list all the highs and lows, but there are some trends I noticed.

The composition relies heavily on buildups and amassing of instruments in key moments. Core melodies are played with muted electric guitars primarily - there is much focus and precision in Mike's crosspicking, especially for a teenager playing in 1973. The rhythm section is reduced to bass guitar, but meditative nature of "Tubular Bells" doesn't demand percussion or drums to work. The only part with drums is the "Piltdown Man" (or "Caveman") segment on B side, which starts at 11:40 and lasts for 5 minutes roughly. Understandably it's one of the rockier sections - the rest is mostly reflective and it already has that trademark, New Age vibe.

Musically speaking, one of the most attractive qualities of "Tubular Bells" is the proper use of overdubbing. Mike doesn't come up with earth shattering melodies, but for him the arrangements are paramount. That's how he pulls off the famous intro to Part 1 - the melody doesn't change much for five minutes, but other instruments are gradually entering and altering the scene, especially that tempered double guitar lick at 3:40 leaves its mark. We're all familiar with Part 1 finale, that section with Master of Ceremony announcing instruments playing the main theme time and time again. For some it's cheesy nowadays, everyone and their grandma knows that stuff, but remember it's a 40+ year old album we're talking about! Definitely a fresh addition at the time, and when it comes to me, I stay impressed to this day. There is something very comforting in that finale, maybe the melody works well so I don't mind it being repeated for 5-6 minutes, or maybe that certainty that in a moment or two we'll have 10+ instruments playing beautifully in unison, it's very fitting here. I especially cherish the glockenspiel, mandolin and - of course - the tubular bells themselves. I can see why Mike was trying to get the loudest sound possible, it's truly an epic and uplifting moment.

There is some noodling here and there, unfortunately. The Part 2 is especially guilty of this, just check out the acoustic guitar section between the "Plitdown Man" and coda. I'm a man of simple tastes apparently; I always wanted Tubular Bells to end in a grand fashion, a truly majestic crescendo wrapping up the best ideas. Unfortunately, Oldfield thought differently and went for a quiet, ambiguous ending (I'm not counting the 'Harvest Festival' section at 21:50). The bridge at 16:00 (Part 1), between the 'eerie sunset' motif and 'master of ceremony' section is also a bit shaky; for some listeners it might be too disjointed. Fortunately as soon as that radiant bass reappears at 17:15 it's natural to 'refocus' and follow the main theme development.

So we discussed the Exorcist, the MC and the Caveman a bit, but what about other, less touted parts?

I can't stress enough how much I enjoy that weird acoustic guitar bit at 7:40 (Part 1). It's doomy, gloomy and completely changes the peaceful landscape we've just heard. I'm thinking of sunsets in God forsaken lands, horrors of Edvard Munch or King Crimson creations. This is a prime example of good contrast, because at 4:20 we were treated with incredibly sweet, pastoral melody, quite similar to strongest moments of "Hergest Ridge" and "Ommadawn". I also have a soft spot for beginning of Part 2, I call it 'kite over Copenhagen, 1800s', it's so nostalgic and purely European, whatever that means. Further down Part 2, there is an adorable section starting at 5:30 roughly, I'd describe it as 'dungeon synth meets the hobbits in Bree', and another one at 8:50 or so, when lead guitar comes up and down, like a spell cast from sorcerer's tower on a windy day.

As you can see, Oldfield already succeeds in evoking mysterious auras and symbolic pictures, which makes his music tenfold more interesting on subsequent listens. He's not pushing his version of events: the soundscapes are ambiguous and each time a different narrative is born organically in our minds. His best moments remind me of early Renaissance, Flemish paintings, with all these strange yet symbolical details happening far in the background. One time you're paying attention to Icarus crashing down from the sky, the other - all you see are tiny drunken bastards and insane old man dancing with a bear. And the same is true for Mike Oldfield's debut, I think.

"Tubular Bells" is clearly not as refined as Mike's crowning achievements, but it doesn't lack the ambition, the melody, the feel or cerebral aspect of his prime albums. I wish it had just a bit more polish - it's rough around the edges and the some parts (10-20%, tops) could benefit from further development. Then it would live up to its legendary, unprecedented status and earn a perfect 10; now it's 9, or if your prefer - 4.5 stars, fully deserved.

It's a musical journey, and always a journey towards unknown.

* with water being the equivalent of Collective Unconscious according to C.G. Jung, "Tubular Bells" couldn't have a more fitting artwork.

Report this review (#2220331)
Posted Wednesday, June 12, 2019 | Review Permalink

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