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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells 2003


Review: Jack Foley

IT'S been 30 years since Mike Oldfield first released his seminal masterpiece, Tubular Bells, alongside Pink Floyd's equally sprawling Dark Side of the Moon.

Yet the signature tune remains as timeless as ever, thanks to the numerous re-issues (we had a Tubular Bells 2), and its use in various forms of media, most notably William Friedkin's movie, The Exorcist.

However, due to the technological limitations encountered by Oldfield during the Seventies, he has decided to mark the 30th anniversary by bringing out a brand new version - completely replayed and reproduced by Oldfield using the latest technology.

The result is a fresher, cleaner sounding record that remains as contemporary as ever, and which could well bring the artist a new army of listeners - even though there will undoubtedly be those who ask, 'why bother'?

Yet Oldfield was only 19 when he recorded it during an intense week, paving the way for current music trends, such as techno, new age and chill out.

The 2003 version boasts vocals from Sally Oldfield, as well as actor, John Cleese, who acts as a master of ceremonies.

The highlights remain track one, Introduction, in which the unmistakable sound of the album is first introduced (the effect is as spine-tingling as ever, particularly with the newer technology), while the grandiose, eight-minute plus Finale (which brings part one to a suitably rousing close) is a layered, slow-building, but completely satisfying piece of music that works as well on its own.

It is here that Cleese gets in on the act, first announcing the arrival of the grand piano in typically upper-lip style, before building to the arrival of the tubular bells, via bass guitar, Glockenspiel and double-speed guitar (to name but a few).

The arrival of the tubular bells, of course, is rather like welcoming an old friend to a dinner party, or something. The effect is quite epic.

There are moments, of course, when the album veers into experimental territory, rendering it a little painful to listen to, but there are just as many moments to savour - and the record is brought to a fun-filled conclusion by the The Sailor's Hornpipe, better known as one of the theme's to children's favourite, Blue Peter.

I have long been a sucker for some quality acoustic/Spanish guitar and with this in abundance, Tubular Bells 2003 marks a welcome revival for a long-time classic. It's time to fall in love with Oldfield all over again.

 

Track listing:
1. Introduction
2. Fast Guitars
3. Basses
4. Latin
5. A Minor Tune
6. Blues
7. Trash
8. Jazz
9. Ghost Bells
10. Russian
11. Finale
12. Harmonics
13. Peace
14. Bagpipe Guitars
15. Caveman
16. Ambient Guitars
17. The Sailors Hornpipe

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