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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

4.14 | 1372 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Richard and Mike strike (bells of) gold

"Tubular Bells" is where it all began both for Mike Oldfield, and for Richard Branson with his fledgling Virgin Records. Had it not been for this one album, the whole history of what is now the Virgin empire would have been radically different. In brief, Oldfield recorded this album entirely by himself, and without a recording contract. After unsuccessfully pedalling it around the major record companies in search of a deal, he eventually persuade a young budding entrepreneur with a few record shops, to release the album on his newly formed record label. The album become one of the most successful releases of all time and, as they say, the rest is history.

While for many of a certain age "Tubular Bells" is as familiar as an old pair of slippers, it remains even now an excellent piece of work. Those listening to it for the first time now may well wonder what all the fuss was about, as others have trodden the same road many times since, and a whole genre (new age music) has developed as a result. Note however that this is not itself new age music, it is far more complex and dynamic that that.

When it was released "Tubular Bells" was a real breath of fresh air, totally original, and bursting with energy. Others may been down a similar path before (Bo Hansson for example) but their efforts remained obscure (in Hansson's case outwith Scandinavia at least).

The first part (side 1 of the LP) contains the stronger material, something Oldfield would rectify on "Tubular Bells 2". This is a case though where the migration to CD has improved the package by offering it as a complete piece without interruption. The music, which was composed and performed throughout by Oldfield, is entirely instrumental. He uses a wide array of instruments, multi-layered with frequent changes of pace and melody. A selection of the instruments is introduced during the famous closing section to side one. The performance is remarkably mature for someone at the time so young, and while music critics and Oldfield himself will now point to many flaws in the product, to the casual listener these are either transparent, or now form an integral part of the piece.

Oldfield appears to be at his most comfortable and proficient when using guitar, resulting in many different types of guitar being used, and a wide diversity of styles and sounds.

In all, a remarkable effort, which is rightly acclaimed as a landmark album. I suspect this is the type of composition which will be performed by musicians in 200 years time in the same way as classical pieces are now, and rightly so. Essential listening.

Oldfield has revisited "Tubular Bells" several times. "TB2" was a very similar album, almost a facsimile copy. "TB3" bears little relation to the original. "TB2003" was a faithful re-recording of the original album, which allowed Oldfield to "iron out" all the things which had niggled him about the original for so many years.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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