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Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells III album cover
3.35 | 268 ratings | 16 reviews | 12% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Source of Secrets (5:35)
2. The Watchful Eye (2:09)
3. Jewel in the Crown (5:45)
4. Outcast (3:49)
5. Serpent Dream (2:53)
6. The Inner Child (4:42)
7. Man in the Rain (4:03)
8. The Top of the Morning (4:26)
9. Moonwatch (4:25)
10. Secrets (3:20)
11. Far Above the Clouds (5:30)

Total Time 46:39

Line-up / Musicians

- Mike Oldfield / acoustic, electric & Roland synth guitars, bass, synths (Clavia Nord Lead, Korg Trinity, Roland JD990, JV1080 & XP50), vocals (4), samples, producer

- Amar / vocals (1,3,10)
- Rosa Cedrón / vocals (6)
- Cara Dillon / vocals (7)
- Heather Burnett / additional vocals (7)
- Clodagh Simonds / vocals (11)
- Francesca Robertson / child vocals (11)

Releases information

Second sequel, after the previous in 1992, this one was released on the 25th anniversary of the first Tubular Bells album. Unlike those two prior works, Tubular Bells III does not follow the same pattern of pieces, but instead references (and samples) some of the music from the albums in the series.

Artwork: Bill Smith Studio with Andy Earl (photo)

CD WEA ‎- 3984243492 (1998, UK)

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MIKE OLDFIELD Tubular Bells III ratings distribution

(268 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(12%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (13%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

MIKE OLDFIELD Tubular Bells III reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Not a Piltdown man in sight

Forget the brand name on this outing, "Tubular Bells III" is different in many ways to the original "Tubular Bells" and to "Tubular Bells 2".

For a start, there's a song, "Man in the rain", on it, delightfully sung by Cara of Polar Star. Her voice is very similar to Maggie Reilly, so the track bears comparison with other Oldfield songs such as to "To France" and "Moonlight shadow".

While there's a continuity to the album as would be expected from Mike Oldfield, the tracks are to a much greater extent individual pieces of music in their own right. The themes are strong, with the climactic "Far above the clouds" providing a superb ending (if you ignore the rather irritating child reciting prose before the bells crash in!).

The influences of Mike's then current home in Ibiza also come through strongly, with heavier beats and dance rhythms drifting in and out.

It took me a while to fully appreciate this album. In many ways the marketing ploy of using the "Tubular Bells" name works against it. Using such a strong brand name encourages misleading expectations, and invites unnecessary and inappropriate comparisons. The album is nonetheless one of Oldfield's best recordings.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Good at best. TB3 definiely has a new age clubby feel to it which is not at all bad but the reinvention of TB is beginning to wear thin here. There are some gems like ' Jewel in the crown', ' Man in the Rain' and the climatic ' Far above the clouds' but overall I can't help but feel the concentrate is becoming more and more diluted. The DVD live concert in London, in the pouring rain with Richard Branson in the audience is well worth watching though. The flip side has TB2 live in Edinburgh.
Review by Zitro
3 stars Another Tubular Bells!?

Well, at least the themes are not recycled. The style of music played here is very similar to Tubular Bells II though, but that is what makes this a good album. This is a new-age album with some rock (and other genres) touches. This one is a little more song oriented, yet it flows perfectly through each of the songs.

The album begins in a Tubular Bells style with a repetitive electronic riff, yet it works really well. The rest of the tracks can remind you of Tubular Bells (The instruments used, and the way he plays with them). Songs that do not remind of Tubular bells include the pop song 'Man in the Rain' and the impressive and melodic piano solo 'The Top of the Morning'. The album ends with the powerful tubular bells.

1. The Source Of Secrets (7/10) 2. The Watchful Eye (6/10) 3. Jewel in the Crown (6.5/10) 4. Outcast (6/10) 5. Serpent Dream (5/10) 6. The Inner Child (6/10) 7. Man in the Rain (6.5/10) 8. The Top Of The Morning (8.5/10) 9. Moonwatch (6.5/10) 10. Secrets (6.5/10) 11. Far Above The Clouds (7/10)

My grade : C

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Oh . another Tubular again? Would it be Tubular Bells XV as well? Well I dunno. But this is the fact: Mike Oldfield recalls again his previous success. Nothing wrong with it, but it's a bit boring when I saw the cover again. Yeah again and again. This time seems to be more electronic and closer to what Jean Michelle Jarre's music. That's actually how "The Source Of Secrets" (5:34) starts with everything electronic. "The Watchful Eye" (2:09) brings into an ambient sound with keyboard as key instrument. "Jewel in the Crown" (5:45) proves Mike's approach into more technology-driven composition with electronic drumming / programming with electric guitar provides the melody. The drumming is interesting to enjoy. "Outcast" (3:49) is a rocker at opening part and it has a good combination of keyboard and lead guitar accompanied with acoustic guitar rhythm. "Serpent Dream" (2:53) has an excellent acoustic guitar outfit at opening followed with percussion that reflects Eastern music. The key of this track is the acoustic guitar solo. Excellent.

"The Inner Child" (4:41) starts off with female chanting backed with children playground voices. Soft keyboard work plays at the back. It reminds me to the music of Cirque Du Soleil music. "Man in the Rain" (4:01) is a pop song with Cara at vocals. "The Top Of The Morning" (4:26) starts off with a classical music influence piano work and moves forward with piano as melody maker. "Moonwatch" (4:25) is an atmospheric nuance song with keyboard at background and piano as melody. "Secrets" (3:20) still steals the melody of Tubular Bells in more industrial way. "Far Above The Clouds" (5:30) concludes the album with electric guitar work as melody.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by russellk
3 stars A better title for this record would be 'Tubular Bells (Ibiza Dance Remix)'. Here MIKE OLDFIELD demostrates how completely he has been captured by the dance music scene of the 1990s. Yes, yet another change of direction, but we were used to it by now ...

Just how fully OLDFIELD was immersed in the dance culture can be seen by who he asked to remix his singles in the 1990s: dance notables such as THE ORB, BT and JAM & SPOON relished the opportunity to cut and splice the venerable man's work.

Your task is to decide if that influence is a good thing or not. For most of you, I suspect not, and fair enough. Even though I'm a fan of techno music, I'm not convinced either way, hence the rating. As far as dance albums go it's not very adventurous (DJ Sasha would eat it for breakfast); as far as MIKE OLDFIELD albums go it's mid-range; and as far as the numerous 'Tubular Bells' remakes go, it's not a patch on the first two.

Make no mistake, this is a 'Tubular Bells' remake, though somewhat looser than 'Tubular Bells II'. 'The Source of Secrets' revisits the 'Tubular Bells' opening theme, while 'Outcast' is an inspired rendition of the fiery guitar section on the original 'Tubular Bells'. The excellent 'Far Above The Clouds' is a loose reinterpretation of the climax to the first side of the original. And boy, does it roar. This is the best of all the 'Tubular Bell climax' reprisals, replete with bells and guitars. Elsewhere on the album he plunders various parts of his career, notably on 'The Main In The Rain', a 'Moonlight Shadow' clone (incidentally, a much better clone than those he released in the 1980s - one wonders why he kept this in reserve, having written it in 1983). 'Jewel In The Crown' sounds like an outtake from 'The Songs of Distant Earth', 'Serpent Dream' foreshadows his next album, and so on. 'The Top Of The Morning' is a lovely piano piece, by the way.

Overall, this is better than most of his 1980s output, but after a grand beginning to the 1990s, it seemed like MIKE OLDFIELD'S well had finally begun to run dry. And so it proved ...

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars The quality of the bells are obviously decreasing each time that Mike is releasing an album around this theme. His third one is not really close to his great original work.

And I am not very enthusiastic over this album. Mike is of course brilliant in his interpretation, that's not the problem. We all know that the man is really skilled, but to serve the same plate being with a different sauce is not helping very much his credibility.

From his second version onwards, he has trussed up one of his great album into a sliced number of songs. Not that the idea is bad, but the electronic "The Source Of secrets" is a rather weak start for this new interpretation to say the least.

What comes next is just ambient music. Not bad of course, but was this all necessary? Not IMHHO. How many great artists did capitalize so much from a single source of inspiration? Fortunately, not too many. I am not found at all of this "diversion". And the concept is just alien to my mind.

La "planche ŕ billets". That's it. Meaning to make easy money.

There is hardly one section which supersedes the great original work. Nor will you be able to identify the different pieces. I guess that the best option is just to ignore this bells number 3. You will escape a painful experience, believe me. Still "Serpent Dream" has a tremendous and emotional feeling. My fave here.

I really can't endorsed such an album. I like Mike's work for most of his career (up to "Crises" and later on the good "Amarok" of course"). This album just don't reach my expectations and I can't really tell that it is deserving more than two stars.

Just forget about this one.

Review by The Crow
4 stars An excellent album... But with a wrong name!

After the just Ok The Voyager, wich was just half a success for Oldfield, the man (or the label...) decided to return to his most representative saga... The Tubular Bells. But this name is, in my opinion, totally unnecesary, while this music has not much to do with the two previous albums... Just the first track and the last two are related musically with this saga. And this is the weakest point of the album. Sourceful of Secrets sounds forced, and too much artificial... I don't like very much this new electronic version of the Tubular Bells theme, and I find it unnecesary. And so is Secrets, the weakest song of the album...

But I must say that the rest of the songs are just great. The level of this music is really high! I think that despite the crazy days Oldfield lived in the spanish island of Ibiza, he was in a sweet musical moment, and the pieces included in this album truly give some of the most inspired Oldfield's moments. Despite the boring reinterpretation of the Tubular Bells's theme, it's a real pleasure to hear this album in its integrity. It's never boring, offering new Oldfield's sounds (like the oriental and spanish influences...) and with the guitars shining brightly. The sound Oldfield got with his guitars is just great in this album!

Best songs: except the two tracks I mentioned above, I find the rest of the album really brilliant... I specially love the riffs and original guitar sounds in Outcast, the oriental influences of Serprent Dream and The Inner Child, and the two really beautiful tracks The Top of the Morning and Moonwatch. Far Above the Clouds also closes the album in a brilliant and epic way. It remembers me to the ending of the first side of Ommadawn!

Conclusion: forgive the name of this album, please... And give it a try. Because this is another brilliant Oldfield's work, full with truly inspired and beautiful moments, and some innovative mixture of influences. The Oldfield's guitars had never sounded so good like this album, and the spanish and dance influences they give more diversity to the songs... Except the Tubular Bells theme's remix, this album is excellent, and every lover of the instrumental music should hear it. Marvellous work!

My rating: ****

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Best Oldfield work since QE2

Forget the people braying about Mike releasing yet another Tubular Bells brand album because this has little to do with the TB brand. Except for some brief snippets of the original themes to qualify it for the TB marketing department, this is a creation of new and beautiful songs that stand on their own better than any Mike release since the early 80s. I will start out by saying that my cynical side would have thought "there's no way Oldfield could make an album this good, this late in the game." Well, he proved me wrong.

Mike has done the seemingly impossible here. He has crafted a highly commercial album with elements of new age, dance beat electronics (stay with me here), pop, and rock. I normally would prefer real drumming to programming as much as the next progger, but here the elements chosen by Oldfield work beautifully in unison, producing a stunning album that is emotional, sophisticated, and polished. Unlike some of the truly unmemorable works Mike has sprung since the early 1980s, here he appears to be really trying to find the magic. And he does. Gorgeous, fluid guitar leads both electric and acoustic are peppered throughout most songs. Melodies are highly memorable and sound very well constructed. Beautiful, moving piano sections are featured as are the most haunting and lovely female vocals. The much decried Ibiza dance beats Mike was obsessed with at the time not only don't spoil the party, rather they succeed in giving TB3 a certain exotic, rather seductive touch. For this is a vastly different offering than some of Mike's long instrumental excursions or trial and error experiments (like Amarok). This one is concise and measured, accessible, and yet satisfying.

The music is oddly comforting and spiritual somehow, while the sections with vocals have a very haunting, timeless passion about them. Amar's vocals in pieces like "Source of Secrets" and "Jewel in the Crown" are very beguiling to me, like siren song. With Oldfield's perfectly executed guitars playing off these vocals the result is spectacular. Not only are the songs good but he pays attention to the flow of the album, with big exciting beginnings and endings, and natural sounding transitions from mellow to energetic in between. A bit of new age does enter the picture here but not nearly as much as "Song of Distant Earth." Whereas that album could put you to sleep TB3 offers enough excitement to keep you going, in fact it out and out rocks in some parts. He absolutely wails and crunches in tracks like "Outcast" and the different guitars are so carefully layered and blended that it's a joy to deconstruct the various parts, yet there is still passion and fun in what he's doing. "Serpent Dream" is one of the finest short solos Mike has ever done, alternating from an ethnic flavoured acoustic bit to a thrashing electric "serpent" which transitions perfectly into Rosa Cedron's heartwrenching vocal for "The Inner Child." (The live version can make you cry with its beauty.) When her vocal climax marries with Mike's galactic lead lick it just slays me. He brings it back to Earth with a delicate nylon string guitar. "Man in the Rain" truly is a "Moonlight Shadow" clone to the point of sounding like a slight reworking, yet it only adds to the box of charms---he just can't derail himself here as he has on past works. More nice instrumental work follows with the piano on "Top of the Morning" and the spaced out "Moonwatch." The climax of the album called "Far Above the Clouds" is quite clever with a young child almost recreating some kind of 2001 experience of discovery which brings us back to the inevitable tubular bells.

I would say that if you can deal with the programmed use of percussion and you've enjoyed Mike's past work, you should love this beautiful album. If you really dislike such programmed beats then it may wreck things for you, but again, I typically don't either and I still thing TB3 works beautifully. It's not the kind of material that needs a powerhouse human drummer. The only thing that improves TB3 is seeing the live DVD concert of the album, which is even better than the studio album because it breathes more and the performers are amazing to watch. I urge you to set aside your preconceptions that the "TB" title brings to this project and think of it as a stand alone project---I second Easy Livin' that this album is one of Mike Oldfield's finest recordings, and perhaps his very finest since the 1970s. But if you can only approach this album via comparisons to the original Tubular Bells you may well miss the boat. 4 1/2 stars.

Review by lazland
4 stars At the weekend, I played an Oldfield compilation DVD, the first time I have played him in ages. The DVD was complied prior to this incredible work, but it has prompted me to start listening to this eccentric, misunderstood, and vastly talented individual's work again.

It is somewhat hard to believe that this album, the third of the TB "franchise", is now 12 years old, but I am of the opinion that it would, under normal circumstances, rank as the finest, if not for the fact that the first was such a groundbreaking and massive work of importance to the genre as a whole.

This was recorded following Oldfield's residence in Ibiza, at a time when the island was gaining its reputation as THE clubbing and trance capital of the world. The influence of that particular brand of club music is wrought all over this album, but imprinted with the trademark attention to detail and songwriting that make Oldfield so unique and loved, certainly by this reviewer.

There are some quite exquisite moments on this album. The chanting on The Inner Child is a sheer delight, and I love the pop simplicity and mood created in Man in the Rain. Elsewhere, as in Outcast, Oldfield reminds me of just what an incredible electric guitarist he is, the bursts are simply stunning. This contrasts nicely with acoustic work on Serpent Dream, very much in a flaminco vein backed by a relentless percussion and bass line, before the trademark electric burst forces itself upon you.

However, overall, this album is one of mood, and the trance mixes with more traditional prog create a unique piece of work which is right up there with his best.

Whether you are a fan of Tubular Bells or not, don't confuse this album with the more "traditional" TB albums. It more than stands up in its own right and deserves every one of its four stars. An excellent addition to any collection.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Far above the clouds

The original Tubular Bells album from 1973 remains one of Mike Oldfield's most successful albums and as such it is perhaps not surprising that he attempted to make follow-ups. While, for me, Tubular Bells II was an incoherent mess unworthy of the original, I quite like this third version. Tubular Bells III is a much more structured and focused piece. Tubular Bells III does not follow as closely in the footsteps of the original as did Tubular Bells II and this is thus more original. This is a nice mix between Dance music, World- Music and Oldfield's typical guitar oriented, largely instrumental Rock. There is also a nod to his Pop aspirations with the Moonlight Shadow-like Man In The Rain. It is fair to say that this album represents all the different elements of Mike Oldfield.

Some Prog fans might be turned off by the modern Dance music influences, but I have no problem with that whatsoever (even if I usually don't like Dance music at all). Indeed, it is impressive that Mike can sound as contemporary as this without for a second losing his trademark style. There is a very nice flow to the whole album so it is hard to pick out favourite passages, but the Flamenco influenced Serpent Dream is one of them as is Outcast, a wild guitar exercise. Also the finale is great where those tubular bells bring the album to a bombastic ending. The tubular bells are introduced by a child speaking the words 'Tu - bu - lar - bells' to great effect.

The first time I heard this piece was on the live DVD containing the premiere live performance of Tubular Bells III in London. A highlight on the live performance was Man In The Rain which was performed in the pouring rain! Very emotional moment! This studio version is, however, slightly lame in comparison. Many would complain that this song is a clone of Moonlight Shadow, and though I agree that it is the very same type of song, it is a worthy Pop tune in its own right.

A worthy entry in the Tubular Bells family and one of Mike's best latter-day efforts. Recommended!

Review by Matti
4 stars Re-using the title of his legendary debut album can raise suspicion. Is it just riding with the old fame? Endless circulation of the same musical themes? Thankfully, no. These albums (I'm speaking of TB II and TB III) do not eat each other at all, they all have an identity of their own, and the variations of the original themes are far from cheap copying. I used to enjoy TB II at the time of its release (1993) but nowadays I like it less: here and there it sounds rather phoney, too computer-sounding. The follower came only five years later and feels much fresher and stylish in a modern way. A bit more acid and up-beat electronica is spilled into the familiar New Age/Electronic trademark this time, and it works to a surprising effect. Yes, it even "rocks" as someone put it. It may horrify the most puristic Oldfield fans, but as can be seen from the reviews here, it has gained appreciation. In my opinion this is one of the best Oldfield albums since... hmm, since Crises (1983!).

Thank God he uses real female singers instead of a computer (mostly wordless, voice-as- instrument approach). And funny how he always seems to find very similar vocalists. 'Man in the Rain' is the album's only vocal pop song (the name Cara doesn't ring any bells for me) and a pretty good one. It sounds quite a lot like 'Moonlight Shadow', Maggie Reilly's highlight. I don't actually prefer either one to the other, but at least this one hasn' worn out. I'm thanking Oldfield for not trying to make it a hit, which it surely had potential for.

The entire album is keeping the listener active (awake) and is quite enjoyable from start to end, minus one track, rather noisy 'Outcast' which I always skip. The album ends in a majestic and cathartic way, saving the appearance of the tubular bells till the last track 'Far Above the Clouds'. Also I like the silver-toned cover art that reflects the music fantastically. 3,5 stars.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars While "Tubular Bells 2" merited the famous moniker by virtue of its re-interpretations of many of the original themes, "Tubular Bells 3" seems to have been so named cannily. Sure, the requisite bells appear less than a half minute into the opening piece, and "Outcast" proposes another fuzzy guitar crescendo, more memorably than before in fact. Towards the end, "Secrets" reprises the bells briefly before taking up aspects of the first cut, and "High Above the Clouds" pilfers the bass theme of the introduction of the instruments, but in a dance floor frenzy of sorts. In between, this is Oldfield's first world music dominated album since "Five Miles Out", and also, perhaps not coincidentally, his best of the 1990s.

For one of the first times a middle and far eastern bias is discerned in "The Source of Secrets" and "The Jewel in the Crown", thanks in part to British-Indian singer AMAR, the use of sitars, and the general timbre of the melodies. This theme continues in "Serpent Dream" with some of Oldfield's best acoustic guitar work, an area where I felt TB 2 fell down a little. Then there is the odd choice of trademark quirky pop, "Main in the Rain", which congenially offsets the generally dour mood of the album. It's a track with a long history and its clearest lineage would be "Moonlight Shadow", employing similar guitar and sampled drums. In fact it dates from that era and nearly surfaced several times before. The vocals by CARA DILLON are a near ringer for MAGGIE REILLY as well. This is followed by the masterfully developed "Top of the Morning", with the layering you would expect from Oldfield but a simpler less off kilter structure built on a sparkling piano melody. It's so conventionally brilliant that I have to remind myself it's Oldfield.

The name "Tubular Bells" has been so entwined with the history of pop since the 1970s that we completely forget it was an instrument first, just like tissue must have existed before Kleenex. From an integrity perspective, this 1998 release should have had a different name completely, since for every fan intrigued by another version, there is another who wants no part of it. That's why it's taken me 15 years for me to luxuriate in its belle airs.

Latest members reviews

2 stars Despite its name, Tubular Bells III seem to have more in common with its successors than the mighty debut, recorded 25 years earlier. Bookend tracks bear some resemblance to original concept, but everything in-between is very loosely tied to TB I & II, if at all. So if there is some truth to the cla ... (read more)

Report this review (#2438644) | Posted by thief | Monday, August 17, 2020 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Let me start by saying that Mike Oldfield is one of my favourite artists of all times. The problem though is that there are also so much in his album-repertoire that I strongly dislike. One of these things is the overkill of the Tubular Bells theme! I just don't get it! Not even the original 7 ... (read more)

Report this review (#75649) | Posted by 1971 | Thursday, April 20, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I think this is one of the most underrated of Oldfield's albums. The composer, capricious in his musical style as he is, this time showed his more club-oriented side (much to the discopntent of some of the fans and critics), as most of the material on TBIII was conceived on Ibiza, the most par ... (read more)

Report this review (#28493) | Posted by LaserDave | Saturday, March 26, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Another gem from the master. TB3 is totally modern, crisp, song oriented, and innovative (if such a thing can be said about any "Part III"). He is much looser in his association to TB & TB2, although fans of either album can hear certain "ancient" themes cropping up in places. Mr. O's guitar p ... (read more)

Report this review (#28491) | Posted by | Tuesday, December 28, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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