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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 10 August 2012
Amarok is a rare beast indeed, an album that truly stands on its own; there really is nothing else quite like it. If you are one of those music lovers that immerse themselves in an album then you must listen to Amarok!

There seems to be a consistent pattern to those who experience this music. At first Amarok is a bewildering, seemingly dis-jointed collection of musical motifs and ideas. Something mysterious deep in the fibre of the music however, brings you back and you find yourself drawn in for repeated listens. Eventually, like those 3-D images you have to stare at for an age for them to pop out, the music makes total sense and Amarok is revealed as the huge and beautiful breathing, singing, behemoth of a masterpiece that it truly is. This isn't an album to work to, it's an album to immerse yourself in whole-heartedly and the more you listen the more you'll hear; I've been listening to Amarok for more than 20 years and I'm still discovering little guitar hooks and other elements for the first time!! Quite simply one of the most under-valued but extraordinary records you will ever hear.

If you were put off by Oldfield's preceding pop records in the late 80's let this one surprise you, Amarok is a timeless classic and bears no resemblence to Earth Moving or Islands. It is hand-played, raw and earthy just like Oldfield at his best which he is here.

As for the HDCD remastering of the album, I'm not sure it makes a great deal of difference, you certinaly don't lose anything. I'm not as impressed with the sleeve notes, it hardly matters though, the music here is the overwhelmingly important bit.

As has become my tradition I will sign off by recommending an associated album. If you love Amarok or any of Oldfield's work you must listen to an album called Mohribold by an emerging artist by the name of Andrew Taylor (google it!) I found and downloaded it from a site called bandcamp. Taylor has clearly soaked up Amarok and Oldfield's earlier masterpieces though he has a flare and style all his own too.
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on 10 December 2008
I purchased all the re-released remastered (HDCD) copies of Mike Oldfield's albums and, as an audiophile, was very impressed with their improved quality (which isn't always the case for re-mastered products). There are loads of reviews here about the content of this album, but for me this is the most complete and engaging piece of work Mike has produced. You have to listen all the way through and the way the melodies/sound affects build and inter-twine is truely amazing. I have not come across a single CD that can give me or my system such an aural work-out! At times the music will literally make you jump (assuming you're playing it at a decent level), and at the end you feel quite exhausted. This is certainly the best-quality, musical and dynamic CD I possess, and for that alone this deserves 5 stars.
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on 4 May 2005
The fact that this album has gotten solid 5 star reviews everytime, for 16 reviews, is a tribute to it. This is the last oldfield album I would have considered buying a year ago.
I saw it in a shop ages ago, and had never heard of it so I judged it to be some of his new-age/celtic pap. Oh how wrong I was!
I just got it about 2 weeks ago and I've listened to it 15 times at least. It never gets old. Sometimes oldfield tended to spend too much time on one idea in his long songs (tubular bells part 2 and ommadawn part 2). Not so here. He jumps around nice and fast, getting us to all the musical climaxes in each part then changing idea again. Each idea, or part, is brilliant. A five star piece in its own right. The whole 60 minute song contains dozens of 5 star tunes.
Get this. If you don't know who he is, if you've only listened to tubular bells, if you got this on list-mania - get it. It's cheap now and easily EASILY worth the money. I can't see anyone not liking it.
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on 30 March 2008
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!
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on 19 July 2000
An energetic, passionate, sweeping symphony of music in many moods. Wailing rock guitar, folksie melodies, world-music tones...even an Airfix kit and a Maggie Thatcher impression! This piece carries you on at a considerable pace, non-stop for roughly an hour. The flow from section to section is often quite amazing - yet for all its many different parts the piece holds together and intertwines magnificently. It's a powerful piece, and a happy, triumphant piece. Moving and uplifting. Does away absolutley with any grounds for saying Oldfield's music is 'new age' or 'muzac' - This is a classic in a class of its own. Recognised by Oldfield fans as the masterpiece, try it, for something completely genuine and entirely on its own. But beware - this is mighty powerfull stuff - not for 'cloth eared nincompoops' who prefer easy-listening, three-minute pop songs.
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VINE VOICEon 31 July 2004
Amarok sits alongside Ommadawn as my favourite Mike Oldfield album - although the two couldn't be further apart in many ways. After the excellent Incantations, Oldfield came under increasing pressure from his record company to produce albums with pop songs and potential singles on - and the extended instrumental pieces that had made him famous disappeared from his repertoire as he ambled off into the doldrums of MOR. Amarok is the reaction to that; a joyous 50 minutes of African rhythms, Celtic strumming and sudden bursts of soaring guitar that collapses into a genuinely bonkers final ten minutes with an impersonated Margaret Thatcher impelling all the listeners to be positive about life - something it would be impossible not to do after the glorious inventiveness and postivity that has come before. Finally, it's all wrapped up with a tremendous kitchen sink finale that will rattle your speakers off your wall.
Really, seriously, this is a great album. Pair it with Ommadawn - listen to that glowering dark masterpiece when you want to see the world as it is and listen to this one when you want to see the world how we would all like it to be.
Scant wonder really that when his record company ignored his best album since the mid-70s Oldfield lost his will to experiment and became content with turning out tired old rehashes of Tubular Bells instead. Do your bit to fight the power (!) and click the Add to Basket button right NOW - you won't regret it.....
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on 18 October 2016
I am an avid fan of Mike Oldfield's earlier albums, from the early Tubular Bells, Islands, Ommadawn, incantations, Five Miles Out, QE2, Discovery and many more.

However, this album bored the life out of me, With very few bits of what I would tag enjoyable listening, the vast past of this album is nothing more than destructive musical noise. I have played this once and will never play it again. This is destined for the bin.

In the future I will look to play the tracks before I buy the album. I advise all to do the same before you undertake to purchase this album.

With so many excellent releases from such a creative and enjoyable artist, I am disappointed that such content ever got released and so many seem to post positive feedback. The depth of my disappointment is why I am sharing my thoughts in this review to help others stop to pause before purchasing.
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on 29 September 2004
Oldfield's personal and creative history aside, looking at this album as a stand alone sonic phenomenon and not a reactionary or tongue-in-cheek move on his part, 'Amarok' stands as perhaps the greatest album ever made.

It's either this or 'Ommadawn'.

This sixty minutes (and it is sixty, not fifty) of music immerses the listener in a truly epic onslaught of the most diverse, multi-layered, intricately textured and exquisitely performed sounds I have heard on record. The depth is astounding (a very common response to this music is how much it can be scrutinised and yet continually reveal fresh subtleties) and presents a vast landscape of emotions and perceptions without even the faintest need for lyrics - Oldfield's mastery of every instrument he touches offers far more than any voice could. On good albums, there are always certain points where several factors of melody, harmony, timing, instrumentation and atmosphere combine in an extra special way, give that little something more, and a memorable moment is born. Every constituent segment of 'Amarok' is like this... so much attention and vision has been put into shaping each theme, each change, making it a rather challenging but supremely rewarding listen.

While the running length of this piece will intrigue some, the gentle sounds will suit some people as easy listening, and Oldfield's unmistakable guitar playing will surely impress your friends, 'Amarok' meets standards far above and beyond this as a serious masterwork of the musical artform.

A must for all mortals of worth - music doesn't come much better than this, and you've heard nothing like it before.
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on 24 March 2009
Although I would say I'm a huge Oldfield fan, I must admit I took Amarok back to the shop a few days after I bought it! This album just seemed to be one long mish-mash of bits and pieces swept up from a mixing desk floor and cobbled together with no apparent structure. Every time a melody began to develop it would be interrupted by another frustrating odd bit! I thought it was thrown together to complete Oldfield's Virgin contract as a kind of good riddance. Well, how wrong I was! Having picked Amarok up again from a boot fair, I inadvertently gave it about a hundred listens whilst doing something else (just left it on loop over the course of a few weeks). Slowly, I began to realise this amazing album is one fabulous, homogenous and melodic whole, with almost every little segment perfectly woven into another. Even the sound effects are part of the melody, but it's so intricately developed that it takes a long, long time to see the wood for the trees. And the production? Amarok is a masterclass in performance and recording. Every instrument is stunningly played, beautifully capturing the texture of fingers on strings, hammers on bells and pads on drums. Listen through £200 Sennheiser headphones and you will really appreciate the incredible detail - there's one bit that actually tickles the inside of your ears! The use of reverb and delay is awesome, producing gloriously deep and sonorous soundscapes - you'll never hear typmani and cymbals sound better! But the strangest thing of all is that Amarok's technical bravura masks a surprisingly emotional heart. A thousand listens ago I would never have mentioned this album in the same breath as Ommadawn, but nowadays that's the Oldfield work it most closely resembles. It sounds hectically different, of course, but it affects me the same way - euphorically joyous, angst-ridden and strangely mournful all at once! So I certainly understand people who consider Amarok an incoherent technical mess (and I'll always wince at that impression of Margaret Thatcher - hence the loss of a star rating), but this is ultimately one of my favourite Oldfield albums and a virtuoso achievement in all kinds of ways.
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on 6 June 2016
A hugely underrated album from Mike Oldfield that pushes the boundaries...
I am sad to say that this one passed me by - I heard "excerpts" on a really bad "Best of" album put out in 92-93 prior to his departure from Virgin records (whilst they could still raid his back catalogue) it had a kingfisher on the cover for some reason - who knows why? I was not that impressed by what I heard, but to be fair to me it was all out of context and a jumbled mess...Virgin didn't know what they had here, that's for sure!

The history/story of this album is one of legend, after being sick of Richard Branson ripping him off for 25 years and not paying him fair royalties for his HUGE back catalogue of works (making an absolute fortune for Branson-how do you think he has his millions?...yes that's right M.O.), Mike wanted out! He still had to deliver one last album for Virgin before jumping ship to Warner (to record TB2) and he decided to get one over on RB. This album is like a person walking around a 2nd hand record shop (what we call vinyl "diggers" who seek out gems that are unheard/forgotten about in the annals of time), or somebody looking at their CD tower/shelf/stand and remembering all their favourite pieces from each of the albums they see. Musically it jumps around all over the place, never stopping in the same place twice. It really holds the listeners interest as there is so much complexity and diversity on show, it is clear that Mike is a master of his art...the art of writing, playing and producing truly beautiful music. As a result it was totally unmarketable as Virgin wanted/needed singles, but this album is 60 minutes long and one track...good luck with that!

With me its most certainly a case of "Better late than never" and it is a shame that I didn't experience it 1st time around, but it was quickly followed by TB2 and Songs Of Distant Earth which are 2 of my personal favs so no worries there, but it really stands up as an album in it's own right and I think deserves far more praise than it received upon release. Most definitely the "Marmite" of Oldfield albums.
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