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MIKE OLDFIELD

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Mike Oldfield biography
Michael Gordon Oldfield - Born 15 May 1953 (Reading, Berkshire, England)

Mike OLDFIELD took up the guitar at seven and was composing instrumental pieces by age 10. With his sister Sally, he secured a record deal under the name SALLYANGIE and released the folkish album "Children of the Sun" in 1968. He then landed a position playing first bass and later guitar with WHOLE WORLD, led by ex-SOFT MACHINE co-founder Kevin Ayers. During the next few years he also served as a studio musician at Abbey Road, where he experimented with a wide range of instruments. He gradually built up a home studio and began working on a large-scale project, playing all of the parts himself. This was the prototype for "Tubular Bells", but OLDFIELD had no success generating label interest until he met with future Virgin Records founders Simon Draper and Richard Branson. They loved his ideas and gave him plenty of freedom to record in their state-of-the-art The Manor studio, and ended up releasing "Tubular Bells" on their brand new label when no other record company showed interest. The record shot to first place in the UK and elsewhere, attracting the attention of director William Friedkin, whose use of the intro segment in "The Exorcist" generated widespread recognition (OLDFIELD was not pleased by the association, however).

Retreating from his newfound celebrity, OLDFIELD recorded several more critically acclaimed albums, similar in scope and approach but constantly developing new instrumental and compositional skills. In 1979 his single "Guilty" showed that shorter vocal-based pieces and more recent music styles were beginning to creep into his work; he also returned to touring in 1979 after undergoing therapy to combat his reclusive, solitary tendencies. His work in the 80s included such far-ranging releases as "Crises" (including vocals by Jon ANDERSON), the soundtrack to the film "The Killing Fields", and a song called "Family Man" which became a hit for HALL & OATES. Known for consistently offering a visual spectacular in his live performances, he also developed an interest in video artistry, including a video album called "Wind Chimes". The 90s saw a return to longer symphonic-style works, including "Amarok" and "Tubular Bells II", for which he departed the increasingly commercial Virgin Records for the smaller WEA label. His "Songs of Distant Earth" album was the first CD ever to include CD-ROM content, as well as album notes by legendary sci-fi author ...
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Buy MIKE OLDFIELD Music


Tubular BellsTubular Bells
Remastered · Extra tracks
Mercury UK 2009
$4.65
$3.69 (used)
Return To OmmadawnReturn To Ommadawn
Virgin Emi 2017
$6.31
$6.30 (used)
Tubular BellsTubular Bells
Deluxe Edition · Extra tracks
Mercury Uk 2009
$16.50
$16.49 (used)
Hergest RidgeHergest Ridge
UMe Imports 2010
$5.13
$9.37 (used)
Tubular Bells: LimitedTubular Bells: Limited
Limited Edition · Super Audio CD - DSD
Universal 2014
$35.80
OmmadawnOmmadawn
Universal Uk 2010
$19.80
$15.00 (used)
The ExorcistThe Exorcist
Limited Edition · Soundtrack
Perseverance Records 2013
$45.00 (used)
Original Album Series - Mike OldfieldOriginal Album Series - Mike Oldfield
Warner 2016
$11.95
$15.05 (used)
Five Miles OutFive Miles Out
1-2-3-4-GO! 2013
$17.22
$7.25 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
MIKE OLDFIELD - TUBULAR BELLS - PORTUGAL 45 FREE SHIPPING USD $45.00 Buy It Now 1h 7m
Mike Oldfield JAPAN 2 titles Mini LP SHM-CD PROMO BOX SET USD $119.99 Buy It Now 1h 21m
LP MIKE OLDFIELD OMMADAWN 1975 VIRGIN QUAD VG++ / NM QUADRAPHONIC PROG ROCK USD $34.98 Buy It Now 1h 23m
MIKE OLDFIELD TUBULAR BELLS VIRGIN UK CASSETTE THEME FROM THE EXORCIST TC V2001 USD $18.74 Buy It Now 2h 49m
MIKE OLDFIELD THE KILLING FIELDS RARE OOP JAPAN MINI-LP SHM-CD USD $41.99 Buy It Now 2h 58m
MIKE OLDFIELD Moonlight Shadow GERMAN 7" EP w/PS 80s POP ROCK USD $8.14 Buy It Now 3h 2m
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MIKE OLDFIELD Portsmouth / Speak 7" Single 1976 UK Virgin Records VS 163 @A1/B1 USD $5.17 Buy It Now 4h 44m
SALLY OLDFIELD - MIRRORS / NIGHT OF THE HUNTERS MOON - 7" SINGLE - MIKE OLDFIELD USD $3.92 [0 bids]
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Mike Oldfield In Dulci Jubilo - 4pr 7" vinyl single record UK VS131 VIRGIN USD $14.35 Buy It Now 8h 23m
Boxed - Quad - EX Mike Oldfield Vinyl Box Set UK VBOX1 VIRGIN Audiophile 1976 USD $29.94 Buy It Now 8h 23m
Mike Oldfield Tattoo CD single (CD5 / 5") UK YZ708CDX WEA 1992 USD $30.77 Buy It Now 8h 26m
Mike Oldfield 7" vinyl single record Portsmouth Australian K6582 VIRGIN 1976 USD $51.03 Buy It Now 8h 32m
Mike Oldfield vinyl LP album record The Killing Fields - Barcoded UK OVED183 USD $20.90 Buy It Now 8h 32m
Mike Oldfield In High Places Spanish 7" vinyl single record A109205 VIRGIN USD $44.48 Buy It Now 8h 36m
Mike Oldfield Innocent UK 12" vinyl single record (Maxi) VST1214 VIRGIN 1989 USD $18.26 Buy It Now 8h 36m
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Mike Oldfield Wonderful Land 7" vinyl single record UK VS387 VIRGIN 1980 USD $28.76 Buy It Now 9h 14m
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Mike Oldfield 7" vinyl single record Family Man UK VS489 VIRGIN 1982 USD $14.35 Buy It Now 9h 21m
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MIKE OLDFIELD TUBULAR BELLS TWO VIRGINS 3rd UK LP 1974 Classic Progressive Rock USD $14.40 Buy It Now 12h 23m
MIKE OLDFIELD Take 4 1978 UK 12" WHITE vinyl EP EXCELLENT CONDITION USD $15.71 Buy It Now 12h 26m
Mike Oldfield - Moonlight Shadow - UK 7" - VS586 - 1983 USD $4.57 Buy It Now 12h 31m
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14h 28m
Mike Oldfield - Music Of The Spheres (CD 2008) Near mint condition USD $3.92 [0 bids]
14h 28m
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14h 28m
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MIKE OLDFIELD discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

MIKE OLDFIELD top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.10 | 1065 ratings
Tubular Bells
1973
3.93 | 549 ratings
Hergest Ridge
1974
2.51 | 173 ratings
The Orchestral Tubular Bells
1975
4.31 | 1223 ratings
Ommadawn
1975
3.92 | 421 ratings
Incantations
1978
3.13 | 282 ratings
Platinum
1979
3.49 | 301 ratings
Q.E.2
1980
3.68 | 355 ratings
Five Miles Out
1982
3.44 | 397 ratings
Crises
1983
2.78 | 244 ratings
Discovery
1984
2.68 | 148 ratings
The Killing Fields
1984
2.62 | 202 ratings
Islands
1987
2.03 | 168 ratings
Earth Moving
1989
4.06 | 540 ratings
Amarok
1990
2.52 | 169 ratings
Heaven's Open
1991
3.57 | 293 ratings
Tubular Bells II
1992
3.73 | 284 ratings
The Songs Of Distant Earth
1994
3.10 | 208 ratings
Voyager
1996
3.38 | 211 ratings
Tubular Bells III
1998
2.96 | 180 ratings
Guitars
1999
2.31 | 141 ratings
The Millenium Bell
1999
2.43 | 145 ratings
Tr3s Lunas
2002
3.72 | 195 ratings
Tubular Bells 2003
2003
2.76 | 142 ratings
Light + Shade
2005
3.02 | 176 ratings
Music Of The Spheres
2008
3.15 | 172 ratings
Man On The Rocks
2014
4.04 | 293 ratings
Return To Ommadawn
2017

MIKE OLDFIELD Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.76 | 89 ratings
Exposed
1979

MIKE OLDFIELD Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.92 | 46 ratings
Tubular Bells II & III Live (DVD)
1999
2.59 | 41 ratings
The Art In Heaven Concert Live In Berlin (DVD)
2000
4.33 | 15 ratings
DVD Collection
2003
3.15 | 32 ratings
Elements - The Best Of (DVD)
2004
3.82 | 37 ratings
Exposed
2005
4.39 | 73 ratings
Live At Montreux 1981
2006

MIKE OLDFIELD Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.78 | 42 ratings
Mike Oldfield - Boxed
1976
3.58 | 14 ratings
Airborn
1980
3.00 | 4 ratings
Impressions
1980
2.98 | 9 ratings
Music Wonderland
1981
3.70 | 37 ratings
The Complete Mike Oldfield
1985
3.28 | 6 ratings
Collector's Edition Box I
1990
3.20 | 8 ratings
Collector's Edition Box II
1990
2.57 | 23 ratings
Elements: The Best of Mike Oldfield
1993
2.96 | 14 ratings
Elements: 1973-1991
1993
2.67 | 16 ratings
XXV - The Essential Mike Oldfield
1997
2.06 | 9 ratings
The Best Of Tubular Bells
2001
2.83 | 6 ratings
The Mike Oldfield Collection
2002
2.67 | 9 ratings
The Complete Tubular Bells
2003
2.53 | 14 ratings
The Platinum Collection
2006
4.10 | 10 ratings
Two Sides: The Very Best of Mike Oldfield
2012
2.47 | 11 ratings
Tubular Beats
2013
4.00 | 4 ratings
The Studio Albums: 1992-2003
2014
3.67 | 3 ratings
The Best Of: 1992-2003
2015
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Space Movie
2015
4.33 | 3 ratings
The 1984 Suite
2016

MIKE OLDFIELD Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.75 | 4 ratings
Tubular Bells
1974
4.04 | 8 ratings
In Dulci Jubilo
1975
3.60 | 5 ratings
Don Alfonso
1975
2.00 | 1 ratings
Don Alfonso (German Version)
1975
3.24 | 10 ratings
Portsmouth
1976
3.83 | 6 ratings
William Tell Overture
1976
3.80 | 5 ratings
Cuckoo Song
1977
2.00 | 1 ratings
Take 4
1978
4.00 | 6 ratings
Guilty
1979
3.60 | 5 ratings
Blue Peter
1979
3.00 | 3 ratings
Extract From Tubular Bells (live)
1979
3.50 | 4 ratings
Arrival
1980
4.00 | 4 ratings
Wonderful Land
1981
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Singles
1981
3.50 | 4 ratings
Five Miles Out
1982
3.60 | 5 ratings
Family Man
1982
2.25 | 9 ratings
Mistake
1982
3.23 | 7 ratings
Moonlight Shadow
1983
3.28 | 13 ratings
Shadow on the Wall
1983
3.90 | 10 ratings
To France
1984
3.93 | 14 ratings
Pictures in the Dark
1985
3.32 | 13 ratings
Shine
1986
2.22 | 9 ratings
Innocent
1989
3.00 | 9 ratings
Tattoo
1992
3.50 | 2 ratings
Man In The Rain
1998
5.00 | 2 ratings
Tubular Bells Limited Edition
1998
4.00 | 2 ratings
Far Above The Clouds CD 1
1999
3.00 | 1 ratings
Far Above The Clouds CD 2
1999

MIKE OLDFIELD Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Music Of The Spheres by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.02 | 176 ratings

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Music Of The Spheres
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

2 stars I never believed in classical music with rock elements, at least not in the long run. For certain there are examples of succesful songs merging two esthetics, but to have an entire album/symphony with such underlying philosophy? I don't think one could justify it with Moody Blues or Pink Floyd. Better examples of this approach are "Concerto for Group and Orchestra" (or "Sarabande"), and even if I admire the effort and enjoy its parts, as a whole it failed to achieve its goals. However, it seemed that Mike could pull it off, and "Music of the Spheres" is the closest he ever tried. The concept of musica universalis is a good excuse to merge contrasting genres. And who's better than Oldfield to take the challenge? He was so succesful with pairing folk instruments, electronic beats and distorted guitars for decades, right?

Understandably, the leading instruments are classical guitar and grand piano, most of the time. Although Mike doesn't play the latter, he had much more experience with it than with strings or brass. And you can hear it on this record, unfortunately. Brass instruments appear rarely, oboes and clarinets play secondary role as well, and strings... well, I'd just say they're not leading too often and mostly serve as a backing track with very basic moves.

I also don't see too much of a development here. Individual movements offer some delightful melodies ("Animus", "The Tempest", "Empyrean" or beginning of "Shabda"), but they don't reinforce one another, synergy between them is very limited. I really miss the mastery of classical music paragons, the mastery of arrangement, revisiting memorable motifs and epic buildup. "Music of the Spheres" is too modest in this regard.

What do I like here, then? In my opinion there are no serious blunders ruining the experience. As I said, there is a fair share of charming melodies (add "Silhouette" to the list), guaranteeing the listener will sit through 40+ minutes with ease. Especially if he's having something else to do in the meantime - once again Mike Oldfield delivered a calming, even soothing collection of music. So it's a bonus, I see myself revisiting "Music of the Spheres" from time to time just its peacefulness.

But in the same time, I'd like it to have more hooks, diversity, more memorable parts and - most importantly - a strike of genius that Mike's capable of. Instead I have a bunch of "Classical Lite FM" compositions with underused orchestra that I could easily live without. Oh well, this might be too harsh: I honestly applaud "The Tempest" and see true beauty in there.

A two star record with (sparse) four stars moments.

 Guitars by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1999
2.96 | 180 ratings

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Guitars
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

3 stars Let me spell it out for you once more: every single sound comes from a guitar or guitar synthesizer/MIDI. Rhythm section included. It's advised you actually LIKE guitars enough to buy into an album going overboard with its use. Granted, many rock records are dominated with guitar riffs, responsible for up to 70% of played music. But here it's 100%, and it's all Oldfield. Although the idea itself isn't entirely new, I deem it a pretty bold move for a musician known primarily as a multi-instrumentalist, skillfully incorporating bagpipes, glockenspiels, spinets, organs, bells and Farfisas into rock environment.

Admittedly I was happy to replay this album a couple of times. There is enough variety to appease even casual listeners. For starters, we have a bunch of well-executed, melancholic madrigals, beginning with charming "Muse". Similar moods are invoked with beautiful "Embers", though this time additional sounds come into play and give it more artificial, slightly futuristic feel. "Four Winds" is the longest track here and I really recommend it; avid Oldfield fans will feel at home with its middle section, very mellow and dreamlike. The part around 4:00 minute mark is lovely, too, and so refreshing. The latter half, although far from flamenco, turns out to be heavily influenced by Iberian music. "Enigmatic" and "From the Ashes" may feel generic once you come across them, but they're solid on their own.

Aside from these softer etudes, Mike composed couple hard rocking songs. "Out of Sight" comes around with a heavily distorted guitar, almost as sharp as Frippian crooky nightmares. Similar effects are employed in "B Blues" and "Out of Mind". While all these tracks are fun, I sense too much repetition there, and I wish they formed together a longer, more progressive piece, or at least a foundation of one.

As it is, "Guitars" is a very entertaining, colorful journey. And I haven't even mentioned my favorites: "Cochise" and "Summit Day". The former strikes us with an elegant, fingerpicked melody; and then, clouds fill the skies and the scenery gets more dreary and engaging. Distorted riffs in the chorus are beautifully intertwined with yearning lead guitar. Such an emotional piece. The latter follows its steps, capably contrasting acoustic romanticism with electric despair and bitterness - such a wide range is covered, and it's all a SINGLE melody, but exposed from dramatically different angles.

Yes, I enjoyed "Guitars" despite its cheap album cover and risky premises. Of course I'd love if it was more progressive; most of featured compostions could be lumped together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. I'm sure Mike was perfectly able to make such rearrangements. But I still recommend you to give it a try. Even if you're sceptical of instrumental self- indulgence, you won't deny the beauty of "Cochise", "Summit Day" and even "Four Winds".

In my book it's enough to warrant three stars

 Tr3s Lunas by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 2002
2.43 | 145 ratings

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Tr3s Lunas
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

2 stars I have a feeling this review's going to be very compact.

"Tr3s Lunas" came out some ~15 years before I gave it a chance. Low ratings and general lack of interest for Phase 4 Oldfield ("Guitars" to "Music of the Spheres" in my book) held me back for so long. I knew what to expect, so that's a third reason.

But once I tried it I came to a conclusion: this is not bad, it's just plain.

Oldfield chose a very safe route. "Tr3s Lunas" is soothing, very modest in melodies, without radical tempo changes or unusual rhythms. Elegant, but minimalistic piano is as much of a driving force as the guitar, synthesizers ooze with atmospheric textures, sporadical vocals serve as another instrument.

I described most of the following "Light + Shade" in a similar manner, but honestly these albums sound very much alike. The differences? Well, "Lunas" are more succesful in chillout department. Emulated saxophone is more prominent, atmosphere sometimes gets "Blue Velvet hazy" and intimate. "Light + Shade" tried to couple two contrasting worlds of emotions with mixed results; here Oldfield more often shoots for nocturnal soundscape. Certainly, there are exceptions to that rule, such as naive "To Be Free" or earthy "Turtle Island". There are some traces of sci-fi inspirations too, my favorite being "Return to the Origin" and "Sirius". These two are highlights, hands down.

Unfortunately majority is far from memorable. As everyone said before, this album lies somewhere between soundtrack and elevator music. It won't do you no harm, but what's the replay value? Will you ever hum a single tune from "Lunas"?

Chances are slim.

To drive "Light + Shade" comparisons home, I'll say the following album had more of an embarrassing filler, but also more heartwarming moments. In the same time I appreciate "Tr3s Lunas" for focusing on atmosphere instead of forced emotions. You should try "Misty", "No Mans Land" or tracks I mentioned before to see if you have a taste for sixty minutes of this. "Thou Art in Heaven" does a good job as well.

The day I'm writing this review is kind of fitting for "Tr3s Lunas". Chilly, overcast, frequent rainstorms - relief from July's heat. But even on a best day, "Lunas" are just a pleasing, chilled out, creativity inducing background music.

We demand more! Two stars.

 Platinum by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.13 | 282 ratings

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Platinum
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

3 stars One could argue that each and every album in Mike Oldfield's discography was a milestone of sorts. If we narrowed it down though, just to separate 4 or 5 major periods in his career, I'd say Platinum is one of these turning points, the beginning of Phase 2.

Obviously the formula has changed. We're treated with a side-long, titular epic, and a bunch of shorter tracks, more appropriate as potential singles than excerpts from greater pieces. Who knows if success of "Portsmouth" and "In Dulci Jubilo" didn't play a part here. Anyhow, two of those songs feature proper vocals with easily digested, straightforward lyrics, provided by Wendy Roberts. These are decent, but nothing to write home about honestly. I find her voice a tad too dramatic and unoriginal, but she's skillful enough to get a pass.

The title track, "Platinum", definitely stands out. Reviewing this album I listened to it three times in a row, and each time I appreciated new bits and elements. It serves as another proof of Mike's compositional skills, just check out the synth melody from 3:15 onwards! Ear pleasing and very engaging, all instruments have their place and reinforce each other beautifully. Second movement is dominated by typical hammer-on/pull-off guitar licks played over an upbeat, almost funky bass lines and some scat singing. Nice, but the best bit is the concluding Mike solo with a trademark, spacious, uplifting sound. I just adore those wails and squeals, always trying to reach the skies.

The third part, so called "Charleston", evokes music of 1920s, mixed with acoustic passages and occasional ghastly, female choirs, reminscent of Greek tragedies perhaps. I'd say he could've done a tad better here, but I appreciate his boldness. Still, it's decent enough to keep your attention and prepare ears for a standout part four, also known as "North Star". This one is the most "oldfieldesque" and rewards us with another emotional, lofty coda. Quite progressive and definitely worth a listen. Honestly, "Platinum" would do great as Incantations Part V, with often changing, but always relevant - sometimes superb - themes.

The rest of the album, a.k.a. The Shorties, is a mixed bag really. "Woodhenge" is rather dull, maybe because I don't enjoy African influenced music as much, and congas put me to sleep. "Into Wonderland" might be pleasant, but to me it's just a herald of upcoming sugary ballads and 1980s in general. The latter half picks up a little, it's not a gamechanger though.

"Punkadiddle" deserves more attention. We've got trademark reverby guitars alternating with high pitched, almost ear-piercing main theme which I find extremely pleasing and tasteful. I really like how Mike's in the front this time, at times echoing the grandiose of Ommadawn. Bonus points for going instrumental again. A winner!

"I Got Rhythm" just wanders aimlessly in slow tempo, hard to find any redeeming quality here. Rather an anticlimax for an album so promising on Side A.

Given the circumstances - Virgin Records hiring punk/new-wave bands and disco dominating the charts - Oldfield did an okay job with reinventing himself. Shorter tracks, with exception of "Punkadiddle", don't impress at all... but the "Platinum" suite gives much hope for the future, showing that Mike Oldfield is capable of compromising ambitious musical efforts with contractual obligations. Fortunately, the formula only got stronger with following albums. As it is, Platinum did just enough to climb a 3-star rating. I'd say "Decent, but non-essential".

 Islands by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1987
2.62 | 202 ratings

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Islands
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

2 stars "Islands" has to be that "forgotten album" of the eighties. We listen regularly to succesful hits such as "Moonlight Shadow", "To France" or "Family Man", surrounding albums are widely discussed, even lackluster "Earth Moving" seems to be picked apart more often. Honestly, if not for the reviews section here on Progarchives, I'd never read a word on this LP anywhere. Is it fair though?

As on many previous records, Oldfield follows "compromise" formula: 20 minute track on Side A and bunch of 4 minute trifles on Side B. "Islands" features very catchy vocals of Bonnie Tyler in a power ballad, interestingly backed with saxophone, oboe and omnipresent synths. Although I find it too sentimental and a lacking in structure, pretty melodies and non-typical instruments make it recognizable. A good listen once you accept Oldfield's general approach and standards in the 1980s.

It's good to mention that vast majority of this record is showered with reverbs, delays, chorus pedals, lush production and so on. While most Mike's albums are either 'green', 'blue' or in-between, "Islands" is definitely 'pink' for long stretches. Especially "Flying Start" and "Magic Touch", which got way too close to Summer Hits Territory for my taste. The latter could find its way to early episodes of Baywatch or 90210. Very disappointing.

"North Point" and "The Time Has Come" feature Anita Hegerland vocals and I appreciate it. The best I can say though is that these are decent, maybe of Kate Bush outtake quality. My CD version concludes with a bonus track, "When the Night's on Fire", which is another mellow Hegerland piece. It also left me unimpressed, I can't even recall its melody now.

Thankfully there is still Side A, twenty-two minutes long "The Wind Chimes" epic. Most segments consist of pleasing melodies, engaging rhythms and interesting arrangements, usually led by Mike's guitar and... a flute! Bjorn Lindh, a Swedish flautist hired to record this track, excels at breathy, almost percussive articulation, somewhat similar to Ian Anderson's style. Some three minutes before the end the music rapidly intensifies, transforming into a magnificent, lovely coda.

Admittedly, "The Wind Chimes" is far from perfect. Sometimes it resembles a bunch of minor compositions thrown together without proper bridges/passages. At times it loses my interest, getting a bit too experimental (~6:00 minute mark) or unfocused. But in the same time it's so peaceful (3:15) and has a good dose of charming moments. I believe prog lovers will appreciate it the most, and it deserves to be called a highlight.

As much as I like delving into underrated albums and searching for overlooked gems, like pearl fishers, "The Wind Chimes" is not enough to compensate for lackluster Side B. The shorter set isn't as strong as preceding ones and foreshadows the following "Earth Moving". Sure, I could revisit the title track once in a blue moon; I can even sit through the entire album without MUCH harm, but music shouldn't be just "tolerable".

So, is it fair that "Islands" isn't really discussed anywhere? To some extent, yes. I was expecting to hear some New Age/prog, appreciating nature's beauty and wonders of the world, in a very Oldfield manner. And I got just twenty minutes of that. It falls a little short of three stars, in my book.

But yes, try "The Wind Chimes" with an open mind. This is my pearl for today.

 Man On The Rocks by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.15 | 172 ratings

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Man On The Rocks
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

2 stars First things first: I'm so happy for Mike Oldfield to come back from semi-retirement and continue recording! "Man on the Rocks" was the first album in six years and Mike himself admitted that 2012 London Olympics ceremony reinvigorated him so much. In an interview I've read at the time, Oldfield claimed he started amassing a brand new collection of instruments and recording software. This album might very well represent the beginning of Phase 4 (or maybe 5?) of his illustrious career, hopefully the most harmonious and peaceful.

Regardless of my enthusiasm and numerous times I've listened to MOTR in its entirety, I'm certain he could've done a better job. This release is merely a collection of generic, poppy soft rockers, rarely shooting for anything grander.

Generally speaking, we have two categories of songs here. First group tries to be vigorous, uptempo, positive (i.e. "Sailing", "Minutes"). Unfortunately they turn out to be unconvincing, lacking in the hook/riff department and very forgettable. Title track also fits in this category and I find it marginally better, maybe for its lyrical content. "Chariots" might be the most edgy, it starts like John Paul Jones solo efforts, but quickly falls off the cliff imho.

Second group is more sentimental and almost tear-jerking. "I Give Myself Away" is apparently a cover, but it falls in line with "Following the Angels", "Nuclear" and the rest of tame, soft ballads. Among these, I find "Following the Angels" a bit better, though overlong... and "Moonshine", oh wow, this one is actually good. It sounds like Oldfield meets Coldplay meets Auld Lang Syne. Easily the best here.

I have a hard time with categorising "Castaway", it has elements of both, but fails so miserably and drags four minutes too long. Very unimaginative and uncharacteristic of Oldfield.

I can't find any enthusiasm to write on this album anymore. It's simply too tame, too safe, too wimpy most of the time. The production and vocals, although "Correct" from a technical point of view, just scream Adult Oriented Rock and lack that organic quality of better Oldfield albums. It reminds of me "Earth Moving" way too often to justify a good rating. I'm giving it two stars for the sake of sweet "Moonshine" and optimistic, marine themes.

Funny that both "Earth Moving" and "Man on the Rocks" were followed with so different and astonishing albums. The man is a unique talent, there is no denial.

 Light + Shade by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 2005
2.76 | 142 ratings

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Light + Shade
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

2 stars It took me a couple of days to actually sit down and listen to "Light + Shade" few times in a row. It's no easy task, we have some 82 minutes worth of music here, separated in two CDs; allegedly the key idea was to make two contrasting sets, one mellow and bright, the other darker in mood and disturbed. Frankly, I don't see a dramatic difference between each other. Let me explain.

All compoistions are instrumental and could be described - if you are into genres - as a cross between electronica and new-age, with some parts as minimalistic as ambient music. Sometimes there is a bit of spoken word or unintelligible choirs, but not serving as lyrics per se. Oldfield is definitely trying to set moods rather than tell a story or deliver a message. As we know it's nothing new for a middle-aged master. "Songs of Distant Earth" and parts of "The Millenium Bell" largely fit the same bill, one could even argue that underlying ideas of "Light + Shade" are common to most of Mike's work. But I'm afraid this time he dropped a ball.

I don't think there is much going on in here. Music is very laid-back and doesn't progress too much. By listening to first twenty seconds (or so) of any song you already know how it's gonna sound in the middle and the end. It's not necessarily a bad thing, I'd gladly include half of numbers from "Light + Shade" in my chillout/writing session/morning coffee playlists. "Angelique", "First Steps" or "Sunset" are worth mentioning on this occasion. Soothing textures of pianos and synthesizers, downtempo beats, some trademark twangy solos here and there. Simple, but pleasing acoustic guitar melodies and occasional Celtic waves serve the same purpose.

But there is the other side of a coin, plenty of songs getting old quickly, either because of annoying repetitions ("Our Father") or TOO much Ibiza. He was still clearly influenced by house/trance scene of the time, so whenever he goes that direction, music reaches amateur scifi/cyberpunk movie soundtrack levels. If anyone is familiar with a PC game from the Y2K, Deus Ex, you'll understand what I'm raving about here. "Slipstream" is probably the best example of that route.

In my opinion Oldfield too often treads a thin line between a tasty chillout/ambient and simple elevator music. Listening to "Surfing" I feel like it would be a fitting background for 1990s infomercial on waterproof watches.

I've also mentioned there is not much of a difference in atmosphere between Light and Shade here. Please listen to "Tears of an Angel"; that song is very representative of the whole album for couple of reasons:

- although it's featured on Shade CD, it fits perfectly with Light tracks, definitely the same mold

- the intro brings together irritating violins and very generic choirs for no good purpose - it just dissipates after 30 seconds, never to be heard again

- on a plus side, guitar lines are pleasant, but not earth-shattering, completely in line with the rest.

Honestly there is a fair bit of unnerving melodies here, now when I think of it. "Romance" is a very distasteful cover and "Nightshade" is another piece of poor sci-fi soundtrack. It also brings down my rating a little bit.

I see "Light + Shade" as compilation of downtempo, chillout tunes, very good for yoga or playing chess - save for a few annoying tracks. It's not that advanced composition-wise and certainly doesn't approach the vision and magnificence of "Songs of Distant Earth". However, those looking for a minimalistic background with Mike's guitar and New Age touch will probably find some pleasures here. Thus, two stars is justified.

 Earth Moving by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1989
2.03 | 168 ratings

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Earth Moving
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

1 stars Judging first four or five bars of the initial track, "Holy", we unmistakingly come to a conclusion: this album is firmly entrenched in 80s pop sound and it's gonna stay that way for the next 40 minutes.

Story goes that Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records, insisted on Mike to provide another commercially successful album, even more so than 1987 Islands. And Mike obeyed that time. He had bounced back and forth between poppy singles and ambitious, art-rock/progressive suites for most of the eighties, but Earth Moving was a different animal. This time he provides no instrumentals and longest track doesn't exceed 8-minute mark. All songs feature sugary vocals, sappy melodies, simple time signatures and oh-so-melodramatic synthesizers. Truly, compared to leading synthpop act of the era, Depeche Mode, Oldfield's output in 1989 was very mellow and safe. Drum machines rarely attack eardrums, opting for uncharacteristic backgrounds and softened with reverbs most of the time. Production breathes and lives in 1989, spacious and elegant like Michael Mann's pastel interiors... unfortunately, for that reason it aged rapidly, just like Miami Vice in its third season. Earth Moving has to be the most "artificially" sounding record in Mike's catalogue, at least up to that point.

When it comes to musicianship, there is no reason to complain really. Guest appearances do their job quite well, they're good enough to conquer Billboard charts. Maggie Reilly comes back for one song, Anita Hegerland provides bright, Lauperesque vocals in catchy "Innocent", and Adrian Belew delivers convincing romanticism in charming "Holy". Speaking of Belew, he also provides a decent solo in "Far Country". But the problem is, even the most pleasing tunes aren't exactly pop heavyweights. Earth Moving could be easily mistaken for a Jan Hammer and REO Speedwagon collaboration, but it isn't catchy enough to win the world.

This is the first reason why I can't give this album a decent rating. Mike throws his style out of the window and you need to listen very closely to conclude it's HIS work, not another run-of-the-mill 80s drink coaster. As far as I'm concerned, never before that was the case; certainly he meddled with pop music for ten years at that point, but we could always tell it's Oldfield. His talent, atmosphere and great guitar playing were all over the place. Here it's completely absent, or at least 80% of it.

Secondly, those tunes just don't stay with a listener. I could name three of four songs better than the average, but it's utterly pointless, since none of them can even crack Oldfield's TOP 50. Honestly, I've listened to Earth Moving three times this week just to judge it fairly, but I barely remember melodies, apart from "Innocent".

I think this deserves 1 star rating. Not because it's unbearable. Frankly, I've heard worse songs on The Millenium Bell. If you are very much into 80s pop, then yes, give it a listen - you might find it a 5/10 album, perhaps. But I can't really recommend Earth Moving to prog fans. Aforementioned Millenium Bell at least had some highlights, brief moments of Mike's greatness here and there. In comparison, Earth Moving turns out to be so bland. The last song ("Nothing But / Bridge to Paradise") sums it up nicely, just listen to its coda and how uninspired, lifeless and repetitive it is. In itself it isn't The Worst Album, but there's nothing really impressive here. It never reaches beyond "Ah OK" levels.

There is just no Oldfield here. Thus, 1 star is deserved.

 The Millenium Bell by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1999
2.31 | 141 ratings

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The Millenium Bell
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

2 stars I'd rather start from the bottom, maybe the very bottom of Mike's catalogue, and work my way up towards his prime albums. If I did it in an opposite direction, I'd never find motivation to write on The Millenium Bell.

Honestly, the album cover says it all. Collage of planets, spheres, blocky fonts with a campy, digital feeling of 1990s - it was supposed to look modern, I guess. Instead it screams: CHEAP ATTEMPT ON CGI WITH A TUBULAR BELL AND 2000 THEME FOR NAIVE AQUARIANS. As much as I adore the original music and ideas behind 1973 Tubular Bells, I'm afraid these ideas only got cheap and diluted with so many revisions. It'd be fine if Mike decided to reserve Tubular Bells tag for his best material, but it's not the case unfortunately.

The Millenium Bell tries to summarize 2000 years of history and a dozen of cultures that influenced it the most. To illustrate such diversity Oldfield adheres to different styles and aesthetics, often times marrying his electronic fascination and New Age spirituality with ethnic/world music, rather poor attempts at classical (soundtrack quality, at most) and other musical flavors. What we get is a very disjointed record with terrible lyrics. For instance, Sunlight Shining Through Cloud starts with African chants to an electronic drum beat, followed by orchestral synths and cringeworthy spoken word by a female, android-like master of ceremony. The song culminates with saccharine R&B/gospel tune, more akin to Tina Turner's heyday than Incantations.

And that's the story behind most of it. The Doge's Palace features oboe in the foreground backed by strings and HOUSE beat. Once in a while some Italian fella (don't mistake him for a proper tenor singer) interrupts, screaming:

Franceso Donato! -House Beat- Pieeetro Polani! -Church Organ- Enricooo DANDOOLOOO! -More Oboe-

...yes, these are simply NAMES of couple Venetian princes (doges) from centuries ago. What's the insight behind it? What kind of Enlightenment or discovery lies behind these names? The answer is none.

Unsurprisingly, the strongest moments come when Mike invests heavily in New Age, ethereal sound, such as Peace on Earth or Liberation, topped with a pleasant, howling guitar solo. At times he succeeds with world music, especially when he's bold and reaches epic levels (Amber Light). On those occasions he's not far from Vangelis "Conquest of Paradise" (both stylistically and quality- wise). But for every good moment we get at least two disappointments, that's the rule here. Too many songs try hard to couple distant influences and results are mixed, ranging from passable to awful and silly.

Honestly, you can just spin the self-titled finale, reprising the most important themes of the album in a a 7-minute shell, to get the point. Inspiring guitar licks and epic themes are overwhelmed with mediocre ones, only to resurface at the very end.

The Millenium Bell offers too little quality and connection to its predecessors to deserve its name. Certainly, Mike Oldfield fans will find a few tracks interesting enough to try it out... but personally, I had a hard time reasoning with myself it's passable enough to get two stars. In the end the sentiments won.

 Ommadawn by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.31 | 1223 ratings

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Ommadawn
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by martindavey87

2 stars 'Ommadawn' is the third studio album by Mike Oldfield. It was released in 1975 and much like its predecessors, it's split into two "parts". Oldfield, only 22 at this point, was already a worldwide star after the success of his first album, 'Tubular Bells', and much in the same vein as before, he plays the majority of the instruments here, while covering a variety of folk, celtic and new age themes.

However, while I liked 'Tubular Bells', I thought Oldfield's follow up, 'Hergest Ridge' was a huge, huge let down, and 'Ommadawn' is only just slightly better than that. While the music is certainly well written, setting a nice atmosphere and progresses interestingly while maintaining a similar theme throughout, I just struggle to stay engaged all the way through.

In particular, the first part is really good, with lots of hauntingly beautiful melodies and varying dynamics. But the second half is where I completely switch off. Everything just seems so messy and uninspiring. At least five minutes of it is just a smorgasbord of noise, and by the time that dissipates, all interest is gone.

There's also a quick song tacked on at the end; 'On Horseback'. It has a spoken verse and a short, sung chorus. It's nothing fancy, and the lyrics make no sense to me, but it's catchy nonetheless. Not enough to save this album, though.

Overall, this is only just a step up from 'Hergest Ridge', and even then, it's much too similar for my liking. Oldfield has been one of my biggest musical inspirations, so I know better things are coming, but I think 'Ommadawn' is an album that I'll probably never come back to.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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