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Mike Oldfield - The Millenium Bell CD (album) cover

THE MILLENIUM BELL

Mike Oldfield

 

Crossover Prog

2.30 | 145 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

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.

thief | 2/5 |

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