on 15 June 2010
I'll be honest. I bought this deluxe set (and that of Ommadawn) for the original mix version rather than for the 2010 mix version. On occasion I have recalled the utter enjoyment of listening to the original 1974 LP version of Hergest Ridge in my youth and wishing it were available on CD rather than that of the subsequent 1976 'Boxed' remix. There was something calming, sober, reflective, restorative and utterly beautiful about the original and subtle mix that was never in my opinion captured in the subsequent remix. I hear it now on CD for the first time in this deluxe edition and I am overjoyed. It is as I say utterly beautiful and moving, and for my part, is up there in the top 3 of Mike's works, with Ommadawn and Tubular Bells. If you have never heard this original 1974 mix - take the opportunity to now.
As for the 2010 mix. I agree with most comments here that it has been done well and gives a refreshing take on Hergest Ridge. All too often for me, remixes destroy the essence of the original work - but not so here. It brings to the fore detail in the work that is more laid back in the original mix. While for me it will never replace the original mix, and is surely not meant to?, I will nonetheless listen to it often.
Perhaps most surprising is the quality of the 1974 demo recordings. By their nature I assumed that they would only be appreciated by the die hard fan. Not so here. They are of a high quality both in terms of audio and mix. While clearly not the finished deal, the care in which they have been recorded, mixed and produced means (excepting some passages) they would not easily be identified as essays leading to the final work. Again, beautiful and a very pleasing and welcome listening experience.
As for the surround mix, I can't in fairness comment. I've never been a fan of surround mixed music and least of all that which was originally conceived and produced for stereo. It's a personal thing and certainly no reflection of this work.
You should buy this deluxe edition. It's superb value for money and I doubt you will be disappointed. Hopefully, like me, you will be delighted and experience again the joy of listening to this wonderful work as if for the first time.
on 1 July 2010
The release of a re-mixed `Hergest Ridge' (HR/2010) follows the 2009 release of a remixed `Tubular Bells' (TB/2009), made possible by Oldfield's acquisition from Virgin Records (VR) of the rights to his entire VR back catalogue. This is not, of course, the first time that `Hergest Ridge' has been re-worked, as a substantially different version was released in 1976 as part of the `Mike Oldfield Boxed' (HR/MOB) set, intended as a QUAD mix. At the time Oldfield stated that his intention was to "...cut down on what I thought had been unnecessary trimmings...I thought people might think it was too repetitive". This pared down, textually revised version would be used in all subsequent releases of the album (mixed back to stereo), including the first cd and later HDCD issues.
For the 2010 release, Oldfield has returned and reconsidered the approach taken in the `boxed' and original stereo mix, producing a further hybrid, whilst also sanctioning the first ever issue on cd of the original 1974 stereo mix, something which fans have sought for many years. To further whet the appetite, a complete demo version is also available (allowing fans to compare and contrast the development of the music from initial stages to completed work) alongside a new 5.1 Surround Sound Mix (which I do not include in this review).
This represents a considerable amount of material of review meaningfully, so in order to save space (and perhaps your patience!) I will concentrate on the new 2010 stereo mix with reference to HR/MOB and HR/1974.
The initial impression of HR/2010 is positive, with an immediately clearer and cleaner sound when compared directly against the earlier boxed and single cd editions, although this impression of greater clarity may owe much to the significantly increased loudness across the audio range, an effect also used with TB/2009. Part One, opening with sustained ethereal notes, emerges as if discovered by the listener. This quality is broken only through the introduction of single sustained bass notes, rooting the music to the present.
Oldfield appears to have continued the process of removing elements originally considered superfluous, and pushing forward within the mix particularly strident sounding instruments (such as the trumpet and mandolin) that originally provided a counter to the main melody - now removed. The effect might be harmonically disconcerting, particulary for fans familiar with the earlier issues. A particularly fine example of this can be heard in the transition in to the bass lead section, where a percussive mandolin is placed forward in the mix ( 12.14 - 14.08) - jarring and completely ill judged. In the final moments of Part One, the beautiful concluding section is graced by an added guitar lead (and possibly synth underpinning ), which sounds like a new interposition - the playing style may not be contemporary to HR/1974 or HR/MOB. A similar effect was heard in the conclusion of TB/2009, where the previously rousing entrance of the `Tubular Bells' sounded quite distinct and apart from the underlying mix.
Part Two continues this trend, with most of the changes being concerned with the placement of the vocal sections (barely discernible in HR/1974 but `restored' in HR/MOB). The final section of Part Two, in which a rising bass drives forward unrelentingly accompanied by counter melodic material is magnificent, but has been much simplified in contrast to HR/1974 - opening up the distinctly reggae influenced lilt that can be heard underpinning this section. The final coda, simple and beautiful, restores the reflective mood, but the mix is notably different to that of HR/1976 and HR/MOB, with changes to the vocals and the lead melodic instrumentation.
So. Do you buy?
In recent years Oldfield has been content to concentrate on offering differing versions of `Tubular Bells' and other material of wildly varying quality, in what might have seemed (to even the most loyal of fans) a cynical exercise in marketing and maximising financial reward. Those familiar with his earlier work, including `Ommadawn' and `Incantations', might well have had their patience stretched to the extreme - particularly given the fact that no new music has been released by Oldfield to accompany the re-release of his older material. This release might go some way to restoring their goodwill, representing good material value for money in product and presentational terms (particularly with the inclusion of the `demo' version).
Moreover, for people unfamiliar with `Hergest Ridge', there has probably never been a better time to explore a far more cohesive and musically unified work than `Tubular Bells'. Where the latter is essentially an impressive shifting rock tableux, `Hergest Ridge' is reflective and complex, a satisfying tone poem of greater depth but less immediacy.
Whilst the 2010 mix does not offer a great improvement on previously issued mixes the undoubted star of the stereo package has to be the restored original 1974 `Hergest Ridge', here heard in all its magnificently complex and imperfect glory. The strength of Oldfield's original vision is enough to warrant purchase, even after 36 years.
on 9 June 2010
Although this album sold well it did suffer from comparison to it's iconic predecessor. It is an invocation of pastoral England during a time when Oldfield had fled from the sress of suddenly being thrust into the lime light.
I have the previous remastered version of Hergest Ridge and wondered if I really needed this multi-version "deluxe" edition, however, I read some positive reviews and thought I would give it a go and I am not disappointed it is a triumph. I know this can be seen as a cynical repackaging exercise for Oldfield and the current record label to get some more mileage out recycled work and part of me is susspicious of the whole endeavour but then I listen to the music and I am won over. I am not so precious about the orignal version (which incidentally sounds stunning here)that I have any problems with the new mix, the 2010 verson sounds wonderful in the new stereo mix and the 5.1 surround version adds just a little bit extra.
The big plus for me is the demo version which captures something different in the music that is not there in the later versions and is more than just a curiosity.
I am a bit surprised that i find this new version quite so engaging. I did listen to the album on vinyl when it first came out and did enjoy the CD version but this is just the icing on the cake.
If you own a previous copy of this album and are quite happy with it then you probably don't need this but how really needs a huge music collection? If you are tempted then go for it thsi is rather wonderful stuff. It also contains an early version of In Dulce Jubilo with the addtion to the title of "(For Maureen)"
on 9 May 2010
If you're looking for a glorious, all-encompassing surround sound Hergest Ridge, you won't find it here. Instead, Oldfield appears to have used the multi-channel 5.1 DVD to showcase elements from the original recording sessions that were either ommitted from previous versions or else relegated to the background. In many cases, it's easy to see why they were. For example, the plinky guitar that now dominates the sleigh bells section from 12:12 to 14:05 sounds horrendous, is poorly played and frequently out of time. The guitar solos introduced over the ensuing choir (16:45 to 18:04) are clearly unfinished practice sessions that do not sound good individually or mingle well either. But I suppose it's interesting to hear such things for the very first time.
At various points, instruments and phrases from the previous versions of the album come and go - perhaps as subtle reminders, or maybe just randomly since they sometimes disappear half way through a note! The electric guitar in the background between 5:18 and 5:45 is the obvious example. Many instruments, such as the mandolin at 2:45, sound very processed and are far too loud in the mix, while other sections sound very flat. Worst of all, at 6:10 there is an audible click and most of the mix disappears altogether - perhaps a fault in the mastering? Between 14:40 and 15:25, the joyous guitar workout over the sleigh bells has lost its first `verse' entirely, rendering one of the most beautiful parts of Hergest Ridge short and somewhat perfunctory. The ensuing choir, which should come in with an awesome roar at 16:05, limps in apologetically.
So is there any good news? Well, thankfully, yes. The slight hiss of previous releases is gone and the whole thing sounds brighter and more detailed. The ethereal reverb added to the opening sections is wonderfully spatial, and individual moments sound fantastic. Many of the newly-incorporated alternative takes are fine, such as the swoop of the glider at 6:30 and the acoustic guitars/ whispering choir at 8:13. Part Two has plenty of good fresh elements with no especially dubious ones - but it does sound somewhat flatter than Part One. The stereo CD version of the new 2010 mix is actually preferable to its 5.1 counterpart, being better balanced and lacking some of the more questionable additions. The inclusion of the original vinyl mix on CD for the first time is welcome (but note it sounds no better than many of the bootlegs available for years). Best of all, the original demo of Hergest Ridge is a revelation, often wildly different from the final release and worth repeated listens in its own right.
Overall, I'm not sure what I would have preferred: a crystal-clear 5.1 version of the existing CD that we all know and love (but which might have led to accusations of Oldfield lazily cashing in); or this odd 2010 hybrid of previously-disregarded elements - which at least offers some fresh perspectives. Either way, perhaps a 'Deluxe' version should also have included the Orchestral Hergest Ridge. Excellent stereo recordings of this also exist - but maybe that will appear on The Ultimate Deluxe Beyond Deluxe edition!
on 18 July 2011
To remaster AND remix an album some thirty-five years old is fittingly unorthodox for the multi-instrumental genius that is Mike Oldfield. Of his early works Hergest Ridge is the one that always needed it most. Previous so called remastered releases have done nothing to rememdy the album's apparent muddiness perhaps caused by the low quailty of tape availble at the time(?). This release though reveals Hergest Ridge as the towering, glorious masterpiece it always was.
Lots of things have been fixed. I was always uncomfortable with the albums sharp intro which is now a graceful fade in. The heavy 'thunderstorm' section in part 2 used to sit too quietly in the mix like it had been plonked in cut and paste style. Now though, it is as raucous, punchy and thunderous as it deserves. In fact as I'm writing I am listening to this section and it seems to have brought on a torrential downpour outside my window, the sheer power of Oldfield's music always was tuned in to nature!!
Oldfield fans of old will also be delighted at the inclusion here of the original 1974 mix availble on cd for the time. I always prefered this to the Boxed mix which appeared on every release post 1976. In Dulci Jubilo might not be what you're expecting also, it's actually an earlier more sparse version originally released as B-side.
So all in all a most worthwhile release. I must also take the opportunity to recommend an album called Mohribold by an artist called Andrew Taylor that I recently heard. He's clearly something of the new Oldfield on the block and with little coming from Mike these days a most welcome musician. If you're a lover of Hergest Ridge, Tubular Bells and Ommadawn you'll love it! As an emerging artist though you won't find it on amazon yet so I guess you'll have to google the album instead.
on 18 December 2013
Ok - so many mixes of this record. Love the melodies, the vibe - most effective in its most simple and pastoral form in my view.
Listening to the 2010 stereo mix.
Part 1: Beautiful start - lovely separation of the individual elements - the gentle chimes, pipes, organ etc. uh oh - delay driven mandolin not quite tight enough and mixed much too loud - what the hell! The whole thing is out of time - messy. Great composition but messy execution. At about 4 mins we have a new texture with the same tune - the trumpet solo sounds excellent - very strong. That messy bit earlier was just a minor blip (I hope). Then at about 6:30 there is a flipping crazy 'all over the place' transition! Followed by . . . that oboe theme about 8 mins in which is sheer excellence. The winds and voices on this record are just beautiful. I can't help but think that at times they are crowded out too often by very brittle sounding noodly acoustic guitars. As I listen I think again 'great composition but lousy realisation' - and to this day no really definitive mix of this piece (what I am listening to is so patchy and every mix I have heard of this piece is patchy). The Bell texture around 11 mins is purely excellent and pure definitive Oldfield. Then, at 12:16 - what the hell! Stupid strummed mandolin or something (get rid! - what!?). And it keeps on going - destroying the beginning of the wonderful end to side 1. Dep-dep-dep-dep (incessantly). Then . . . Not long until. . Some Oldfield brilliance with the electric guitar texture that happens around 14 mins in. Then the final choral finish which is beautiful, heartfelt and wonderful till the end. Uh oh though - noodly and brittle acoustic guitars come in at some point and threaten to ruin the elegiac vibe. But we get away with it - they were not so disruptive.
Part 2: lovely start. And it keeps up. Although the solo acoustic guitar line is just mixed far too loud rendering everything else (a massive beautiful texture) as background to this monophonic guitar line. Same thing happens later around 8 mins in the build with a mandolin tremeloing too loudly and dominating the texture. The horse-riding / chase section sounds meatier than ever I have heard it - a big sonic improvement. Then in the middle of it a disruptive solo guitar jutting out in the mix ridiculously - uh? The end (from about 15:30) is purely beautiful.
Oldfield has composed some beautiful melodies which ultimately carry this album despite its patchy execution.
In my view the 5.1 mix has the same faults as the new stereo mix - you really have to take the rough with the smooth with this. For every beautiful texture there is a poorly mixed or sloppily played bit that marrs the perfection. I think Mike Oldfield is still struggling with this album (his difficult follow up to TB). It basically needs re-recording/re-mixing without the silly noodling, out of time playing and strange mix decisions. As a composition it is just brilliant - better than TB in my view - it is a clearer more classical piece. I wonder what arch-remixer and 5.1 God Steven Wilson would have done with this - perhaps rendered it the masterpiece it should deservedly be. . .
The second disc's original mix is not as I remember it. I think I had been listening to the 'Boxed' mix which to me was preferable (less rough edges although perhaps duller sounding). Maybe it is just what I have been used to. The 1974 demo version is a curiosity - would be more interesting if the final version had not itself sounded in places rather like a demo anyway.
In summary this is an album that delights and infuriates by turns - 3 stars.
on 9 May 2010
I have to take exception to Ben Bottle's totally irrelevant one star review. This album is one of the classic Mike Oldfield works, perhaps it pales slightly by comparison to his masterpiece `Ommadawn', but is a work with a troubled history, which this issue finally puts right. Imust admit I baulked slightly at the idea that the sleeve had been revised, but one look at it was enough to dispel that, it's beautiful.
The problem with this album is that people fondly replacing their worn LP's with CD's will have found not the LP they played in their youth, but a fairly drastic remix sanctionned by Oldfield for the 1976 `Boxed' collection and used on every CD issue since.
For the first time on CD this is the original mix. So in fact this is not so much tampering as restoring to former glory. I am sure the surround sound will be stunning, and the new stereo mix will be fascinating. Oldfield's music was made for the era in which we now live, and knowing who is working on this project this will be an exemplary package I am certain.
Enough with the negativity, this great art being restored here, for the right reasons, and if you don't like it you dont have to buy it.
It's a privilege to have so many versions of this, Mike Oldfield's terrific second album. The 2010 mix is superb, as it the 1970s original mix. The demo version sheds some interesting new light; you hear the piece from an entirely new angle. I don't yet have surround facilities, so cannot comment on this version's success, but it is accompanied on the DVD by pleasant aerial photography of Hergest Ridge.
My only complaint, as other reviewers have noted, is that the original mix does not have the original startling sudden start, used on all previous versions. Instead, it fades up, as if creeping in round the back, rather than ringing the doorbell. This should have been preserved on the 'original' mix, and as such, the album is not as-advertised. I will therefore be keeping my original LP and the previous HDCD from Virgin in addition to this otherwise magnificent set.
on 12 August 2015
The 5.1 mix here is far better than the 'Ommadawn' mix -that was a mess of detail- being more subtle and cohesive in the sonic presentation; you can hear the various elements of the music surrounding you, details float between the speakers without being distracting, you feel as though you are sitting in the heart of the music.
on 10 September 2010
For £11:99 you get 3CD's comprising 2009 Stereo mix,5.1 DVD and what must be the most important part of this set - the original 1974 recorded mix. I bought this album when I was 15 and up until now was always disapointed with the poor sound quality from the vinyl release espiecally at the end of side 1 where the choir came surging back which caused real bad distortion noise. This has finally been rectified and you get a proper listening expierience the way this music should be heard. Anyone who thought Mike Oldfield was just Tubular Bells should hear this.