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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells II CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield

Crossover Prog

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars And now for something (the same but) completely different

"Tubular Bells 2" is a very faithful clone of the original "Tubular Bells" (TB) album.

The melodies are different, but in the words of comedian Eric Morecambe, he plays the right notes, but in a different order. The subtle changes make the album different enough to allow this album to stand up in its own right. Unlike TB, the tracks here are all named individually, with 14 in total. They segue in the same way as the sections TB did, forming just as much of a complete piece as the original.

"Red Dawn" briefly features some beautiful female vocals (think "Great gig in the sky"). It leads into "The bell", the equivalent of the final part of TB's part one, which introduces a different array of instruments to TB.

On TB2, the tracks which constitute the equivalent of what was side 2 of the original "Tubular Bells" are generally stronger than their equivalents on TB. "Tattoo" has a wonderful burst of bagpipes, which still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up (but maybe that's down to my nationality!).

All in all, a really good album, which accurately reproduces the spirit of "Tubular Bells" while simultaneously creating something completely original.

Report this review (#28451)
Posted Saturday, March 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a classic album of epic character with beautiful instrumentation and wonderful sonical imagery. It's heavily inspired by the Tubular Bells I from the early 70's, but Mike has done more than a cover of himself. He has reworked the tracks and added new influencies, vocal harmonies, new sonical structure to create something which sounds both familiar and completely new.

This is a strong and spiritual "feeling good" musical journey. It takes the listener on a ride over a multidimensional and very inspiring landscape. This is not background music, nor is it pop or club oriented. It's a composition divided into sections with different tones.

What strikes me the most is the sheer musicality that flows so well throughout this album. Despite the heavy use of synthesizers, electric guitars and electronic sound effects, the album has an organic feel to it.

This is space music that lifts and inspires the soul. This recording feels much happier and broader than TB I.

It's one of Mike's best and inspiring album - because it's so beautiful. It's soothing for the soul.

Report this review (#28455)
Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
1 stars Just an average work that draws 'inspiration' from his ground breaking debut album.'Inspired' is the last thing this is though and it doesn't hold a candle to either the original album or the superb Amarok.We all have to pay the bills I suppose!
Report this review (#28456)
Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Sorry guys but this is not rubbish. Sure it is a clone of Tubular Bells but what I find most refreshing about TB2 is the new sounds brought out in various places on the album and in parts let's face it, is totally different to the original Tubular Bells. The production is excellent. I urge those who find the album below par to have a rethink and listen to ' Weightless', ' Sentinel', ' The great plain' and the glorious ' tatoo' again. TB2 is excellent and he had not exploited the original in a bad way..... yet. Even the concept of a second album excluding the marketing hype was pretty novel. He made an absolute fortune out of this album and you can see why.
Report this review (#28458)
Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars At considerable risk to my own well-being, I am going to declare TB2 better than the original! (he ducks for cover - waits for the smoke to clear - re-emerges from his "spider hole"). There is no question that the original 1973 version broke down the door on what Prog concept album could and should be. TB1 is one of 25 albums that best epitomises the genre. In fact, it belongs in the top 10, if not top 5 - if for no other reason than that Mike was only 19 yrs old when he made it! Unbelievable!!! Take a bow, and take your place in the history books Mr. O

However, to his credit, as Mike got older, he got better! He became a better musician, a better composer, a better producer, etc. Oldfield was not at his peak at 19, sorry! He hadn't even developed his now signature 3-demensional, wailing-vibrato guitar sound. For crisp production, complexity, diversity, musicality, maturity, and musiciaship, TB2 is the better album, hands down. It is to TB1 what Godfather 2 is to the original. Not many people could have pulled off a better "reprise" - Mike did.

I have listened to this album over 300 times - easily. I will NEVER tire of it. The guitar, the bag pipe, the bell - beyond beautiful! By Jove (20 years later), I think he's got it! (If at first you don't succeed, try, try again). TB1 was ground-breaking and genius. TB2 is the PERFECT "variation on a theme". Of course the best of the best of MO is Amarok, but you can read my review of that another time.

Report this review (#28459)
Posted Saturday, December 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I have some nostalghic relations to this album, and I belive this kind of experiences are probably the most important issues when getting interested to this album. It is professionally done, and has some nice ideas in it, but also many solutions and philosophies involved, that I do not think this easy listening symphonic synthesizer concerto will stand the test of time as immortal grand art. However I believe it is positive release, and all things which may bring rejoice to mankind, should be greeted with the proper gestures. Maybe little too new age for background music for discussions, but maybe succesful for school homeworks and introduction to music.
Report this review (#28462)
Posted Sunday, April 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tubular Bells 2 is what every human soul needs. Breath in, breath out... love it, listen to it, enjoy it, live it. Perfect Masterpiece it is indeed! Original and sweet. I will never forget this album.

For my opinion it is the bestest of all Tubular Bells because it takes you down to the shadows of your deepest secrets. It can make you smile, cry, dance, worry and even thqat music can pure your heart. Powerful music, intelligent guitar play. Hey, it's Mike Oldfield you know. Fans - buy it. Others - discover it!

Maybe you deserve Tubular Bells 2, but think... does it deserve you!?


Report this review (#28463)
Posted Monday, May 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an excellent re-make of the influential and popular Tubular Bells album. Since Oldfield was young when he made the first tubular bells, and had not the experience and skills he developed later, he decided to use his new talents to get his Tubular Bells and make it much better (also, with a modern sound that has great production)

The songs are almost the same ... it begins with the 'exorcist' soundtrack, then goes through many musical changes until it finishes up the first half with that glorious buildup (this time, it is not boring) that ends with many instruments including the tubular bells. The second song is also similar to the first Tubular Bells, and it is also the weakest half. That monster/caveman vocal highly irritate me, especially when the goofy other vocals join, and the album ends with the overly out of place western jam.

I think the first half of this album is very enjoyable, and I could go as far as call it a masterpiece ... unfortunately, the second half doesn't keep up musically.

Report this review (#43442)
Posted Friday, August 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's unfortunate that most of the tracks on this album segue without a break, because there are some good, original-sounding pieces joined to some pieces that sound too similar to their original counterparts on Oldfield's debut album. Also, I found some tracks to be nearly unlistenable because of the presence of some chiche, new-agey synth sounds, the likes of which had gotten old back in the late 80's. That said, there is some classic Oldfield guitar work on several tracks. I really don't see how any artist can legitimately revisit a classic work. Imagine "Return to the Dark Side of the Moon" or "Aqualung II".... It's just not the kind of thing that can be taken seriously, even when the album in question is an instrumental one. I've never heard "Tubular Bells III", but my guess is that we really didn't need yet another revisitation.
Report this review (#44942)
Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
The Crow
5 stars Is this album commercial? Very, very, commercial, of course. But this is something that I really don´t care when is music of such quality and sensibility...Because in my opinion, this is undoubtly another Oldfield´s MASTERPIECE!

This album is not a real sequel, it´s a remake. "Tubular Bells II" reproduces every passage of "Tubular Bells", but with differents melodies that nevertheless are totally related with the original melodies. We can say that "Tubular Bells II" it´s a variation of "Tubular Bells". It´s just incredible! I think that only a truly brilliant mind can do something like this album. Hearing "Tubular Bells" and "Tubular Bells II" at the same is a fantastic experience, becouse there are some passages that fit completely! But I recommend the hearing of "Tubular Bells" several times before hearing this one, because only this way you will discover the great work and efforth that Mike Oldfield did with the sequel...

In musical terms, "Tubular Bells II" is very more lightly and positive than the first one. It´s obvious that Mike Oldfield and the producer Trevor Horn (The Buggles, Yes...) tried to make a musik able to remove the listener feelings, searching the commercial success...And undoutly they didn´t failed, because some parts of this albums have enough sensibility and emotion to make you cry (and it sold millions of copies...)! I think that some parts are even better that the original (the second part till Altered State, The Bell...)! Nevertheless, another parts are not as good (Maya Gold, Moonshine, Sentinel...) but in general terms I think that "Tubular Bells II" is a better album than "Tubular Bells". Maybe it´s not so original, and after all it´s only a kind of "cover", but when I hear it I feel so good and happy than I can´t escape of playing time after time! It´s hard to forget that it´s only a version, but you can´t deny the great quality of this version...

Conclusion: a must album for all fans of the good music and for people without prejudices! And without a doubt, "Tubular Bells II" is a totally fascinating experience if you listen together with "Tubular Bells", making comparisions and looking for the relations between them, because this is a marvellous lesson of how to make music...

Report this review (#60405)
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Well, this is the kind of thing that makes me think about diversity. My imrpesions on Tubullar Bells II are on the same trail of my impressions about the new "Star Wars" movies. Meaning that Tubullar Bells II riuns every achievment of the first album. As the album goes, you can hear some poor copies of the first melodies, now riuned forever because exactly that "Light touch" mentioned above. Comercial?... I would say "Desperate". The lack of renovation on Mike Oldfield's music (during the 80's he really tried) has been consistent on every instrumental album from this werid Artist, who sometimes has the ability to create very funny "light" pieces, like the first track on QE2 (wich is very clever). Inspiratioin dies, I guess. Anyway, The late "Millenium Bell" was the actual funeral for the original version, wich will always amaze me.
Report this review (#60410)
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars I just listened to the original "Tubular Bells" from 1973, right after I listened to this one, "Tubular Bells 2" (1992). And I have to say that the comparison makes the album (the second one) look extremely pale. Compared to the original, which has a lot of parts that are rough and noisy, this one is rather smooth. Despite that this is an album of its own, I can't help judging it in comparison to the original. I have to refer to the expression "Kill your Darlings", used among artists (not only musical artists), meaning that progression could only take place if you move on, instead of leaning back on previous success. After all, that spirit is what created progressive rock! On "Tubular Bells 2" I can't find the slightest trace of pioneering, and that's why it only seems like a pale copy. Ok, I know, music doesn't have to be ground-breaking to be good, but there has to be someting about it that make impressions on the listener. The things that caracterize this album (the smooth, perfectly produced sound, together with the loss of pioneer-spirit), makes it less interesting than the music played in new-age stores or supermarkets. I think this album is really bad, from the mentioned perspectives, and I shouldn't get started on the third "Tubular Bells".
Report this review (#63021)
Posted Tuesday, January 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you are really open to experimentation, you will love TB2 instantly. This is the challenge MO had set for himself: can I take the same chords, similar music sequences and similar instruments of TB original and make it sound all new, yet so familiar? I say he did it. TB 2 sounds absolutely new, yet familiar. It sounds clearer (because of better recording) and masmarising. Don't listen to naysayers-- this is a masterpiece.
Report this review (#68517)
Posted Monday, February 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Well, it's probably Mike Oldfield was willing to live in the past success of his debut album "Tubular Bells" whereby he composed the album lending from the success of his past in 1973 when he first released Tubular Bells. This time the songs are shorter in duration but it flows seamlessly from one song to another. It opens with "Sentinel" (8:07) with music bed is lent from the Part Two of first album "Tubular Bells" and it moves dynamically to second track "Dark Star" (2:16). The end of track 2 is again returning back to the original music bed that brings to nice acoustic guitar fills to start off the third track "Clear Light" (5:48). "Blue Saloon" (4:43) uses tight bass lines combined with nice guitar and ambient sound effects from keyboard. The music moves up in a bit symphonic style at the opening of "SunJammer" (4:06) followed with rough edge of guitar work and traditional music background.

"Red Dawn" (1:49) is an atmospheric bridge with excellent acoustic guitar fills that remarks and it has an excellent female choirs and brings the music to "The Bell". The remaining tracks move in similar pattern from "Weightless" (5:43) until "Moonshine" (1:41). Moonshine seems like a happy ending tune with upbeat country music using banjo. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#75858)
Posted Saturday, April 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I got into Mr. Oldfield's original rather late in life. It was the late 80's and I stumbled upon TB for the first time and was delighted to say the least. Here was some of the most interesting though somewhat unpolished music that I had heard in a long time. Too bad the cassette I purchased sounded quite muddy. Add to that the several flubs and poor tuning of instruments; I longed for something to keep me intersted over the long run.

Along came TB II and I snatched it up right away. Finally, a recording of a masterpiece that I could listen to without feeling the need to plug my ears every once in a while. Unfortunately, this CD felt more like a clone rather than a continuation of the the TB saga. This one became the fav of other family members but I kept sneaking back to the original to re-claim that spark. And yes, put up with all the original's glitches. If only Mike Oldfield would go back and re-record the original with newer technology...

3.5 out of 5

Report this review (#111669)
Posted Sunday, February 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars This is a lacklustre, electric version of his debut masterpiece. Though it has been completely re-written, the format and the structure are identical. Unfortunately, he uses way too many gadgets and gizmos to make it sound authentic, and the MC's voice is much worse here than on the original. Mike's always been unsatisfied with the original, but re-doing it like this will just make more albums for him to feel unsatisfied about. I also find that boredom ensues much easier and quicker on this version than the original. The imagery, the atmosphere, and overall feel of the original have been sacrificed for some polish. This is only for Oldfield die-hards.
Report this review (#118353)
Posted Saturday, April 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars And here it is: MIKE OLDFIELD phase three, all fresh and shiny and with a new record company ready to promote him. Ironically, Virgin had hounded him for more than a decade to produce a sequel to 'Tubular Bells', but he held out, having become increasingly angry at their treatment of him. WEA were the happy recipients of what must have been a marketer's dream. For once the buying public got it exactly right, for this is even better than the stellar original.

Every note here is crafted with loving care: unlike 1973, MIKE OLDFIELD had the time and the money to make it sound exactly the way he wanted. And even before 'Sentinel', his reworking of the famous opening theme, is half-finished, you know he's got it exactly right. Smooth as cream, deep as a well, cool as cavewater. His guitars never sounded so good. The timbre of his acoustic makes me want to weep, and his crying electric fills each track with pathos. TREVOR HORN helped produce the album, and his legendary behind-the-desk ability makes this an audiophile's treat.

This is not a copy of the original. He finally did that in 2003. This is a free reinterpretation, with each piece reflecting the mood of the original, but the tunes and rhythms altered or even completely different. Here we have a decade's worth of creativity sandwiched into one album. Individual tracks are given names here, giving the various parts a personality, and he's polished each one until it shines. 'Sentinel' begins with nice but nondescript piano - a tease, everyone's expecting the famous notes - and here they come. But the track is much more than just the piano theme. He drenches it in the most beautiful liquid guitar, with ominous chords filling the background. Female vocalists - just the right side of cheesy - guide us through the track, along with bass with a vibrato sound straight out of CHRIS SQUIRE'S notebook. We even have our first sighting of the famous bells, underlining the climax to the track. Oh yes. This is real music, not just a money-making exercise.

'Dark Star' increases the tempo: for those familiar with the original, you are suddenly reminded of this album's derivation. 'Clear Light' expands on 'Sentinel's' themes, a gentle exploration until the three minute mark when the bells return, reminding us again who is the king of musical grandeur. The track finishes with another example of his skill with bending notes until his guitar weeps. The minimal 'Blue Saloon' reinterprets the blues section of the original record, another welcome change of pace. 'Sunjammer' is the heavier guitar section, here rendered with real power. The main theme returns, heralding the final sequence ...

A 'Red Dawn' heralds the climax with shiny acoustic guitar and excellent ethereal female vocals from SALLY BRADSHAW. The finale follows the pattern of the original, but with a different bass rhythm and main tune, making this a much jauntier, more upbeat affair. ALAN RICKMAN (of Professor Snape fame) acts as MC, introducing the various instruments as they get their turn to play the tune. Partway through the listener realises there are at least three separate tunes blended together to make this music - shades of MOZART. The digital sound processor is the only misstep. The tubular bells, when they arrive, are spectacular: clearly OLDFIELD has put a lot of thought into this moment of musical catharsis: he raises the intensity again and again, then finishes with a snappy rhythm and a last burst on that masterful guitar before bringing us gently back to earth.

OK, you've got the message. This album is a stunner. But the original 'Tubular Bells' had an achilles heel: side 2 was too ambient for most tastes. OLDFIELD addresses that here, and I find I prefer this side to that which has gone before. 'Weightless' is a simple repeating harmonics pattern with wordless vocals and that weeping guitar, and what follows is moment after moment of emotional discharge. I could list them all, but suffice to say that throughout the eighties we got one moment per album: here we get one moment per minute. 'Weightless', 'The Great Plain' (a wonderful celtic theme played on a banjo!) and 'Sunset Door' (an oh-so-delicate shimmering tune of lilting, break-your-heart beauty) are all magnificent, but surpassed by the bagpipes on 'Tattoo'. Bagpipes cane be the best or worst of instruments; here they shine. Goosebump territory. 'Altered States' is cheesy, but so was the caveman section on the original. The album flows to a gentle finish, the shimmering guitar of 'Maya Gold' bringing us to 'Moonshine', a kick-the-heels banjo romp.

This record couldn't be any more different to his previous album, which was itself diametrically opposite to 'Amarok' before it. Clearly OLDFIELD is enjoying the taste of freedom, and his music benefits. And the album to follow is every bit as good ...

If your idea of great music is blood and death, don't buy this. I enjoy a good romp amid the gore myself on occasion. But if you want to hear heavenly beauty transcribed for your ears, this is the place to go. The cheap synths and sub-standard pop of the eighties is gone, replaced by this shining thing. Welcome back, Mr. OLDFIELD.

I'm angry about one thing. Virgin's poor dealings with OLDFIELD delayed this landmark of creativity by a decade or more. If only they'd played ball, we might have been given so much more ...

Report this review (#138897)
Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have an absolute tenderness for "Tubular Bells".

At this time of his career (and I am not speaking about his label change), Mike reverted to his overshadowing album. One of his best, for sure. But was he so uninspired that he had to rework one of his masterpieces? Was this a pre-requisite from his new label ? I don't know.

What is for sure is that "Tubular Bells" has been an endless lucrative source of income for Mike. Remember : over fifteen MILLION albums were sold from the original album and it has marked the memories so well that the temptation was huge to reproduce it for a new label.

I have to say that this one can't hold the comparison with the genuine work. It sounds different as well (which is understandable for a re-writing). This album is of course superior to all of his work from "Discovery" through "Heaven's Open" (with the noticeable exception of "Amarok" of course).

Mike's production is so much glued to this work, so much influenced by his great debut work that he is jumping with pleasure in this revisited version of one of his masterpieces. Lots of passages are completely new and IMO not better than the great original. So, why should you care?

This album is better than a "for fan only" one but was this all necessary? Still three stars.

Report this review (#161209)
Posted Thursday, February 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Breath-taking album by Mike Oldfield!!! One of my favourite albums was born from the ideas of Mike Oldfield's debut - Tubular Bells, but I don't think this is something bad. Contrariwise, this is an extraordinary project made by Mike Oldfield - to see your previous work from a different view. I believe this is even more difficult than making something new, because you have to estimate so much obstacles to do this. Mike Oldfield proves he is never failing source of ideas with this experiment. For me it was interesting to understand this is a sequel. I grew up with Tubular Bells II and much later I heard the first one. It was strange for me. They both are so great in their own way. Tubular Bells with its harder and classic sound; Tubular Bells II with its gentle and modern sound! The other important moment in my review is the thin folk line on the album, ordinary for this artist. It complements the river that perfectly flowes on the album!!!
Report this review (#189793)
Posted Tuesday, November 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Each TB# improves on the last

Many will argue with my opinion that each TB release was better than the previous, but few Oldfield fans will argue that the live video presentations of each smoke their studio counterparts. This is most true of TB2 and TB3, both of which are pretty dry, arguably sterile in the studio form, yet absolutely filled with life and beauty in their live outdoor video performances. If you have the chance to score the DVDs of TB2 and TB3 live in concert, you can seriously skip the studio recordings altogether. Musically TB2 lacks the explorer's spirit of the original but takes more care in putting together cohesive, memorable melodies. Oldfield's guitar playing is fantastic as ever, with leads that soar, with sections that are quite moving to the listener. After the predictably good electric playing of "Sentinel" it is the acoustic charmer called "Red Dawn" that really blows my mind: simply stunning classical guitar joined by operatic female vocals in one of Mike's most lovely, if far too short compositions. Others, like "Sunset Door" employed sampled human voice against Mike's playing to great effect. The sense of melody and joy carry through TB2, providing a grandiose sounding piece of music, really like a great classical music concert. Whereas in the original some of the "experiments" were a bit silly or naďve, by this time Oldfield was a better composer and it shows here. Except perhaps for "Altered States" with the annoying caveman back for an encore. My biggest problems are some occasionally cheesy sounds to the keyboards primarily, and the fact that some sequences either didn't grab me or were a bit repetitive. With regard to the latter, the next chapter TB3 would correct this and provide the rare case where the finale was the best part. By all means check out all three numeric TB selections if you love Oldfield, but if you can get the live DVD or videos, you'll have the better versions. And if you're an Oldfield noob, start with the Hergest Ridge through Incantations period, which was the undisputed peak of Mike Oldfield's career.

Report this review (#279887)
Posted Thursday, April 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars Is this a cynical attempt to cash in again on what was Mike Oldfield's most successful album? Of course it is. Just look at the number of albums is Oldfield's catalog that refer back to that classic, and you will understand that Oldfield and his record label found nothing wrong with dipping into that well over and over.

And while there are a few songs that sound like they are trying desperately to capture the original album (for the most part, they do, and with great production), most of the album is original pieces. There are a few too many new agey songs for my tastes, but some songs are quite good. The best, to me are Dark Star, and Altered State.

And who can resist Hans Gruber (I know, most of you think of him as Snape) announcing the instruments in The Bell?

Report this review (#296571)
Posted Saturday, August 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm probably the only person on the site to review Oldfield's classic Bells trio in reverse, having done III some time ago, and awarding it four stars. One of these days, I'll get around to doing to the one that started a stellar career. However, I am also one of the few who actually thinks that he went on to do far better stuff than the opener, and I have been listening to his work a lot lately.

This was the first album Oldfield did for Warner after his departure from Beardie Branson's Virgin label, having, to be truthful, fulfilled his contract there with some fillers as well as classics.

Warner wanted a bestseller, and, cynically as record companies can be, it HAD to have Bells in the title. Simple as that.

So, that's the cynicism over. Was it worth it? Well, yes it was. This is a tremendous LP, and one that makes no pretence other than updating the original into a sound and format that would find comfort in 1990's listeners and buyers, rather than old hippies like us from the 1970's.

The striking thing to me on this album is just how sumptuous and good Oldfield's guitar playing is. Even though he is an accomplished multi instrumentalist, it is his guitar playing which has always impressed, and his acoustic and electric work on this really does not disappoint. For a combination of both, simply check out Clear Light, which, combined with some exquisite vocal harmonies and synths, is magical.

One of the advantages Oldfield had when he recorded this is the fact that keyboard and production technology had moved on a great deal from 1973, when the original was set to vinyl. This was the digital age, and it showed.

Other highlights are the exceptionally gorgeous, and intricate, acoustics on Red Dawn, and the bagpipes on Tatoo, which, by the way, was a huge highlight when the whole piece was performed, to great acclaim, at The Edinburgh Arts Festival. If you can, get the DVD, it's very good.

Is it a rerun of the original? Yes, and it never made any pretence of being otherwise.

Is it good enough to stand on its own two feet? Most certainly.

Is it a landmark album? No. It is merely an excellent album from an excellent artist, and that, my friends, is more than good enough for me.

Four stars for this. Hugely enjoyable.

Report this review (#306258)
Posted Saturday, October 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars (F)altered state

Building heavily on the template set by the original Tubular Bells, Mike Oldfield set out to create this follow-up album almost 20 years later. Since the original Tubular Bells album from 1973 remains one of Mike Oldfield's most successful albums it is perhaps not surprising that he attempted to make follow-ups. While the present album was the first proper attempt to make another Tubular Bells, there was an unnecessary orchestral version of the original piece done in 1975 and since then Tubular Bells III, The Millennium Bell as well as another studio re- make of the original have been released. Some of these releases are better than others, and the present one is not among the better ones in my opinion. For me, Tubular Bells II is something of an incoherent mess that takes on board all the flaws of the original while at the same time not taking things at all beyond it. It is not as utterly messy as Amarok, but it is far behind other more recent works such as Songs From Distant Earth and Tubular Bells III.

As mentioned, this album follows the original quite closely. The main theme will certainly be recognized by all. The "master of ceremonies" bit from the original is also re-used here and personally I never liked that part in the first place. The "growling" vocals are also re-used and they are even worse. There is a kind of Rap-section that is quite painful on these ears! It is all a bit silly! But Mike probably had a lot of fun creating this monster.

Overall, this is a very playful and quite whimsical work with many different themes. It moves rapidly from one theme to another, but it never seems to get off the ground. As such it is a quite frustrating listen, despite several great passages. Nothing is allowed to develop to fruition, but instead Mike takes us directly to his next musical idea (most of which feel "not really new").

Not among Mike's better works, nor among the better in the Tubular Bells family. Only for fans and collectors this one.

Report this review (#351752)
Posted Monday, December 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars While MIKE OLDFIELD had peddled in live, orchestral, remastered, and bonus versions of his 1973 debut ad infinitum, this was his first sequel, appearing almost 20 years after the original, initially delayed and later hastened to coincide with the switch from Virgin to Warner Records. Still, as a sequel it still sounds more like the original than some of the reworked renditions. Divided though it is into multiple tracks, it remains essentially one long piece with passages that echo and reflect their counterparts of yore.

The main theme remains largely intact although oddly turned sideways like so many here, the introduction of the instruments has another go at it, the bagpipes sounding like guitars are actually bagpipes this time, the teeth gnashing Cro Magnon man is not yet extinct, and the Sailor's Hornpipe is now a bluegrass ditty. Of course the production is improved, and a sensuous infusion of Latin influences on "Weightless" and 'Maya Gold" speaks to stylistic progression. Just using TB as a template ensures a superior flow to that presented on "Amarok", and an absence of pop indulgences.

Overall, I can't get excited about this rendition, as professionally and lovingly compiled as it may be. It's just too close to the original in flavour and feel to stand on its own. It's a slicker, modernized version with enough creativity and panache to merit your attention, but nothing here will cause the bells to toll for its predecessor.

Report this review (#986572)
Posted Wednesday, June 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars The most bizarre musical experience

Before reviewing the new "Return to Ommadawn" I thought I would go back and listen to some of the old Oldfield albums, so I could place it within Oldfield's overall catalogue (will send that review soon). But upon re-listening to this one, I was reminded just what a bizarre experience it is. The whole album is written to match the original Tubular Bells in form, structure and melodies, but using (slightly) different orderings of notes, melodies, or (slightly) different rhythms. It is as if we entered a parallel universe in which everything we have now still exists, but it is just slightly different. There is the beginning repetitive theme played on piano and organ. There is section with the duel guitars. There is the suddently-loud almost punk section. There is the 'Master-of-ceremonies" section with the same theme played by various different instruments over top of a repeated bass line, etc, etc. This is the only album I can think that has ever been written like this. Every part of the original album is represented, and you can tell instantly which part it is, but there is always some (slight) difference. The melody runs up the scale, when in the original it falls. The order of the chords is reversed, but otherwise has the same structure. The sonic timbre is the same, but the notes are in major rather than minor scale. The tempo is in 4/4 instead of 7/8. That sort of thing. Almost as if a computer were programmed to write another Tubular Bells, while making sure no other computer would register an exact match. This must have been a fun, but also difficult, exercise in song-writing for Oldfield, as he clearly thought everyone who knew the original album would need to instantly recognize each part in this one, but at the same time, he could not just plagiarize himself. The problem is, while very interesting, none of the actual music on this album is as good as the original. And some sections just don't work at all. The worst part is the 'Caveman' section, which sounds very similar to the original, but has a mother/daughter voice-over that mocks the caveman in an unintelligent, off-putting way. Oldfield seems to be mocking himself. If this had been the only version of Tubular Bells ever released, it likely would have flopped, and Oldfield would not be known as he is today. It is both not as musical, but also far too close to the original Tubular Bells. It is a very strange trip for anyone who loves the original, and I doubt most will want to listen to this more than once. I give it 3.9 out of 10 on my 10-point scale. Only for true fans, and/or those wanting a parallel-universe type of experience.

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Posted Saturday, May 6, 2017 | Review Permalink

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