22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Amarok [HDCD] (Audio CD)
Every now and then an album comes along which blows all the others around it out the water. In this case due to the nature of the music, this release went relatively unnoticed compared to the success of Oldfield's previous albums such as `Tubular Bells'. But to those who did get into this gem; it is impossible not to be completely captivated by it. Released in 1990, Amarok is Mike Oldfield's 13th album. After countless great albums; it is amazing how Oldfield maintains the same high standard from his first album `Tubular Bells'. With the success of each album must build the pressure for the next; both by Oldfield on himself and also the record company looking to maintain healthy profits. Amarok continues this trend with great sounds which flow into one another creating an amazing musical landscape
Sitting at just over an hour, Amarok is one long track which takes the listener on a musical journey unlike any other. Everyone has those thoughts in the back of their minds about holidays and dreaming of going on that once in a lifetime dream trip; For example trekking the Inca trail in Peru. Amarok is the musical equivalent and the most genius thing about it is that it costs a ten pound maximum compared to thousands of pounds trekking up the Inca trail is going to cost. Furthermore you can go on the journey again and again at no extra cost.
I was first introduced to Amarok by a friend who was to say the least completely obsessed with it to the point that it is his favourite album of all time and has been for many years. So when anyone is into album that much, I want to know why. After the first time I listened to the album there were two thoughts running through my head. The first was "yeah, this is ok; it's got some good bits in it". Secondly I realised I was totally exhausted just from listening to it. I have never experienced this before after listening to an album. But it's understandable as it is an hour long non-stop instrumental. Therefore it is heavy going and just sapped all the energy right out of me, due to the concentration required. The same thing happened for the next 10 or so listens. However at the same time, piece by piece, I was beginning to appreciate the album in its true splendour. By about the 30th listen, the bigger picture becomes clear and that's when you feel like you have completed the album so to speak. After this it's easy because I know what's coming next. I'm ready in position with my stick to strike the invisible tubular bell or have my invisible plectrum ready for another great guitar part. Even still the whole picture is yet to be completely deciphered but that is certainly the beauty of this album because the friend who I was talking about earlier is still finding new stuff and I dare to think how many times he has listened to it. But at the same time I don't blame him!
I think the key reason why this album is so good is because it is a really well thought out piece of work. There are numerous recurring themes throughout the album which give it a proper structure. In addition there is a very clear beginning, middle and end which can be recognised by the choir chanting style effects with `sa, sa , sa' or `ba, ba, ba'. I can assure you no sheep appeared in the making of the album, regardless of how you read the last bit! Seriously though it works really well and adds such freshness to the album. In saying that; I think bringing in the sheep would be a class idea for an Amarok spoof album.
The ending to the album is easily the best finish to an album I have ever heard and you could say it lasts for 15 minutes. You've got the appearance of the Tubular bells, a comedy interlude from Janet Brown and the usual phenomenal guitar playing some may even beginning to take for granted; but really shouldn't. The last minute especially is simply sublime. It is just a joyful, explosive and fitting climax to an awesome album
I have lost count of the number of times I have listened to this album, but I reckon it is at least 50. Still with every listen I seem to discover a different sound, theme or instrument. This is due to the sheer depth of the album; it is like an ocean where divers discover new species of fish and plants continuously. Unlike diving there is no risk of drowning here, although just don't try and hold your breadth for the duration! The attention to detail is unreal. So much so, this album would act as a great way to develop listening skills in schools. In fact there is so much to this album you could quite easily turn it in to a GCSE subject! Now that would be class. I have tried not to go into too much detail about the sounds and secrets of the album because I feel it is best for you to uncover them like I did. But I hope I have conveyed how much I like this album. Just in case ;-) ..........IT IS GENIUS!