on 1 May 2014
This is really an album of quite straightforward pop-rock songs, albeit very nicely produced and with some occasional stellar guitar contributions from the master himself. It is often difficult to tell that this is an Oldfield production, aside from those brief moments, and this album is more likely to appeal to those who prefer Oldfield albums like Discovery, Earth Moving and Islands, rather than the more progressive releases such as Incantations, Ommadawn, Amarok, Hergest Ridge and TB. I think the vocals are well done but the performances are a little melodramatic at times - perhaps the vocalist was trying to inject some life or emotion into what are often pretty mediocre songs...
The opener 'Sailing' starts the proceedings with a catchy, if rather repetitive and simplistic number and this is followed by 'Moonshine', a song with a great sentiment and some beautiful guitar touches. Then after this we have three really dull tracks, often (as in 'Castaway') with irritating over-the-top vocal performances. 'Dreaming in the Wind' is the first track here that has a classic Oldfield sound almost from the very start and for me it is the best cut. 'Nuclear' is so theatrical it is almost comic. 'Chariots' has good energy and 'Following the Angels' is very heartfelt and genuine, referring to the Olympic Opening event to which Oldfield made such a memorable contribution. This track should have ended the album because the final two tracks tread the line between cliche and dullness and ultimately do not satisfy.
In my view, as a life long Oldfield fan, it would have been better for him to have made a long instrumental (side one) and then used 'Sailing', 'Moonshine', 'Dreaming in the Wind', 'Chariots' and 'Following the Angels' to fill up the songs on side two, in the time-honoured Oldfield fashion.
on 8 March 2014
By a stroke of good luck Mr Oldfield was asked to perform at the 2012 Olympics and this release reflects a burst of energy and it certainly comes across that all had a good time making this. It is beautifully reflective in parts; Dreaming in the Wind is particularly good and the upbeat Moonshine is one of Mike's catchiest songs to date. It certainly isn't Tubular Bells and if you liked Moonlight Shadow and those vocal tracks on Discovery, then this may be up your street. Luke Spiller puts in a great performance too.
on 6 March 2014
I took a chance and ordered this album on the strength of the single, "Sailing". I must admit, I had my fingers crossed, 'cos I've been caught out before! On this occasion, however, I'm so glad I took a chance. What a cracking album! I should say at this point that I am a 50 something whose favorite era in music is the 70's, particularly rock and pop. If your tastes are similar, you are going to love this album. From the first track, the a fore-mentioned "Sailing", through "Man on the Rocks", "Dreaming in the Wind", "Irene" and "I Give Myself Away", all cracking tracks in their own right! Luke Spiller's vocals are brilliant, Mike Oldfield's guitar playing superb, production overall wonderful. The only thing I can find to criticize - I don't like cardboard CD covers!
Seriously, just buy this album! It's the best!
on 17 March 2015
Bought it since the release. I'm a huge fan of Mike Oldfield, ever since I've heard Crises. I'm also a huge fan of his Light & Shade record that does not have many fans. But here, in Man on the rocks, he has surpassed himself in a number of ways. It's the first fully vocal album for Mike since very long time, probably since Islands in 1987.
It's bursting with emotions. You can feel happiness, sadness and nostalgia at the same time. It's the crown of his achievement and everything he has ever done. It's a conceptual work, meaning that it's not just a collection of randomly picked songs.
Every single song feels well crafted and carries certain emotions. Luke Spiller is such a talented and passionate young singer. Mike couldn't pick better "interpreter" for his songs! The tracks that move me really deep are Sailing, Man on the rocks, Moonshine, Castaway, Minutes, Dreaming in the wind, Chariots, Following the angels, I give myself away.
I have to say that Sailing, Man on the rocks and Dreaming in the wind are up with the finest and best Mike Oldfield songs he has ever done. There aren't many artists out there that could send the shivers down your spine like Mike did it in Man on the rocks song. What a beautiful and moving masterpiece. I love this man.
My wife is also a big fan of Mike Oldfield and she finds this album her favourite of all!
And I tend to agree, both of us are so attached to it. Together with Voyager it's been the most played Mike Oldfield album in our house of the last year, and will probably remain like that in 2015!
If you ever liked Mile Oldfield, even just some of his songs - by all means buy this album! Just be prepared to spend some time with it. It will be a beautiful and rewarding experience.
on 5 May 2014
This is a rare bird for Mike Oldfield. For starters I like it quite a bit. Oldfield is as gifted as any in writing catchy, hook-laden melodies when that is his aim. There are plenty such songs on MAN ON THE ROCKS and they run the gamut from slow to upbeat and from pop to rock. In another era this album could spawn as many as four hit radio singles. Thankfully Oldfield doesn't concern himself too much with the singles game, nor do I. I believe an artist retains a higher degree of integrity when he's not married to the need for mainstream acceptance. Now, he may actually garner more mainstream exposure with this album but (I submit) that would be more a result of happenstance than by design.
Since this is an all-vocal album my inclination is to compare it to his other vocal (or partial vocal) albums. But to me there are no real equivalents in the Oldfield canon. EARTH MOVING seemed to lack continuity as it utilized several vocalists and employed an AOR production relpete with the dreadful '80s studio applications. HEAVEN'S OPEN is barely worth mentioning due to its utter inferiority. Yes, it featured one singer (himself - and I generally like Oldfield's voice) so it did have continuity - but only in the negative sense. For convenience' sake I'll include many of his earlier eighties releases together (ISLANDS, DISCOVERY, CRISIS, 5 MILES OUT and QE2) as they are all similar in many respects; good recordings that include many catchy pop-ish tracks each, but Oldfield employed so many different featured vocalists (like Kevin Ayers, Roger Chapman, Jon Anderson, Bonnie Tyler, Barry Palmer, Maggie Riley, et.al.) as well as lengthy progressive instrumentals on those very same albums. Hence continuity was lacking.
On MAN ON THE ROCKS Luke Spiller is the only lead singer and even though this album varies stylistically from pop to adult alternative to rock there is a sameness from beginning to end that Oldfield's vocal albums have rarely (if ever) possessed. Some have stated that this has the feel of a Spiller solo album. I tend to agree as there is very little of the patented Oldfield guitar riff-age and phrasing of yore. In fact one has to listen very attentively (and know exactly what to listen for) in order to identify it. But that's OK and I bet that was by design. I think he just wanted to be lead guitarist in a band for a change. And I, for one, appreciate that change.
I've had this CD for some time and haven't felt the need or urge to listen to Disc #2. I can't imagine the value in hearing vocal-less tracks. I'll eventually get around to it though. I'm impressed that Mike Oldfield, at this point in his career, was willing to switch gears again and put forth a great product. I'll include him with a host of classic artists (like Hackett, I.Hunter, Hiatt, Steeleye, I.Anderson, etc.) who in this new decade appear invigorated and not at all feeling their age. Cheers.
BTW, the Freddie Mercury resemblance is so fleeting as to be virtually non-existent. Too bad. A Mercury/Oldfield collaboration would've been intriguing.
on 16 April 2014
My review of this album is of the three CD deluxe edition.
Main album - 3 stars
Instrumental album - 4 stars
Demo album - 4 stars
If Music Of The Spheres had you thinking Mike had returned to his melodic and adventurous best, then Man On The Rocks will be a somewhat frustrating listen..... at least at times.....
I appreciate why some reviewers refer to this as a progressive rock album, but the reality is that this release has little of the experimental nature of many great progressive albums. Sure, drop the names of any given Prog Rock artist or band that this album might sound like, but the fact is this is a derivative album at best. It isn't even derivative of Mike's own material.
Production-wise, this might be Mike's least adventurous album to date. Lyrically there are some awkward moments as well (Minutes and Chariots being the main offenders for me). Chariots simply put is a rip-off of Not Fade Away. Castaway is a frustrating listen.
Tracks that do make this a worthy venture without making it a revolutionary one are Sailing, I Give Myself Away, Man On The Rocks, Dreaming In the Wind, and Following The Angles. That in itself is half the album, and a worthy purchase for long term Mike Oldfield fans.
The instrumental disc is great. I'd argue that this could have been the main album with the vocal disc being the bonus disc.
The instrumental album hangs together better, added to this the weaker lyrical content from the main album is (obviously) absent. While the instrumental album isn't a 'Music Of the Spheres' it is a thoroughly enjoyable listen. other than absent vocals though, there are no mix/production changes from the main album. For a song such as Sailing however, there is an element of something missing, and more of a feel of 'this is just a backing track'.
I can appreciate why some reviewers are suggesting you buy the deluxe version just for the instrumentals. I suggest you dig into your wallet a little further though.
The third 'demo disc' shows that while many of Mike's ideas of the album have been 'recognised', they were not fully 'realised' on the main album. They certainly were not added to during the studio sessions. The production is a little muddy on some tracks, but this is a demo album, and hence a minor gripe.
In some cases the demos benefit from less production and reveal the gems within the songs. The demos are great to have, and present Mike's ideas at a relatively mature stage. All the vocals and arrangements are mapped out similar to the main album.
Because they are delivered in a more honest (i.e. less produced) manner I like many of the demo versions better than the main album tracks, for example Moonshine. Added to this, Man On the Rocks sounds more fragile and perhaps captures the intent of the song better. Castaway, as a demo, benefits from the 'less is more' production and more restrained vocals.
Minutes is almost redeemed on the demo album. It is more up tempo, and less pedestrian. I am still not a fan of the song, but Mike's demo does present a more redeemable offering.
Following The Angles and I Give Myself Away, as demos, sound like Peter Gabriel at his melancholy best. Two wonderful songs and performances.
Mike has obviously recognised the stronger tracks on the album. Sailing, I Give Myself Away, Dreaming In the Wind, and Following The Angles are all offered as worthy alternate mixes on the third disc as well. The differences are notable after a few listens without (once again) being revolutionary.
Over the decades, Mike's vocal albums have often presented a few standout tracks among a number of average ones. In this light Man On The Rocks is consistent. Of all Mike's albums, Islands was perhaps the worst offender. This album is better than Islands however. While Islands however offered more variety, Man On The Rocks offers more consistency. I'd rate it alongside QE2, but for different reasons. QE2 was a far more adventurous album with better production. Man On The Rocks probably has more consistent songwriting, and five tracks that make it a worthy purchase.
For those new to Mike Oldfield, go for Music Of the Spheres as an excellent example of Mike's more recent instrumental work. If it is vocals you're after go for Five Miles Out or Discovery. This album sits among these two, but a 'star' or so behind.
My recommendation for Mike Oldfield fans is to buy the three CD version of the album. If the 'sticker' is true to its word (and when have stickers ever lied?) then this version of Man On The Rocks might be difficult to get at some point.
on 15 March 2014
I have to confess I had my doubts about this album, I have always felt Mike Oldfield`s strength has been his instrumental work, and although he has written some great songs, I was not sure a rock album would really work. But I have bought everything else Mike Oldfield has done, although I first discovered his work seriously with Tubular Bells II in 1992, I`ve bought every album since, and every album in his back catalogue. And here I have been pleasantly surprised, I have now listened to the album quite a few times, and I have to say it is up there with his best work. For starters, it is instantly recognizable as Mike`s work, his guitar style/sound is unmistakeable. The songs have really proved catchy, they keep going round in my head, and I tend to judge songs on whether they stick in the memory and whether I can find personal meaning in the lyrics, and here I have, most notably with Sailing, which suggests a way to escape the humdrum treadmill of everyday things we have to do, but would just as soon not! It`s also a happy, uplifting song. I think it is clear Mike has put a lot of personal meaning into these songs, from what I know of his life and from the liner notes - sometimes it is important, or at least interesting, to know what the composer has taken inspiration from. Luke Spiller does a wonderful job of the vocals, and I don`t say this lightly, I have always been more of a fan of instrumental music than songs, and this is why I am pleasantly surprised by this album. I have to say I prefer it to Mike`s last album, The classical "Music of the Spheres", which is more my kind of thing generally on face value, but I felt with the collaboration with Karl Jenkins, and limited guitar work, it didn`t have enough of him in it. Not the case here, it is clearly the work of Mike Oldfield, with much, much more of the man on guitar, every song has a guitar solo, although these vary in length. On this, the deluxe edition, there is a second disc of instrumental versions of all the songs, and strangely, these have less immediate appeal than the songs, without the lyrics there almost seems to be something missing, and the songs better serve Mike`s guitar solos but with repeated listens and increased familiarity they have grown on me.
OK, I admit it. Like loads of other people, I bought Tubular Bells in 1973, played Side 1 incessantly at university, didn't like Hergest Ridge or Ommadawn much and lost track of Mike Oldfield after that. And now I've tried this because the Olympics reminded me how much I liked him for a while 40 years ago. So...I'm certainly no Oldfield aficionado and I'm judging this just on its merits from the point of view of the old git I now am.
And I think it's OK. It's not great, and certainly not a ground-breaking classic, but an adequate pop album with some nice, singable tunes and decent production and arrangements. To me it has a vintage air about it; some of the melodies remind me of the sort of thing Al Stewart used to sing, and there's a mixture of a 70s and 80s feel to the album as a whole. It's quite varied in tone: Nuclear has hints of Court Of The Crimson King; Chariots has an almost heavy metal feel (but not heavy enough to be quite convincing, frankly); in Irene the intro is reminiscent of Dire Straits Money For Nothing, and then the guitar work and production go all Robert Palmer Addicted To Love; Minutes sounds a bit like Sit Down by James. And so on. It's all perfectly well done - Mike Oldfield is a fine musician, after all - but none of it has much real originality or weight, I think.
Lyrically, it's not great - this from Minutes is pretty typical:
"Walking in a sunny garden,
Empty like the moon
And birds that once could fly so high
Now sing a different tune."
Nothing absolutely terrible, but nothing particularly good either. And there are a couple of tracks I'm not at all keen on; Following The Angels dribbles out into a tedious repetition of a rather bland phrase for what seems like hours, and Give Myself Away is so reminiscent of Lady In Red that I found it embarrassing, frankly.
After several plays I've had enough for a while, and I'm not sure I'll go back to it much. I quite liked it on first hearing, but it's certainly not a four-star album fro me. Overall, I'd say it was pleasant and inoffensive but nothing special.
on 11 March 2014
5 years after the release of the amazing 'Music Of The Spheres' I thought, as many other fans did, that Mike had released his final album and hung up his guitar for good. Then in 2013 and just after his stellar performance at the 2012 Olympic games opening ceremony he announces a fully vocal rock themed album.
This was not welcome news to some die hard fans, but this album is by no means another 'Earth Moving'
Instead what we have here is 11 tracks, (10 original Oldfield compositions and 1 cover song) featuring some of his finest and most powerful guitar solos ever. The vocals are sung equally as powerful by the wonderful newcomer Luke Spiller from the band 'The Struts' I'd myself hadn't heard of him, but I personally think he is one of the finest singers Mike has ever recorded with. His singing I found is like a mixture of Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger and Bryan Ferry.
The songs on the album range from a happy light feel to a more darker and serious mood, via some beautiful mellow dreamy moments. It is like the vocal equivalent to 'Light And Shade'. A very mixed bag of pop, rock and chill out.
Lighter moments being Sailing, Moonshine, Minutes, Following The Angels and I Give Myself Away.
Darker moments being Man On The Rocks, Castaway, Nuclear, Chariots and Irene
Mellow moments being Dreaming In The Wind.
All 11 songs are well structured and many of them build to a beautiful soaring climax, highlights being the wonderful title track and Castaway.
I personally loved all the songs. But if I had to pick a weakest track, it would certainly be 'Following The Angels', an OK track I thought, but nowhere near as strong as the other 10 songs on the album. Which is ironic as it is about Mike's thoughts and feelings playing at the Olympic opening ceremony, which is what sparked him off recording music again.
As a die hard Mike Oldfield fan, I found the album to be a slight departure from his older albums but Oldfield has always been one to reinvent himself over the years and this album is no exception. I personally don't care if its not a multi-instrumental. If you buy the 2 disc deluxe version, you get the non-vocal instrumental versions on there. These should please fans of his older works as they work and sound really well without the vocals. It actually makes for a whole different listening experience.
I'll conclude with: Man On The Rocks features some of Mike's best songs ever recorded complete with some of his most beautiful and powerfully emotional guitar solos. Luke Spiller is a wonderful singer and I hope Mike hires him again. There is plenty of Mike Oldfield on this album despite it being a vocal album and he features on this one more than he did on the equally wonderful 'Music Of The Spheres'
Man On The Rocks is a welcome return for Mike Oldfield and hopefully the start of a new era of musical output from the great man.
on 11 March 2014
Like most people here I have been a fan of Mike O since the onset. But you don't have to like all his music to be a fan. In fact Tubular Bells wouldn't be my first choice. Mike was so unhappy with the original recording of TB1 that he went back into the studio in 2003 and did it all over again. "Music of the Spheres" which to my knowledge was Mikes last release prior to MOTR was too off the norm for a lot of his fans although I do believe it hit number 1 in the UK Classical charts at the time.
So to be honest Man on The Rocks is way more than we could have hoped for. Take "castaway" for example..Listen to the way he layers the sound as the track goes on. At 49 years of age my wife laughed at me as I waited in anticipation for the release which in keeping with Mike's form was delayed as usual. When it arrived I was afraid to listen to it so waited for the right time. The instrumental version went first.After the second track I felt my eyes welling up. The familiar guitar wailing that only Mike O can achieve had me blubbering like a kid. So I decided not to,listen to the vocal version for a number of days. Every tune just grows and grows on you.To date I have not met one of my friends who are fans say anything negative about the album. Even my 16 year old lad wants a copy on vinyl. Long may it last and best of luck Mike in the UK Top 40 Albums. Crashing in at number 12 is an amazing feat for an old fella lol.
Buy this album...You wont regret it..