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Mike Oldfield

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Mike Oldfield Man on the Rocks album cover
3.14 | 220 ratings | 10 reviews | 10% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2014

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Sailing (4:46)
2. Moonshine (5:50)
3. Man on the Rocks (6:11)
4. Castaway (6:35)
5. Minutes (4:52)
6. Dreaming in the Wind (5:29)
7. Nuclear (5:04)
8. Chariots (4:39)
9. Following the Angels (7:05)
10. Irene (4:00)
11. I Give Myself Away (5:11)

Total Time 59:42

Line-up / Musicians

- Mike Oldfield / acoustic & electric guitars, bass, keyboards, backing vocals (8,9), co-producer

- Luke Spiller (The Struts) / lead vocals
- Stephen Lipson / acoustic & electric guitars, co-producer
- Michael Thompson / acoustic & electric guitars
- Matt Rollings / piano, Hammond B3
- Paul Dooley / violin (2)
- Davy Spillane / low whistles (2)
- Leland Sklar / bass
- John Robinson / drums
- Bill Champlain, Alfie Silas Durio, Carmel Echols, Rochelle Gilliard, Judith Hill, Kirsten Joy, Jason Morales, Louis Price, Tiffany Smith / backing vocals (8,9)

Releases information

Artwork: Phil Smee with Waldo's Design

2LP Virgin EMI Records ‎- 376 069-8 (2014, Europe)

CD Virgin EMI Records ‎- 376 069-5 (2014, Europe)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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MIKE OLDFIELD Man on the Rocks ratings distribution

(220 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(10%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(24%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (21%)
Poor. Only for completionists (11%)

MIKE OLDFIELD Man on the Rocks reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by lazland
4 stars The first thing to say in this review is a health warning. If you are a person who believes that for a song to qualify as prog, it should be at least ten minutes long, and preferably twenty, or that any Mike Oldfield album that does not include at least one track of that length represents a sellout or abomination to all things prog, then it is fair to say that this new release is not for you. Do not waste your money, for you will be very upset and disappointed. Actually, best not to even read any further, go settle down, relax, and listen to some of that real prog.

For the rest of you, those open to the principle that a song based album can actually be pretty good and, well, like prog, this album might well be for you.

It is some six years since Oldfield's last release, and he had clearly entered a state of semi-retirement. However, the overwhelmingly positive response to his live appearance at the superb London 2012 Opening Ceremony, and, as clearly, the need to exorcise some inner demons that have been dormant for some time, persuaded the great man to sit down, write, get a band together, and release an album of entirely new material.

Band is the first thing, actually, to note about Man On The Rocks. It is an Oldfield band performance, rather than Oldfield doing it all. The man himself plays guitars and keyboards, but enlists the services of veteran bassist Leland Sklar (Phil Collins and CSN), drummer John Robinson (Eric Clapton), and, on vocals, Luke Spiller, of Derby indie rock band, The Struts. Yep, you read right, Oldfield has recruited an Indie singer to perform on one of his albums, which, if some comments are to be believed, represents a capital crime.

In fact, Spiller is one of the finds of the decade, and puts in one hell of a shift in on this. He has the full range, from the soft textures of the title track and Following The Angels, to the full rock pelt of Nuclear. Some have compared him to Freddie Mercury, and the comparison is not entirely a load of old spin. The way he works with Oldfield on the disturbingly catchy Minutes does, actually, invoke memories of another fine partnership Oldfield once had with a certain Maggie.

The music is fair mix of styles, from the pure, and instantly enjoyable toe-tapping, pop of opener Sailing, to the dark, heavy, and brooding Nuclear, via Celtic infused influences (similar to those found on Voyager) of Moonshine, Chariots, which could easily have found a way into a album such as Calling All Stations, and gospel influences on Following The Angels and the closer, I Give Myself Away.

The constant throughout is Oldfield's guitar work. If he had been the lead guitarist of a common or garden band, rather than the multi instrumentalist we know, I genuinely believe that we would be talking about him in the same reverential and hushed tones we reserve for the likes of Howe and Hackett. His (undoubtedly conscious) decision to restrict himself to guitars and keys allows him to shine, and this album contains some of the best trademark guitar bursts, licks, and riffs heard from him for many a year. I simply love the electric burst of Castaway, which screams and cries emotion.

I mentioned earlier inner demons. Well, the extraordinary title track, with its slow opening right to the bombastic rock pomp of the emotional outlets that follow, deals with his, and his late mother's, many addictions, the thoughtful Castaway with the fear of a child, Minutes and Chariots, with missing loved ones and separation (he is going through yet another separation and divorce), and, especially, the very dark Nuclear, the highlight of the album for me, dealing with emotional suffering, the riffs of which remind me of Blackmore at his rock peak, and put many so called heavy rock acts to shame. The other fine harder rock track is Irene, dealing with the hurricane that struck the island where Oldfield now calls home.

It is not, however, all doom and gloom. Following The Angels, the longest track at just over seven minutes, is a tribute to the Olympic Opening Ceremony, Sailing is about the joy of a life on the ocean waves, and a nice, gently performed, worship number in the closer, I Give Myself Away, written by William McDowell, a black gospel singer and preacher. I love the complex prog pop of Dreaming In The Wind, a tribute to an unknown man whose ashes were spread in the sea, but is more cheery than it might sound on reading. Actually, the word, in spite of some of the subject matter, that best describes this album is fun, in that Oldfield, I believe, had a great deal of fun and satisfaction in making it. It is not a "simple" pop album, it is the mature work of a great songwriter which grows on one with each and every listen.

Okay, so to a rating. Going back to the beginning of this review, this is not an Amarok, Bells, Incantations, or Ommadawn. It could be better compared to side two of Crises, or albums such as QE2 or Discovery, and stands up very well in comparison, so four stars for this, an album which I will play regularly for a long time. This review is of the single cd only. There is an extended version available with instrumental work.

His swan song? I know not, but, if it is, there are far worse ways to sign off.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I must say I was somewhat skeptical when learning of this release late 2013 but when I heard the sampler of the studio work, saw Leland Sklar in the background and Luke Spiller on vocals, I knew that this could be potentially a refreshing new release.

Mike Oldfield has always managed to cross between long epic instrumental passages with short crossover pop/prog songs. In fact he even went totally pop on the studio album Earth Moving. So what am I driving at? Albums like side two off Crises, side two off Islands, side one off Heaven's Open, Discovery and Earth Moving always had a wealth of shorter, vocally driven songs. Exclude short tracks off more definitive works like Five Miles Out or QE2. So this is Oldfield in his comfort zone, mixing a good dose of rock and crossover which results in mostly a highly enjoyable album. Cleverly composed songs with a perfect blend of Oldfield's ubiquitous guitar solo's and led with Luke Spiller's vocals. I will go one further and say that in terms of choosing a male vocalist to guest on his albums, this is by far Oldfield's shrewdest choice yet.

So what about the songs. I am thrilled to say there are no throw away tracks at all. The combination of musicianship, choruses, vocals, work a treat and flow seamlessly. Spiller is so good he allows Oldfield space to belt out his music without any pressure. There are eleven tracks on Man on the Rocks, the highlights would be Nuclear. Listen to the chorus, Spiller sounds like Greg Lake on Epitaph.......yeah that good! Moonshine and Dreaming In The Wind are excellent also as is Irene. This last track really does sound like a hurricane building to a relentless and oppressive climax. Castaway has some solid drumming by John Robinson. Leland Sklar never disappoints on bass throughout the album either. So I stick my neck out and unashamedly say this the most enjoyable studio release since TBIII. A deserved four stars and great to see Oldfield back and enjoying himself. His guitars really shine.

Review by Second Life Syndrome
4 stars I love this album. I really do. This new album from the legendary Mike Oldfield was an unexpected surprise for me, as I'm a big fan of his guitar work and the people he's influenced. His new album "Man on the Rocks" manages to be a wonderful, enjoyable experience. This is especially so if you don't approach this album expecting "Tubular Bells" or the like. This is an old guy doing what he loves, and I really enjoy that.

Speaking of old men, this album features many tunes that center on nostalgia and pondering the mystery of life. I love to sit back and listen to older people tell stories and pass on wisdom; I really appreciate that. This album comes across that way for me.

The music, as I said, is pure enjoyment. Mike plays his signature guitar and some keys, and he has a wonderful band and a young singer behind him. This album, however, is no prog masterpiece. It has a strong classic rock sound to much of it, and that's okay. There are also some more eclectic elements, such as island music. It's a far cry from his masterworks, but you can't expect that level of work forever. So, for the most part, the music is more simplistic, rockin', and just fun. I was slightly disappointed by the lack of soloing on the album, as there are only a few. Mike's guitars are always a high point for me, and feel that his signature sound could have been used more. But, I really can't review an album for what's NOT on it.

There are many, many good songs on here, a few amazing tracks, and one track that could have been omitted. The good songs include "Sailing", "Minutes", "Dreaming in the Wind", and a few others. The bad song, for me, includes "Irene". You see, "Irene" completely blocks my vision of the rest of the album, as I really can't stand it. It's an old-fashioned, love- struck rock tune about, you guessed it, Irene. It's very shallow compared to the rest of the album, and it's just not my thing. However, I've heard much worse.

Despite that track, Mike puts out some rather incredible tracks, too. These include the folksy "Moonshine", the climactic "Man on the Rocks", the ballad "I Give Myself Away", and the strangely addictive "Castaway" that features some drums that are pure gold and one of the best solos on the album. So, with these fantastic tunes and with some wonderful tracks surrounding them, I feel that Mike Oldfield has actually satisfied my Oldfield craving.

Is this a masterpiece? Far from it. Is it worthy of your time and money? Absolutely. It's just a fun album to hear; full of progressive tweaks, elderly wisdom and introspection, and some tracks that blew away my expectations. I hope to hear more from Mike in the future, but, if this happens to be his last, I feel that he has gone out on a high note that will provide me enjoyment for years to come.

3.5 stars

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I frankly will again acquire the fulminating rage from prog purists, those extremist fundamentalists who will always jump on the "easy way out bandwagon" to bash the progressive rock elite. While I do not like the poppier style espoused by some of the golden era stalwarts, the commercial Genesis and the lame recent Yes come to mind, it is always due to a lack of chops that drive me bananas. How a mega drum maestro like Alan White can become so sappy and tepid, is beyond my understanding and yields nothing but contempt.

Mike Oldfield needs no introduction, pretty much releasing material since his Tubular Bells debut, a career that spans over 41 years. Some early fans have not digested kindly his decision to delve into other forms, interjecting his TB sequels with some more accessible material, a trend that began with the tongue in cheek single "Punkadiddle", showing a gifted musician unafraid of change and whimsy. Willing to take risks and eat crow if necessary. Undeniably there have been early masterpieces and then some more along the way ( "Amarok", "Songs from Distant Earth"), a few misunderstood albums that I particularly enjoy for their freshness and melodies such as the evil "Earth Moving", the Celtic-tinged "Voyager" and the thrilling "Light & Shade", panned and even crucified by most prog fans as drivel-pap. Well, in such a long and storied career, there will be some duds, or at the very least, unsatisfying albums that just don't have any pull. They are in my humble opinion, "The Millenium Bell", "Tres Lunas", "Heaven's Open", "Islands" and the classical "Music of the Spheres".

So what does the deluxe 2 CD version of "Man on the Rocks" have to offer? A return to quality that becomes apparent when listening to the instrumental CD, the brisk freshness of the sound, with the organic bass from the mighty and legendary Leland Sklar (his bass lead on Billy Cobham's Stratus remains a mythical fixture) and the cannon-fire drumming of John Robinson giving Mike all the leverage needed to instill a massive and yet pristine sound that serves little interest in reformulating past glories but forging ahead in simpler horizons (the man already has a PhD in complexity, no?). To go from the vocal to the instrumental versions really gives the dynamics a serious address, a clever little concept , something Oldfield had done on Light + Shade with the U-Myx option open to fans to alter the sound of the tracks to their own preferences.

"Sailing" is one of those crafty songs that you flippantly dismiss as 'pop-pap' and then find yourself humming it without restraint for the next few weeks, hooked, lined and sinkered! It's a sunny, breezy, tropically-tinged and relaxing song expertly delivered by Luke Spiller, a muscular voice that has oomph, power and tons of drama, which is already eliciting comparisons to the great Queen Fredo of Mercury! But when you partake in the instrumental version, it almost feels like country song with serious progressive tendencies, guitars flipping around all over the place.

"Moonshine" is a continuation of sorts, as it the peppier tendencies become now a tad more proggy, though the Spiller lead vocal is straight forward, uniquely intertwined with the whopping melody, a bar room pub anthem if I ever heard one and appropriately titled. One can imagine pub patrons all singing the chorus in harmony, raising another pint of delicious tepid brew and swinging to the marching lilt. Oldfield does one of his patented bagpipe toned guitar licks to seal the deal. Totally memorable! Without the massive anthemic voice, the vocal-less version becomes even more phenomenal, as if belonging to some movie soundtrack, the slippery electric guitar now becoming the main focus.

The title track is a flat-out monster, "Man on the Rocks" being a clever play on marital situation (Mike is going through another divorce!) but the mood and spirit is phenomenal. Spiller emotes gently, yet confidently on the microphone, fueled by a glorious hymn and symphonic bombast. The double chorus is mesmerizing, as it elevates the swell of emotion and instills the sense of celestial eternity. The energy just keeps torqueing forward, revving at optimum speed and maximum acceleration, with a whopping guitar break to send this into the stratosphere. Spiller really gets heavy towards the end, hurling his desperate words, backing vocals in tow. Mike unscrews a twirling solo that sears and even perhaps roebucks (LOL). Definitely the most proggy piece here, proof lying squarely with the orchestral version on the instrumental second CD, where the arrangement seeks to take its time in delivering the necessary aplomb.

The deliberate and measured "Castaway" takes it sweet time to get off the pier, the sails still waking up and stretching from a long siesta but ultimately Spiller and the insistent organ riff start building up a head of steam, heading into the warm winds, where Robinson's hefty drums steer the good ship Oldfield on its merry voyage. But the explosive second part gets nicely aggressive with Spiller's mighty scream and Mike's liquid and blitzing guitar rampaging with both water and fire. The hushing finale is utterly sweet and brilliant.

Sorry, do not care much for the short "Minutes" , a bit too square and plodding for this listener to appreciate, though it is far from being unpleasant, it just does not resonate at all, even in pop song terms. The instrumental version does have a bit more palate, what with another delightful axe solo.

The sultry "Dreaming in the Wind" is perhaps my preferred tune, screw-driving guitar getting the mood set up, tick-tack drumming and a bass undertow keeping pace. It's just a pretty melody, deep in melancholia, very mystifying and invigorating though I must admit the vocal version is frantically gorgeous, Spiller is a true gem and a perfect foil for the older and wiser composer. There is almost a classic the Fixx feel, especially in the drums that sound like Adam Woods and the Cy Curnin-like vocal. Mike performs a sizzling guitar solo, all sting and guitar pick, insistent and directionally inquisitive. The repetitive chorus line has a definite Bob Seger wink.

The doom-laden "Nuclear" is incredibly dark, searching out definite contrasts to the jumpier previous pieces as Spiller does his best Greg Lake imitation, I mean it's downright uncanny (think the classic "Epitaph")! Brooding, exhausting and very British, the sense of gruesome devastation and useless disconsolation are expertly accomplished, easily the most progressive piece on the disc. The vocal-less option is not as explosive, showing how important a distraught vocal can be for a songs dynamics.

"Chariots" is Mike Oldfield at his rockiest, chugging guitar boldly plowing forward, boom- boom tchak drums and a rock chorus. I guess after the soporific classicism of "Music of the Spheres", Oldfield wanted to shake some cobwebs and get perspiration heavy. Spiked by another biting and snarling axe solo, he is not cheap and minimalist in his playing, something that was woefully lacking on his previous disc.

Still wondering if the goods are all delivered? Well "Following the Angels" is another consecration of Oldfield's newfound inspiration, a majestic 7 minute + with a rather fragile and effortless initial vocal setting the mood quite eloquently, jangling and clanging guitar twangs, that country picking that I normally despise but fall in love with every time his fingers slap the fret board. I know why too, Oldfiled's guitar playing is never linear, always geometric in its audacity and vivacious in its expression. This is a sweet love song, swooning backing vocals giving this a soulful sheen that just overtakes one's possible indifference. Simply terrific piece of music.

Wanna smile there, boy? "Irene" is another rocker, raspy guitars and all, as if an outtake by ZZ Top (yeah, a Billy Gibbons raucous style to say the least), Spiller doing a remarkable job on the microphone with a testosterone/masculine delivery, showing off both tonal versatility and lung prowess. The clincher is the overt brass treatment that is straight out of Muscle Shoals , Alabama, a deliriously juicy rocker, what do you expect when the word "rollin'" is repeated infinitely. One word= Fun!

"I Give Myself Away" closes this delicious musical monument, a thoroughly enjoyable exercise giving the fan the option to go back and forth between the vocal and non-vocal selections and thus truly understand that this icon still has lots of magic in him. Spiller spills (sic) his feelings all over this dreamy track, hoarse and yet defiant, a voice of hope and resolve. Yes, it's a love song and tell me, what is wrong with that? Romantic proggers beware, this will pull at your heartstrings, perhaps even ponder your life as you look into the mirror, look back at it all and wonder how much better it could have been if love was there from the very first day.

Way more enjoyable than I hope for, but Oldfield has smartly chosen to surround himself with intensely brilliant talents, a tight rhythm section of the very highest pedigree and a lead singer that just might be rock and prog's next revelation.

4.5 Male Ice cubes

Review by russellk
2 stars No, Mike. Just no.

It's not that it's not prog. OLDFIELD's done plenty in his career that isn't prog rock. It's not that it's poor quality. In fact, every note is played with consummate professionalism. It's not even the composition of the songs: some of them are actually pretty good, and in one case (the title track), excellent. No, it's the arrangements. OLDFIELD manages to smother each track in MOR sauce, and the choice of vocalist (so clean, so British) doesn't help either. It's as though Mike took all those wonderful elements that make up the unique OLDFIELD experience and stuck them in a 1980s blender. Voila, MOR on the rocks. I'm not saying he wasn't trying, just that the recipe is a bit stale. I've not been able to listen to the thing right through, and I've tried half a dozen times. This time I drifted off somewhere between 'Minutes' and 'Dreaming In The Wind'.

There is so much good music in this world, and even plenty of interesting bad music. Go find something compelling to listen to.

Latest members reviews

2 stars First things first: I'm so happy for Mike Oldfield to come back from semi-retirement and continue recording! "Man on the Rocks" was the first album in six years and Mike himself admitted that 2012 London Olympics ceremony reinvigorated him so much. In an interview I've read at the time, Oldfield ... (read more)

Report this review (#1947393) | Posted by thief | Tuesday, July 10, 2018 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Mixed, but some excellent tracks! Clearly hurting from the ending of a recent relationship, Mike here writes a number of poignant songs very different from his usual instrumentals, and gets Luke Spiller (of the band The Struts) to sing them. And some are excellent, up there with the best of his s ... (read more)

Report this review (#1718307) | Posted by Walkscore | Saturday, May 6, 2017 | Review Permanlink

3 stars At times it sounds very lame like a motivational ad for a Democratic Convention gathering (Liberty ... Liberty )but still it has that MO magic underpinning it all so that you will listen to it time and again thinking this sounds like an ad for a Democratic Convention gathering ... and then you w ... (read more)

Report this review (#1438848) | Posted by shantiq | Friday, July 10, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars How fantastic Mike Oldfield is here again with a fine record with many songs and a lot of music. This time it's 2014 and the record's name is "Man on the rocks" and we can see an opening in a rock where we see the sea on the cover picture. Mike Oldfield is the master of guitars and keyboards o ... (read more)

Report this review (#1161769) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Clean, well played, well recorded, sure. But prog not much. Heavy drums and male echoed voice in Sailing, which is basically a transposition to plain old rock of "Island" Flying Star or "Earth Moving" Hostage. Celtic influences and Guilmour-esque guitar ā la "Songs of Distant Earth" in Moons ... (read more)

Report this review (#1141344) | Posted by franp | Tuesday, March 4, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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