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TUBULAR BELLS

Mike Oldfield

Crossover Prog


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Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells album cover
4.06 | 798 ratings | 98 reviews | 51% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Tubular Bells part 1 (25:00)
2. Tubular Bells part 2 (23:50)

Total Time: 48:50

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Mike Oldfield / grand piano, organs, glockenspiel, bass, acoustic, electric, fuzz, mandoline-like Spanish & speed guitars, honky tonk piano, assorted percussion, flageolet, tubular bells, concert tympani, guitars sounding like bagpipes & voices
+ Steve Broughton / drums
- Lindsay Cooper / string basses
- Mundy Ellis / chorus
- John Field / flutes
- Sally Oldfield / chorus
- Vivian Stanshall / Master of Ceremonies
- Manor Choir / (2)
- Nasal Chorus / (1)

Releases information

LP Virgin V 2001 (1973)
CD Virgin CDV 2001 (1983)
HDCD(RM) Virgin CDVR2001 (2000)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to The Bearded Bard for the last updates
Edit this entry

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Tubular BellsTubular Bells
Remastered · Extra tracks · Import
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$3.96 (used)
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Reprise Records 2011
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Deluxe Edition · Extra tracks · Import
Mercury UK 2009
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Rhino Records 2011
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Warner Bros UK 1999
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Tubular Bells (Amazon.com Exclusive)Tubular Bells (Amazon.com Exclusive)
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MIKE OLDFIELD's TUBULAR BELLS - 200g Quiex SV-P - Vinyl LP - 200g ReissueMIKE OLDFIELD's TUBULAR BELLS - 200g Quiex SV-P - Vinyl LP - 200g Reissue
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Vinyl$38.95
Tubular bellsTubular bells
Import
Audio CD$37.08
$1.97 (used)
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MIKE OLDFIELD Tubular Bells ratings distribution


4.06
(798 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(51%)
51%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(34%)
34%
Good, but non-essential (11%)
11%
Collectors/fans only (2%)
2%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

MIKE OLDFIELD Tubular Bells reviews


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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by 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 Oxygène 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.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#27272) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, February 19, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#27277) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, March 06, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#27279) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Review by 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!!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#27280) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, April 03, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#27281) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to richardh (BETA) | Report this review (#27276) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, May 21, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to frenchie (BETA) | Report this review (#27286) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Chris S (BETA) | Report this review (#27288) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2004

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Thulëatan (BETA) | Report this review (#27293) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 14, 2005

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
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.

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Posted Sunday, April 03, 2005

Review by 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!

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Posted Thursday, July 21, 2005

Review by 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.

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Posted Thursday, July 28, 2005

Review by 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!

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Posted Sunday, September 11, 2005

Review by 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!!

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Posted Saturday, October 29, 2005

Review by 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.

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Posted Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Review by 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.

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Posted Monday, December 12, 2005

Review by 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.

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Posted Monday, March 13, 2006

Review by 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' ..!

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Posted Saturday, April 22, 2006

Review by 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.

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Posted Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Review by 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.

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Posted Thursday, March 22, 2007

Review by 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.

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Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Review by 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.

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Posted Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Review by 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.

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Posted Thursday, August 16, 2007

Review by 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.

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Send comments to russellk (BETA) | Report this review (#137823) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#148074) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, October 29, 2007

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#152582) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, November 24, 2007

Review by 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.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#158363) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 11, 2008

Review by 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.

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#163729) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Neo Prog Team
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...

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#166419) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, April 12, 2008

Review by 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.

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Send comments to JLocke (BETA) | Report this review (#180721) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2008

Review by 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.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#188738) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, November 10, 2008

Review by 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.

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Send comments to MovingPictures07 (BETA) | Report this review (#191141) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, November 30, 2008

Review by 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 naïve 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

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Send comments to LinusW (BETA) | Report this review (#191843) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, December 04, 2008

Review by 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.

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Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Review by 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.

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Posted Saturday, February 21, 2009

Review by 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.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#205482) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, March 05, 2009

Review by 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.

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Posted Friday, March 06, 2009

Review by 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.

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Posted Saturday, April 18, 2009

Review by 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.

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Posted Monday, November 02, 2009

Review by 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.

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Posted Friday, February 12, 2010

Review by 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.

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Posted Monday, February 22, 2010

Review by 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...

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Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review by 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.

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Posted Saturday, June 05, 2010

Review by 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.

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Posted Friday, July 02, 2010

Review by 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 by Andy Webb
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Site and Forum 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.

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Posted Friday, July 30, 2010

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock Team
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.

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Posted Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review by 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)

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Posted Friday, October 22, 2010

Review by 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

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#353478) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
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.

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#379919) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 14, 2011

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#402937) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, February 18, 2011

Review by 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.

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Send comments to friso (BETA) | Report this review (#433681) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review by 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.

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Send comments to baz91 (BETA) | Report this review (#476025) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#507139) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, August 22, 2011

Latest members reviews

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 comple ... (read more)

Report this review (#1040105) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Friday, September 20, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 instrument ... (read more)

Report this review (#984547) | Posted by Xonty | Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 minute ... (read more)

Report this review (#868747) | Posted by Navegador | Thursday, November 29, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#860494) | Posted by geneyesontle | Friday, November 16, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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, whi ... (read more)

Report this review (#692421) | Posted by the philosopher | Tuesday, March 27, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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. Ac ... (read more)

Report this review (#613550) | Posted by Dayvenkirq | Friday, January 20, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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. ... (read more)

Report this review (#532054) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Sunday, September 25, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#519051) | Posted by voliveira | Saturday, September 10, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 Bel ... (read more)

Report this review (#477648) | Posted by bfmuller | Wednesday, July 06, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 eccentricit ... (read more)

Report this review (#440720) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Saturday, April 30, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#379335) | Posted by stegokitty | Thursday, January 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#273334) | Posted by classicprogsovereign | Sunday, March 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#261721) | Posted by dmwilkie | Wednesday, January 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#225041) | Posted by The Runaway | Wednesday, July 08, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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-ee ... (read more)

Report this review (#218096) | Posted by topofsm | Sunday, May 24, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The first time I heard this album, I fell into the trap of believing the hype. After hearing so much about this album I had high expectations. It spent what seemed like forever at the number one spot in the charts. It made Mike Oldfield and Virgin Records household names. And the fact Mike Oldfield ... (read more)

Report this review (#211343) | Posted by Valarius | Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 re ... (read more)

Report this review (#174949) | Posted by Foolsdrummer | Monday, June 23, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#164148) | Posted by Zardoz | Monday, March 17, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#163451) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Saturday, March 08, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#157160) | Posted by asimplemistake | Sunday, December 30, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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