Michael Hedges's last album before his untimely death is one of his best. The 1996 album opens with The 2nd Law, a quietly intense and introspective piece, and moves on through the percussive Ignition, the sprightly Gospel, and two variations on the same piece, Jitterboogie and the playful Jitterboogie (Family Version). The sole vocal piece on the album is a nice turn on the Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows, with Hedges backing himself on guitar and fretless bass. There are two other interesting cover choices, Henry Mancini's Theme from Hatari! and Frank Zappa's Sofa No. 1. Oracle won the 1998 Grammy for Best New Age Album, and the award was richly deserved. --Daniel Durchholz
Over time, Michael Hedges' recording approach and guitar technique had morphed to include all sorts of gadgetry and inspired technical innovations. Each new disc introduced new musical and thematic elements to the guitarist's vast repertoire. This attention to innovative detail isn't as pronounced on Oracle, but it would be untrue to describe the disc as representing a creative stasis. On an album that is mostly instrumental and generally concerned more with melody than thematic cohesion and quirky technical breakthroughs, Hedges relies on his past offerings and simplest musical instincts for inspiration, and the results are splendid. After having the stolen homemade instrument he used to write and record his groundbreaking debut, Breakfast in the Field, returned to him in 1995, Hedges used the guitar as a guiding light, leading the way toward a return to a more musical and less technical musical style. Standouts include the simplified Zappa cover 'Sofa No. 1' and the gentle guitar manifestoes 'The 2nd Law' and 'Oracle' but, as fans would expect, this offering is consistent in its quality, and rare in its musical commitment. --Vincent Jeffries (All Music Guide)
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