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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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MIKE OLDFIELD discography


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

4.13 | 1239 ratings
Tubular Bells
1973
3.95 | 636 ratings
Hergest Ridge
1974
2.54 | 193 ratings
The Orchestral Tubular Bells
1975
4.30 | 1420 ratings
Ommadawn
1975
3.94 | 494 ratings
Incantations
1978
3.16 | 322 ratings
Platinum
1979
3.51 | 348 ratings
Q.E.2
1980
3.70 | 411 ratings
Five Miles Out
1982
3.48 | 460 ratings
Crises
1983
2.81 | 281 ratings
Discovery
1984
2.70 | 167 ratings
The Killing Fields
1984
2.62 | 223 ratings
Islands
1987
2.04 | 187 ratings
Earth Moving
1989
4.03 | 611 ratings
Amarok
1990
2.50 | 188 ratings
Heaven's Open
1991
3.58 | 344 ratings
Tubular Bells II
1992
3.73 | 316 ratings
The Songs Of Distant Earth
1994
3.10 | 236 ratings
Voyager
1996
3.34 | 244 ratings
Tubular Bells III
1998
2.97 | 201 ratings
Guitars
1999
2.33 | 161 ratings
The Millenium Bell
1999
2.44 | 164 ratings
Tr3s Lunas
2002
3.77 | 224 ratings
Tubular Bells 2003
2003
2.77 | 159 ratings
Light + Shade
2005
3.05 | 198 ratings
Music of the Spheres
2008
3.15 | 199 ratings
Man On The Rocks
2014
4.06 | 383 ratings
Return To Ommadawn
2017

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

3.80 | 103 ratings
Exposed
1979

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

3.94 | 50 ratings
Tubular Bells II & III Live (DVD)
1999
2.60 | 44 ratings
The Art in Heaven Concert Live in Berlin (DVD)
2000
4.25 | 16 ratings
DVD Collection
2003
3.18 | 35 ratings
Elements - The Best Of (DVD)
2004
3.87 | 44 ratings
Exposed
2005
4.48 | 81 ratings
Live At Montreux 1981
2006

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

3.80 | 50 ratings
Mike Oldfield - Boxed
1976
3.57 | 16 ratings
Airborn
1980
3.04 | 6 ratings
Impressions
1980
3.00 | 11 ratings
Music Wonderland
1981
3.69 | 47 ratings
The Complete Mike Oldfield
1985
3.27 | 7 ratings
Collector's Edition Box I
1990
3.19 | 9 ratings
Collector's Edition Box II
1990
2.59 | 27 ratings
Elements: The Best of Mike Oldfield
1993
2.96 | 16 ratings
Elements: 1973-1991
1993
2.66 | 18 ratings
XXV - The Essential Mike Oldfield
1997
2.11 | 11 ratings
The Best Of Tubular Bells
2001
2.86 | 7 ratings
The Mike Oldfield Collection
2002
2.68 | 10 ratings
The Complete Tubular Bells
2003
2.56 | 15 ratings
The Platinum Collection
2006
4.17 | 12 ratings
Two Sides: The Very Best of Mike Oldfield
2012
2.53 | 15 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
4.00 | 4 ratings
The 1984 Suite
2016

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

3.83 | 6 ratings
Tubular Bells
1974
4.07 | 10 ratings
In Dulci Jubilo
1975
3.57 | 7 ratings
Don Alfonso
1975
2.00 | 1 ratings
Don Alfonso (German Version)
1975
3.30 | 11 ratings
Portsmouth
1976
4.00 | 7 ratings
William Tell Overture
1976
4.00 | 6 ratings
Cuckoo Song
1977
3.50 | 2 ratings
Take 4
1978
4.00 | 7 ratings
Guilty
1979
3.83 | 6 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
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Singles
1981
3.67 | 6 ratings
Five Miles Out
1982
3.67 | 6 ratings
Family Man
1982
2.34 | 10 ratings
Mistake
1982
3.05 | 2 ratings
Crime of Passion
1983
3.26 | 8 ratings
Moonlight Shadow
1983
3.30 | 14 ratings
Shadow on the Wall
1983
3.91 | 11 ratings
To France
1984
3.95 | 15 ratings
Pictures in the Dark
1985
3.39 | 14 ratings
Shine
1986
1.65 | 11 ratings
Innocent
1989
3.10 | 10 ratings
Tattoo
1992
3.67 | 3 ratings
Man In The Rain
1998
5.00 | 4 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
 Tubular Bells by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.13 | 1239 ratings

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Tubular Bells
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars Oldfield recorded the first, primitive version of "Opus One" at home. With no professional equipment at his disposal and no money to pay for the session musicians, he asked his father to sponsor the best possible tape recorder available on the market, then dismantled the recording system and removed the deletion head. Now he could record successive parts on top of each other. Unfortunately, the creator himself enjoyed the finished recording much more than the potential publishers. All the major companies sent the nineteen-year-old Oldfield away with the receipt. Mike reportedly was so desperate that when he read somewhere that in the Soviet Union musicians were guaranteed artistic freedom and the release of an album, he seriously had the idea of moving to the East. At least, this is what the interested person himself told in the interviews. Fortunately, another young Englishman decided to give Oldfield a chance. The owner of the studio and a large record store, Richard Branson, was just setting up a new record label - Virgin Records and proposed to release "Opus One" as the first album of the new label (number 2 was - released on the same day - "The Flying Teapot" by Gong). In one fell swoop, Mike found a publisher and a studio where he could work with professional equipment. And instead of "The Poisonous Bells of the Kalaks", on May 25, 1973, the world got to know Tubular Bells. Tubular Bells, a timeless masterpiece, consisting of two instrumental suites of about 20 minutes each in which musical plots partly derived from the Canterbury school (Soft Machine and Caravan above all), from folk, from psychedelia, are mixed and confused, and partly born from the volcanic creativity of an artist who in thirty years has played and composed all kinds of things, from the most intricate and bizarre instrumental progressive to pop dance (who doesn't remember Moonlight Shadow?), up to the Chill-out of which he is considered a pioneer.

The disc opens with the disturbing and super famous piano arpeggio made famous by the film The Exorcist, soon vibraphone, bass, keyboards and guitars enrich the melody by adding others until between continuous electric and acoustic chimes, between harmonized solos, romantic mandolins (mandolins? ... yes, mandolins) and a thousand other melodic ideas, we arrive at the end of the first suite, considered by many to be the masterpiece of the masterpiece. The basic idea is very simple and fascinating, ten different instruments alternate on a constant carpet of guitar and bass, each introduced by the "master of ceremonies", playing the same melodic line up to the epic tolling of tubular bells flanked by a ethereal female choir draw one of the best moments of the opera. Thus was born Tubular Bells, a timeless masterpiece, consisting of two instrumental suites of about 20 minutes each in which musical plots partly derived from the Canterbury school (Soft Machine and Caravan above all), from folk, from psychedelia, are mixed and confused. and partly born from the volcanic creativity of an artist who in thirty years has played and composed all kinds of things, from the most intricate and bizarre instrumental progressive to pop dance (who doesn't remember Moonlight Shadow?), up to the Chill-out of which he is considered a pioneer.

The second suite is more calm and psychedelic than the first, from the beginning a crowd of guitars draw litanies of rare suggestion in which the main melodies are passed with elegance and precision from one instrument to another, a jolt offers the central part of the suite in which a melody with an almost martial pace acts as a link to one of the most "anomalous" episodes of the disc, a sort of rock curtain led by guitar and piano (it is also the only moment in which there is a battery) disturbed from incomprehensible screams and gasps of a "caveman" (Oldfield confessed to having recorded him completely drunk). On an organ carpet, two guitars with liquid sounds guide us towards the end of the disc, intertwining in an authentic exercise of technique and style on which the shadow of David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) hovers. And at the end of an altogether anomalous album, Oldfield offers us a surprising arrangement of the classic The Sailor's Hornpipe.

It is obvious that Tubular Bells is not a record for everyone, the fact that it is entirely instrumental and that it cannot be combined with certain styles and references tends to be more confusing than intriguing the listener, however due to the great experimental charge that often reaches and exceeds the intentions of the progressive movement I want to recommend it to everyone, from lovers of music without borders (which is the original meaning of progressive) to the most convinced defenders that they will be able to have a quality calm before the storms.

Tubular Bells, as already mentioned, is a universe of ideas and atmospheres, and therefore it is almost impossible that you will not find something interesting and satisfying inside.

 Live At Montreux 1981 by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover DVD/Video, 2006
4.48 | 81 ratings

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Live At Montreux 1981
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

5 stars In the mere 8 years between Tubular Bells and this concert, Oldfield had gone from kitchen sink 50 minute opuses in studio solitude to a tight rock band, passing on the way thru various prog folk derivations ("Hergest Ridge", "Ommadawn"), modern neo classical ("Incantations"). massive stage extravaganzas rivalling some of Rick Wakeman's earlier ambitions ("Exposed"), minimalism ("Platinum"), and finally his own influential take on Celtic rock ("QE2" ). One could argue he grew more during this time than many artists do in their lifetime, and that his audience grew in lock step with him, attaining an appreciation and love of more complex music that very few artists could have cultivated. I have heard bobblehead critics refer to Oldfield's work as childish, but I believe they may be conflating the artist's gift with childlike wonder that permeates many of his electric guitar solos with immaturity. In fact his restraint at resisting the guitar hero profile in favor of a clean shaven if slightly long haired boy wonder is to be commended. At least at this point, he seemed so genuinely happy with having finally engineered a tete a tete with the audience that this joy is discerned right through the gritted teeth holding his pick collection in place as his guitar plays him.

The concert begins with a medley from QE2, the album that was current at the time, and the first of his 2 predominantly Celtic albums. Although the successor "Five Miles Out" was still a year away, in "Taurus 1" we can perceive some of the motifs later used in that album's opus "Taurus 2". While the vividly red-haired Maggie Reilly adds a vocal dimension even to tracks that didn't have a singer on the original release, at this point her contributions are wordless and all the more vivid for it, being utilized craftily in place of both voice and accompanying instrumentation as the need is intuited. That this same singer became the voice of a string of chart hits shortly thereafter is tribute to her versatility and Oldfield's creativity.

The peak, though, is the underrated "Platinum" suite in 4 very different yet harmonious parts, each building on the previous, even the roaring twenties honky tonk of the "Charleston" part during which the band members are served wine, leading effortlessly into the "North Star" finale which Oldfield's riffs trade off with sweet acoustic guitar by Rick Fenn who otherwise plays mostly bass in the concert. Maggie returns to coax it to an appropriate crescendo. Throughout this opus and others, the keyboard work of Tim Cross is top notch and his stage presence is not bad at all. The two percussionists center the naturally rhythmic nature of Oldfield's music. The liner notes indicate that he set up the touring band as a profit sharing enterprise rather than simply paying them a gig fee. Based on their performance, Oldfield's genius is not limited to musical realms.

Oldfield later returns to QE2 with the wonderful "Conflict" that morphs from synth storm to a hot blooded Irish jig with nary a trace of self possession or artifice. This segues into Ommadawn Part One which covers many high points of that masterpiece. The abbreviated Tubular Bells 2 (highlight being the guitar played like a bagpipe!) and the full Tubular Bells 1 seem like the right proportions given the time constraints. The concert balances reflective, almost campfire intimacy when Oldfield is playing mandolin or acoustic guitar to rousing melodic solos to full on prog rock. To say that Punkadiddle is supremely anticlimactic is an understatement, but it's nice seeing these lads shed their doubtlessly drenched shirts before returning to the stage for this encore.

Given the breadth of what is presented here, the manner in which it is performed, the justice that it does to this man's legacy, and the enthusiasm of the audience that surely counted primarily jazz fans amongst their number, I can only conclude that this DVD represents an essential encapsulation of an eventful first 4/5 decade in a remarkable career.

 Ommadawn by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.30 | 1420 ratings

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Ommadawn
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by DiversionConVinilos

5 stars The essence of progressive rock is its ability to absorb and assimilate music from different fields, always looking for innovation, experimentation and the search for new paths. This is what Mike Oldfield does, at least in his early works. And this Ommadawn is a good proof of that. In this work, the main influence comes from world music, with rhythmic and tribal elements that serve to develop melodic motifs of great strength and consistency.

From the first moment powerful melodies are combined with the folk elements to create a complex ecosystem that develops and varies throughout the first part, making the tension grow until it reaches a brutal climax at the end of this first part and that includes one of the most spectacular guitar solos of Oldfield's entire career. The second part is, by contrast, much more relaxed, exploring more the folk vein to which musicians of the stature of Paddy Moloney, the leader of the Chieftains, contribute, playing the Irish bagpipes or his brother Terry playing the flute, in addition to the group of African percussion Jabula, also protagonists of the amazing end of the first part.

An album, in my view, exceptional in its development and its content. Music that is pleasant to listen to, without taking away its extraordinary originality.

 Innocent by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1989
1.65 | 11 ratings

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Innocent
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by mohaveman

1 stars Two songs taken from Mike Oldfield's 1989 release EARTH MOVING. That album is without a doubt, in my mind at least, his weakest, most commercial, and least Prog work. But, it was the 80's... "Innocent" is bland, AOR pop/rock featuring Norweigian Anita Hegerland, who, I believe, was his girlfriend at the time. Nothing to write home about, I do understand why it was chosen as a single. Catchy but forgettable. "Earth Moving(disco version)"...you can pretty much see where this song is heading with that title.

So, two tunes from a less than stellar album. If you need everything Mike has released, than go for it and try to complete that collection. Otherwise put SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH or INCANTATIONS on and forget this one.

 Tubular Bells by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.13 | 1239 ratings

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Tubular Bells
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by Uruk_hai

5 stars Review #2

Standing ovations, this album deserves them!!

I think I was eight or nine years old the first time that I saw "The exorcist" and I clearly remember that as scary as it was I really liked it and one of the things that captured my attention of this film was that beautiful piano melody that only appears in one short non-scary scene and at the end with the credits, I had no idea of who had composed that song until I started listening to Prog Rock music and discovered Tubular bells (back then I was sixteen years old).

"Tubular bells, part one" starts with the well-known tune of the movie, but this is only for the first four minutes, then the song changes and changes, and changes more or less every 4 or 5 minutes, and every part of the song is more enchanting than the last one. Every single movement of this song is beautiful and it feels like a whole journey through the sweetest emotions that oscillates among joy, excitement, and a total sensation of peace (which makes it ironic that somebody picked this song to be played in the most terrifying movie ever filmed). This song sounds as if there was some sort of angelical ritual going on in the studio and if you were right there, just beside the musicians and connecting with something really magical.

"Tubular bells, part two" sounds more like a song that someone would play on a picnic or a barbecue in the backyard, like a perfect soundtrack for a beautiful sunny day talking and laughing with family and friends; the atmosphere here is different but equally enjoyable. The second part is a few minutes shorter than the first one and ends the album with a sensation of wanting more music like that.

Mike OLDFIELD plays almost every instrument, besides a few more musicians who helped him to create this masterpiece (yes, I do think this is a true masterpiece). When talking about Mike OLDFIELD people usually share the idea that "Ommadawn" is the masterpiece, I completely disagree, since I found that album kind of boring and much less interesting than "Tubular bells". If Mike OLDFIELD ever recorded an album that deserves to be called a masterpiece it should be his debut.

Five stars without hesitation.

 Tubular Bells III by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.34 | 244 ratings

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Tubular Bells III
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

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 claim that Oldfield cynically branded mediocre records with trademark name just to increase the sales, well, perhaps you can find some evidence here.

I don't mind him abandoning structures already explored on two preceding albums, not in the slightest, but it's not like Oldfield cut ties with the past and went in the opposite direction. Quite contrary! The first single, "Man in the Rain", is astonishingly similar to "Moonlight Shadow", even featuring the same vocal style (this time it's Cara Dillon's voice, but you'd never guess without looking at the back cover). Same groove, same feel, same lightly strummed acoustic guitars - I mean, it's 1983 again, with marginally revamped sound maybe. Now, while we're at self-referencing, I just realized that "Outcast" - although genuinely satisfying and interesting, no sarcasm here - has very much in common with that heavy guitar section from Tubular Bells, later known as "Thrash" on 2003 Edition.

Split personality? Yes, this might be a better description of TB-3 contents. On one hand, early representative of half-baked electronica/chillout of "Tr3s Lunas" or "Light + Shade" breed; on the other, a handy excuse to rehash his biggest hits without breaking a sweat. Some songs really sound as if they were composed, played and recorded on second gear. I have no recollection of "Moonwatch", even though I listened to it earlier today - twice! "The Inner Child" must be the worst though, I find pseudo-eastern girl wails very uninspiring and cheesy, and this one has loads of it. Essentially, there is nothing more to this track: very vague synths in the background and four minutes worth of moaning, seriously.

Despite all this, I think Tubular Bells III is enjoyable at times, if you can look past distinctly 90s sound and accept simpler songwriting than before. The recurring theme, first played in "The Source of Secrets" and "The Watchful Eye", has a soothing, "aquatic" charm to it. "Serpent Dream" showcases Mike's aptitude with Spanish guitar and is always recommended, while "The Top of the Morning", albeit predictable, delivers hopeful piano melodies and has a great flow. I definitely listen carefully to "Secret" and "Far Above the Clouds", as both put me in a very pleasing mood - there is a great balance of relaxing and epic elements, you should check it out. And the bells, well, they are featured during coda in a slightly dramatic manner, but without jumping the shark, thankfully.

I have no doubt it's the least thrilling part of Tubular trilogy. Original was a force to be reckoned with, a freak of nature really. Sequel - quite deep, inspiring, a pleasant surprise to many. This one? Correct. Alright. But flawed! I can't get over the "Moonlight Shadow" ripoff and frustrating "Arabian widow" bit. I'd say there is enough evidence that Mike could come up with a worthy sequel to "Tubular Bells II" if he really put his mind to it... now, it feels a lil' rushed. Would love to give it 3 stars, if there was more passion.

The kid has talent, but parties a lot. Too much money and too close to Ibiza night clubs, I guess!

 Exposed by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Live, 1979
3.80 | 103 ratings

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Exposed
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by iluvmarillion

4 stars This recording taken from the 1978 European tour to promote Mike Oldfield's fifth studio release of his double album, Incantations, is his first and only official live release. I view this as almost criminal of his recording company to only release one live album as Mike is an extraordinary live artist. You need to otherwise go to his various live DVD issues to hear him in live performance. The live presentation of Incantations is a truncated version of the studio version with about 25 minutes stripped off the studio version. It still flows brilliantly with Maddy Prior, who shares the vocals with Sally Oldfield on the studio version, adding her voice to this live version. I fell in love with Maddy Prior's voice when I first heard her in Steeleye Span. Here she is equally good in this live version of Incantations.

The second part of Exposed is a complete performance of Tubular Bells. The first part of TB is slightly longer than the studio version and has Mike Oldfield replacing a lot of the acoustic guitar sections with electric guitar. It moves a little faster than the studio version and has a rockier feel to it and a changed ending. It will never equal the studio version of it, which is a masterpiece, but sits comfortably as a complimentary ride to the familiar riffs of the studio version. The second part of TB is almost half the length of the original, but I think it's superior. It has a real waltzing, rocky feel to it finishing with the familiar Sailor's Hornpipe.

As an encore Mike performs his singles hit, Guilty. He uses one of the themes from Incantations and turns it into an up- tempo disco beat. I couldn't think of a more perfect way to end the album. Live albums don't always work, but Exposed is as good as any and Mike Oldfield performs brilliantly as usual. Pity we can't enjoy more live albums from him.

 Return To Ommadawn by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.06 | 383 ratings

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Return To Ommadawn
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by iluvmarillion

4 stars I wish Mike Oldfield hadn't called this album, Return to Ommadawn, as it has you comparing the two albums. Ommadawn has masterful pastoral melodies/riffs and beautiful floating choruses that drift down over the top of the instruments. This album could have been composed around the same time as Ommadawn as it has that sound quality of the 70's period. However, it works in a different fashion. There are more guitars, particularly Spanish acoustic guitar, 12- string and electric guitars, mandolins and electric bass. Instead of the choruses of Ommadawn there is fleeting Mellotron and children's voices. It works beautifully sonically with an almost perfect blend of instruments and Mike Oldfield's guitar playing is sublime.

In some ways I prefer this recording to Ommadawn. However, it doesn't have the same memorable riffs as Ommadawn that stick in your mind. Maybe that's a good thing. I don't know. Ommadawn is the sort of album you could play on your death bed as you drift in and out of sleep as you expire. Return to Ommadawn is the kind of album that keeps you awake as you concentrate on the sheer sonic beauty of the album. Mike Oldfield is one of the greatest guitarists of his generation and in Return to Ommadawn he puts together a guitarist's gourmet of delights. I don't know why he isn't more often compared to the other great progressive guitarists of his generation such as Steve Hackett and Steve Howe.

 Tubular Bells II by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.58 | 344 ratings

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Tubular Bells II
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

3 stars If we decided to disregard Heaven's Open - I choose to believe it's nothing else than a finger pointed towards Virgin label - it'd occur Mike Oldfield came back to form in early 90s. Amarok was a powerful statement in itself, and kicking off his new Warner contract with Tubular Bells sequel meant a lot at the time.

Although I don't think anyone expected it to MIRROR the original!

It's not an outright plagiarism, mind you. Structures are largely the same - piano intro followed by tremolo picked, poignant motif, then touch of bluesy slide guitars, then rockier "fuzzed to 11" section and so on. Sometimes he changes chord progression, at other times he picks a parallel scale, but in the end the feeling is similar. So there is a very clear pattern, but we still have much variety when it comes to arrangements, instruments, that sort of thing. New melodies, at times, drift off in a completely different direction, or at least Mike fooled me time and time again.

So that must be said before all else. Some of us are looking for unique music experience on every occasion and don't fall for cheap tricks. Some of us don't see rearrangements or modal shenanigans as a genuine act of composition. Especially if the most distinctive ideas come up again after 20 years - you might find it bothersome or dishonest, and I get it.

But can we deny its charms for that reason only? Shall we turn our backs to beauty simply because the music follows his own well-established blueprint?

And yes, there are moments worth a bunch of spins. I always found "Sentinel" very potent and refreshing. Some of the credit goes to production as it's very clear, dense and liquid - a quality shared by majority of his 90s records. It has a very special, New Age feel to it, even more so than Crises and Discovery Era. Mike provides variety with dozens of sounds, be it Midnight Express style synthesizers in "Dark Star", tribal rhythms & clapping in "Sunjammer" (another highlight) or frolic, balls out keyboards in "Altered State" (mirroring "Piltdown Man").

As in the original, Tubular Bells II goes for a number of moods and atmospheres. I hear the simple men of Pacific islands rejoice on the beach, contemplative choirs in "Weightless" (I dubbed its counterpart "kite over Copenhagen 1800s") and triumphant conclusions. "The Bell" is obviously led by Master of Ceremonies, the great Alan Rickman; even if less ambiguous than Part One finale in 1973, this one infuses tons of unadulterated joy. Not bad, not bad at all!

Much can be said about each track. I haven't even mentioned all the hidden gems, such as fantastic celtic motifs in "The Great Plain" or grandiose bagpipes in "Tattoo", but it's hard to go over 60 minutes long album. There's A LOT of music to explore and digest. I like it very much, even more so than Voyager and Guitars - another underrated albums from the era.

So when it comes to rating, my heart says 4, but I have to take account of shared structures with the original. Tubular Bells 1973 are idiosyncratic, mysterious and deep. Tubular Bells II tried to achieve it with imitation, if not replication. You can't copy ideas and expect them to carry as much weight.

In the same time, it doesn't mean you won't enjoy this one. On the contrary - you'll marvel at its beauty more than once, I think. I know I did.

 Hergest Ridge by OLDFIELD, MIKE album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.95 | 636 ratings

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Hergest Ridge
Mike Oldfield Crossover Prog

Review by thief

4 stars or, what happens when you're stuck in between two legendary albums.

Mike didn't fiddle about and quickly followed his landmark debut Tubular Bells with another tranquilizing record. Hergest Ridge, named after a hill looming over recently acquired cottage, clearly brings peaceful vibes to the table. The introductory theme succeeds in setting the tone for the album, with delicate interplay of whistled melodies, gentle glockenspiel and incredibly tasty mandolin lead. Slow, but consequential buildup culminates with solemn trumpet and reassuring guitar strumming. I like how Oldfield manages to pour out sweet melodies without sounding naive or self-indulgent. I believe the trick lies in timely placed contrasts, be it wailing guitar leads, uptempo sleigh bells or cloudy tubulars appearing in crucial moments.

I applaud Mike for improving compositional skills. I'm no expert on music theory, but transition between motifs is almost seamless and general flow is much, much smoother than it used to be. It's especially pleasing on Part One, where pretty much every idea comes at a right time, no filler, no hesitation. Fans of unraveling, self-referencing and "logical" pieces will surely like this one. Yet on the other hand, cohesion comes with a price - Tubular Bells is known for variety and numerous themes hiding around every corner. Hergest Ridge is also interesting, but obviously Mike didn't aim as high this time around.

You see, Hergest Ridge really conveys Herefordshire imagery, vividly painting grassy slopes, vast pastures and river valleys. Abundance of unplugged instruments and soft segments reinforces this picture, so even if I've never been there (admittedly), the music makes me think it's a calm place, sparsely populated and contemplative in its nature.

Part Two takes the same direction at first. One of my favorite moments comes 3 minutes in - that catchy, acoustic guitar melody accompanied by mandolin and female choirs, likely Sally Oldfield's work. For some reason it reminds me of Incantations, maybe the feel is somewhat New Agey. In any case, Part Two remains interesting throughout, but I have to single out that metallic, chaotic section at 9:30 or so. It probably depends on the mix and speakers, but the last couple of times I didn't enjoy it much, rather found it tiring and unimpressive. Especially the first minute or two - before guitar solo comes in - almost spoil Part Two for me. I'm all for sonic experiments, but some of them are destined to fail imho. Cacophony somehow gets "better" later on, but it's fair to say that section swallows up a big chunk of Part Two, as it ends at 15:00 or so.

Thankfully it all calms down before coda. That last bit of Hergest Ridge is very picturesque and emotional. Sally's vocal theme is brought back beautifully and symphonic tones shine so bright. As far as endings go, this one is decidedly more structured and rich than "Sailor's Hornpipe" from the debut.

It seems "structure" is a keyword to Hergest Ridge. Lavish melodies and explicitly British sceneries make this album more of an "Ommadawn's precursor" than "Tubular successor". Narratives aside, I believe it's a really precious piece of art, encompassing worlds of symphonic, prog, classical and even world music. Mike Oldfield moves skillfully between these genres, defining his unique style at the age of 20. Don't miss it, sit back, enjoy.

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

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