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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On the rocks - shaken and stirred., 11 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Man On The Rocks (Audio CD)
Having emerged from retirement to perform at the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, many fans might have expected Oldfield's first new album for six years to be a return to his famed instrumental epics, but instead, he's gone and surprised us all by releasing a rock album.

"Man on the Rocks is Mike Oldfield's first song-based album since 1991's "Heavens Open". But where his previous vocal albums under the original Virgin contract were heavily commercial affairs with little of the artist's trademark sound, this is a set of songs on Oldfield's terms, with perspective and maturity fuelling the writing, which from a lyrical point of view is surely his best. You only need to glance at the sleeve notes on each track to know that this is also a deeply personal album.

However instead of singing the songs himself, as he did on "Heaven's Open", Mike has enlisted the vocal talents of young rocker Luke Spiller (of The Struts) to take the lead, with Oldfield only cropping up on backing vocals now and then. Perhaps this album might have benefitted from being released as a collaboration project, as at times it does feel more like Spiller's album than Oldfield's, having such a dominant vocal presence.

The opening track, "Sailing" with its familiar Moonlight Shadow-esque chords, does get the album off to a misleading start, and after a brief celtic stint with "Moonshine" we're firmly rooted in dark and emotive AOR for the best part of the album. The mood is a modern take on the classic 70s rock sound and the production on the album is second to none - as you might expect from any Oldfield release - and Oldfield's trademark guitar has never sounded better, alongside some really great vocals from Spiller. Standout tracks on the first few plays include "Chariots", "Dreaming in the Wind" and "Castaway", both equally moving.

I'm primarily a fan of Oldfield's instrumental work, so I did approach this album with a degree of trepidation, but it was a pleasant surprise, with some great songs, catchy choruses and lovely melodies. I bought the deluxe edition for the simple reason that it comes with a second disc of instrumental versions, so that satisfied me no end. If disc one is more Spiller's, then disc 2 in undeniably Mike's. I dare say it's an album that takes several listens to appreciate, but at the same time, it may also be the finest song-based album from Mike yet.

At least I'm hoping that now Mike Oldfield has satisfied his creative curiosity through this album of rock songs ,that he'll soon be returning to more familiar textured soundscapes - with the odd bell thrown in for good measure!
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