Artists like Mike Oldfield defy categorization. Famous for his first solo work Tubular Bells, his music has taken on characteristics of classical, pop, rock, chill out, and various world music styles. “They put me in the New Age slots in the record shops. It’s not New Age. New Age Music is something session musicians do in their spare time.”
Tubular Bells, as featured in The Exorcist, has been described as an “instrumental collage” in which Oldfield played almost every instrument. In just the first part of the piece he performed on Grand Piano, Glockenspiel, Farfisa organ, Bass guitar, Electric guitar, Speed guitar, Taped motor drive amplifier organ chord, Mandolin–like guitar, Fuzz guitars, Assorted percussion, Acoustic guitar, Flageolet, Honky tonk, Lowrey organ, and, of course, Tubular Bells. His sampled loops of notes from each of these instruments was then turned into this work of great intricacy which became the first release on Virgin records, in 1973, having been turned down by all the major labels of the time.
His next two albums followed the same format as Tubular Bells, but with each taking a different theme and taking a different musical approach. However, it was the mid–70s and Oldfield was pushed aside by Virgin, in order to dedicate more time to the up and coming Punk movement. Oldfield, despite only being in his early 20s, never appreciated this era and said that, “Punk diluted the musical abilities of practically a whole generation. You were machine–gunned to death in the pop press if you really could play.”
After three years of retreat, Oldfield returned to music, far more willing to adapt to the popular music scene. He has maintained his ability to produce long and complex pieces, whilst also creating and adapting short pieces for the singles market. In this he has been aided by the vocal talents of Maggie Reilly, who appeared on many of his works of the 80s. He has produced 23 albums to date (not including the numerous live recordings and remasterings of Tubular Bells).
Maybe part of my adoration of this guy’s music is down to the fact that I was brought up with his LPs playing. When I got my own stereo for the first time, Mike Oldfield’s Crises album was the first that I smuggled up to my room. As a child I initially fell for his more pop style pieces such as Moonlight Shadow, with their simple and repetitive lyrics. As I matured I began to notice the richness of the music surrounding them, and the depth of the pieces that spanned an entire side of the vinyl. His music is beautifully flowing and yet incredibly powerful, and no matter what my mood I can pick out something that fits.
It’s incredibly difficult for me to pick just a few tracks to share on here. I’m limited by what I have as MP3s rather than LP, which means that I can’t offer some pieces that I’d love to – including some whole sides of LP!
Altered State MP3 Expired
Ommadawn (Excerpt) MP3 Expired
Dark Star MP3 Expired
(Quotes taken from Rock: The Rough Guide, published by Rough Guides Limited)