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Mike Oldfield - Hergest Ridge CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

3.95 | 620 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars That difficult second album. A cliché, pretty well worn, but, as with most clichés, containing an element of truth. When, however, your debut album sold by the millions of truckloads, you are hailed as THE future of rock music, indeed, its very saviour, and you have gone from being utterly unknown except to your family and a hippy businessman with a beard, then any follow up was always going to be slightly difficult.

It is, to me at any rate, somewhat unfortunate that Oldfield's entire career will be judged by the benchmark of Tubular Bells, because I feel that he has done much better, and this album is a very good example of that. Yes, TB is a classic, deservedly in the upper echelons of rock's genius releases, but I cannot help feeling that I am not alone in stating that it has not aged particularly well. I actually prefer the two sequel TB works, and I also think, in hindsight, that Hergest Ridge is a better album. Certainly, side two is the equal of side one on this album, a charge that very few, I feel, could level at Tubular Bells.

As might be expected, there are deep similarities between the two works, released as they were, within a year of each other. There are parts when you struggle to differentiate between the two. Listen carefully, and them bells also make a few, subtle, appearances. There are, however, far stronger differences that set this album apart.

When Oldfield had become as big as God in terms of album sales, he suffered greatly, his quiet and almost reclusive personality turning away from the trappings of fame. He bought a big pad in the middle of nowhere, and composed this album there. Certainly, we hear in Hergest Ridge the first elements of the pastoral, folk like music which would later become a hallmark, with strong Celtic leanings. The use of oboes, and other orchestra instruments, also adds a far richer texture to this album than Tubular Bells. In addition, the choral effects are wonderful - no annoying nasal passages here, just a rich sound of harmony with deliberately understated backing. Think of classical music set in the modern age, and you are getting somewhere near the mark. It is also the case that this is, to these ears, where Oldfield's trademark electric guitar beauty first came to the fore and led proceedings where it appeared.

The musicianship is never anything less than superb (again, unlike TB, where all sorts of glitches on the original pressing were apparent), and it is an album I find perfect listening for a breezy autumnal evening outside, as it is in my part of rural Wales. Spellbinding, evocative in its rural charm, and relentlessly engaging.

Four stars for this, an album that every Oldfield fan should own, and also recommended highly for those who like their prog intelligent, pastoral, fused with classical sensibilities, and just, well, damn good.

lazland | 4/5 |


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