on 20 September 2005
Mike Oldfield continues to produce fascinating music that cannot be categorized as it is so 'unpredictable'- and this new double album is no exception. I have been fortunate to hear a promotional copy of the full album, and can recommend this album to his usual followers, as well as anyone who is interested in discovering music that can take you on a journey.
The 'Light' cd opens with 'Angelique'- a catchy piano hook, which builds up with energetic percussion and trademark Oldfield guitar (which fans will be pleased to hear is prominent throughout the album.) 'Blackbird' is piano-dominated and makes for pleasant listening. 'The gate' features mesmerising vocals and is thoroughly relaxing. 'First Steps' builds up in classic Oldfield tradition (fans of 'Voyager's' Mont St. Michel will notice some similarities) 'Closer' and 'Our Father' stick with the celtic/Voyager theme. Rocky returns to solo piano/film music (Michael Nyman-like) and disc 1 closes with a beautiful piano-led theme that certainly depicts the title, 'sunset' - OK i'll be honest, this one is a little like the theme to the dire BBC soap ELDORADO :)
For me, the 'Shade' cd contains the stand-out tracks. Fans of Jean Michel Jarre will do well to hear this, as Oldfield gives him a run for his money in the electronica department!
'Quicksilver' is fairly dancy. Nothing 'out of the ordinary' but still good. 'Resolution' contains a strong guitar hook and absorbing vocal harmonies on the words 're-so-lu-tion' and the wailing vocal/guitar passage is superb.
'Slipstream' is standard fare. Very synth-based/techno. 'Surfing' is a kind of 80's revival of Oldfield songs. Great guitar solo- this is one thing listeners will notice- consistently good guitar passages. 'Tears Of An Angel' after the random fast-strings opener breaks into a brilliant, unmistakably Oldfield theme. His obvious genius shines through this track. 'Romance' is just 90's Ibiza with a classical-guitar tune running through. Not his best moment. However, 'Ringscape' is SHEER BRILLIANCE- everything i would want to hear from this exceptional musician. Wailing guitar, moody minor chords and the introduction of Organ which sounds great in the mix. INCREDIBLE STUFF!! 'Nightshade' features an unusual but interesting sound- it's percussion-driven and is very listenable.
My conclusion- Mike Oldfield is often neglected in this country and this is why his music passes people by. It deserves to be given a try.
on 8 October 2005
Mike Oldfield is one of the world's most diverse musicians and certainly one of the most difficult to classify. He is also the Howard Hughes of self-promotion. And yet he shares with Mozart a high productivity rate and has recorded over 20 albums. So how does anybody who wants to listen to his music find a way in when the albums are so very different?
The answer, for many, will be Light and Shade. This album has so many of Oldfield's trademarks mixed in. Above all, he has an elusive individualistic signature in all of his music that is almost impossible to describe. Its like a scent. It runs through this music strongly: its pure Mike Oldfield. And yet, for many of his longer-term fans, the music is very different to much of his previous output. It mixes in dance, electronica, trance, and a range of ambient styles. Into this mesmerising core Oldfield drains his majestic guitar work. Fluid bass lines accompany expansive and relaxed passages and there is frequent application of real attitude in the guitar work that welds perfectly with the mood of each piece.
The sign of a very diverse musician is that he can upset some of his fans all the time, and Oldfield certainly does that. Which ones get upset varies with each of his unpredictable works. But it is consistent with his artistic integrity that his fans, who may spend their other listening hours on anything between sugar pop to classical or hard rock to minimalism, still find that each album grows on them as their ears peel back the layers and find magic beneath the surface of whatever new clothes he has adopted with each new incarnation.
On this collection, Oldfield demonstrates touches of purity and simplicity with his acoustic and piano work, such as the claming 'Blackbird' and the touching 'Rocky'. Simplicity is one of his virtues. But he turns the special powers on for the awesomely constructed "Tears of an Angel" and the lyrical "Surfing". His ability to turn a tune was once described as second only to Paul McCartney: these two tracks testify to that.
Oldfield is such an uncompromising individual that he writes, plays, records, engineers and produces everything himself. There is no successor for music like this. His individualism means he may be an acquired taste, but he is very accessible on the ear, so this album is quick to make an impression. That makes it one of the better ways to sample his style and techniques.
Hugely admired and respected across all of Europe, regrettably much of Oldfield's work passes without comment in the UK, his own country. One reason for his appeal across Europe may be the fact that being instrumental his music leaps over the language barrier. But curiously, over the year his singles have sold bucketloads, especially in Spain and Germany. The UK market may simply be too narrow for a man whose talents tend to confound the critics and confuse the record companies.
Light and Shade has at least two obvious hits. New or returning listeners who buy it will hear Oldfield's sublime soundscapes and punchy rhythms and wonder why they have heard so little of him around.
This album is an excellent front door in for those who listen to mainstream or contemporary music and who like to have something that challenges the ear with each new piece. And if you don't like it, don't worry, his next one will be completely different again!
on 14 November 2005
It's rather depressing for me as a fan of most of Mike's work to hear his output in recent times. As a musician myself, I can appreciate the effort that goes into producing an album of real music, and the little effort that goes into producing the likes of this album, composed on and performed for the main part by computer. Don't get me wrong, I have no problems with computer-generated music per se, but I don't get where Mike is coming from any more. We are talking about a guy who camped out in protest at the state of modern, computer-generated music (search the WWW to read the contemporary interviews), only to move Ibiza himself and absorb himself in the dance/trance fraternity a few years ago.
Maybe he wants to shun his old image and embrace a more youthful market, or maybe it's just too damn easy for him to rely so heavily on computers now, sell an album which most of his existing fanbase (including me) will buy (and give a five-star rating, just because it is Mike), take the cash and go ride his Hayabusa; or maybe he's become such a control-freak that he just can't work with other musicians any more.
Whatever the reason for his forays into trance-type music, I think this'll be the last album of his that I buy (he said, in the full and certain knowledge that it won't be).
Where's the Mike we heard on Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn, 5 Miles Out, Amarok, to name but a few? Many of his fans admired his music for its interest and refusal to conform to what Virgin wanted from him, and frankly, even his 1980s 'pop' albums under Virgin (which many fans didn't like, but I did) were great in comparison to his recent stuff. I am only 34 and have no problems with computer-generated music, but quite frankly, anyone with a copy of Cubase, some VST plugins and a small amount of musical talent can approximate Mike's recent output. Simply put, I mourn the artistic death of a once great (and principled) talent, and releasing an album with a track whose title contains the words 'fruity loops' does what it says on the tin. We won't mention the version of 'Romance' on the second disk.
One redeeming feature is the Umyx multimedia stuff on the first disk, which is quite a nice novelty for people who think that muting track sections and changing volume levels, sorry, 'mixing', approaches some kind of musical talent. It's cute, though, so I'm not going to knock it.
Still, he's rich and I'm not, so what do I know? Please though, Mike: pick up a mandolin, Solina string machine, timpani and an acoustic guitar and write some organic, breathing music again. What a pity.
on 12 July 2006
The jury, in all probability, will always be out on Mike Oldfield, but I suspect that is just fine with him. As noted elsewhere, Light + Shade is a successor to Tr3s Lunas, although seems to be a little richer, a little more thought through, than the earlier album.
I am not averse to a bit of computer-generated music, and so probably am less put-off than the 'keep music live' purists but, if you fall into that category, certainly don't approach this expecting Ommadawn or even QE2 2005. If you are happy to follow Mr Oldfield on his journey of exploration (and getting a job done quickly - ouch!), then there are some very listenable elements to the two disks. Both, I feel, benefit from several listenings and whilst there are several less interesting sections, there are nonetheless some very nice moments - most of which are on the Shade disk.
However, unlike the Oldfield classics (and here I am placing TB, Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn, primarily), this is probably not an album you're going to sit down with and savour. It is great for the car - and fine for not looking too naff picking up the kids - and it has to be said, is very good value for the current price tag. However, for those looking for vintage Oldfield, this is worth listening to, but probably mainly just to follow the thread of his musical development and to be able to hear how it all works out in the (very interesting sounding) forthcoming project.
on 12 March 2006
For Mike Oldfield purists this album deviates from normal expectations. Mike Oldfield is a modern day musical genius. Oldfield's real aptitude is his ability to create a melodic theme and develop a complex three dimensional orchestration with real and sometimes rarely used instrumentation. In reality his early work of Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn and Incantations could be considered as a modern day Wagner Ring.
Light+Shade does not fall into this category, he has continued to experiment but taken a safer route in producing albums with much shorter tracks. Light has some pleasant tracks but there is not a single notable piece to remember in years to come. The shortness of the tracks allow no time for Oldfield to develop any themes or express his real talent of intense and beautiful instrumentation. Most disappointing is his use, these days, of computerised sounds and worst of all electronic percussion that totally lacks depth and richness. Perhaps such deviations are due to popularist demands, cost of producing a serious master piece such as Ommadawn or Incantations or simply that Oldfield is now in a comfort zone lacking desire or drive to return to his Wagner style epics.
Light+Shade is worth a listen but falls well short of true Oldfield genius.
on 21 July 2007
"Light + Shade" follows the chilled-out style Mike established with 2002's "Tres Lunas", combined with the dance/electronic influence of "Tubular Bells III" and the result is an interesting double album.
The first disc, "Light", is made up of melodic and floaty guitar/piano-led tracks. Whilst it's a pleasant and uplifting listen, I personally found it became boring, and lacked the adventure I was hoping to find. However. "Angelique", "First Steps" and "Our Father" really stand out as the best tracks on this disc..
However, the second disc, "Shade", is much more interesting. Since "Tubular Bells III", there has been a darker, heavier, more electronic side to Mike's music trying to get out, and he has finally unleashed it here. "Quicksilver", "Resolution" and "Slipstream" are all fantastic, driving tracks. Towards the end of the disc there's the beautiful hammond organ-led "Ringscape", a truly epic track, and the haunting closing number "Nightshade", which for me is the album's best song.
"Light + Shade" was made almost entirely with music software, most significantly vocal software packages, Cantor and Vocaloid. "Surfing" and "Tears of An Angel" are two of the tracks which use the synthesised vocals, which is effective in places, and irritating in others.
Overall "Light + Shade" is an uplifting and atmospheric album, and I would recommend buying it for the "Shade" disc alone.
on 9 June 2007
Once upon a time, the making of a Mike Oldfield album involved a (more or less) solitary year playing real instruments into an over-worked multi-track recorder, slowly but surely shaping the muse into a rich aural landscape of moods and ideas. Then along came synthesisers, drum machines, computers and virtual instruments, the studio-in-a-box and the choir-on-a-disk. Understandably, it took some time for Mike to adjust. There was an uneasy transition as muse, musician and hard drive began to become friends. For a musician with as much `real instruments' heritage as Oldfield, trying to achieve the same delicate brushstrokes and emotional peaks of his early work with the comparatively blunt instrument of the computer console was never going to be an easy adjustment. Nonetheless, after an indeterminate period of self-taught apprenticeship in the digital era, Mike's computerised music began to sound good. Light and Shade is the most successful showcase yet for this new, digitised version of Oldfield at play, and might even win him some new, younger fans.
What you get is a two album set of original Oldfield instrumental compositions.
The `Light' album is largely cool, relaxed and mellow. The digital moodscapes are tranquil and unhurried, the tone warm and embracing. Although the music may be largely computer-generated, there is far more on offer than just competent button-pushing. Traditional Oldfield strengths are present and correct: sure-footed melodic invention, intelligent and appealing arrangements, experienced development of texture. And, yes, even the occasional nimble guitar workout, albeit of a subdued nature consistent with the overall mood. The long-standing fan may decide, ultimately, that the tunes and overall quality of invention do not quite rank with Oldfield's best, although that's a tough benchmark to set. Nonetheless, each track has its merits and the album as a whole constitutes, at the very least, a listenable and enjoyable foray into digital soundscapes enriched by more traditional Oldfield compositional values.
The `Shade' album applies the same technology to very different ends. This is Oldfield seemingly driven to fill every dancefloor in Ibiza with frenzied beats and pulsating rhythms. Many of the tracks veer dangerously close to the kind of undemanding, push-button, pop-by-numbers aural candy churned out by every DJ with a sampler, a virtual synth and a mixing deck. However, careful listening reveals that there is, in fact, much more going on that just a ferocious drum beat and clattering synthesisers chasing each other as they loop around major chords. Many distinctive touches hint at the higher inspiration at work. The tunes are better than you'd expect from typical Euro trash, the arrangements are smarter and more musically intelligent, the layering of tones and texture is more cleverly crafted. This is Oldfield exploring a technology that normally gets used for simple ends by simple minds, and showing that he can raise it to something worthy of his heritage and his following. There are some truly stand-out passages on this album that come close to Oldfield at his very best, and many other pleasing nuances of craft and skill that will reward the loyal fan. One track has a singing, snaking bass line (on a real bass, unless my ears are much deceived) that could only be Oldfield delivering his best. Another is decorated with aggressive, insolent ranks of synthesised chorale that recall, in a fresh and vital way, the sinewy, dark strength of earlier triumphs such as Ommadawn.
Light and Shade is unlikely to make it into the top three of anyone's favourite and most cherished Mike Oldfield albums. There will always be a large contingent of Tubular Fans that prefer the organic Oldfield of guitars, hob-nail boots and endless miles of threadbare tape. Nonetheless, if every artist must either grow or stagnate, this double helping of computerised composition is a pleasing sign that the maestro is still finding new ways to grow. It may come to be seen as an enjoyable staging post on the path to even greater achivements in the digital realm to come.
on 13 October 2005
Fans of Mike Oldfield, and similar artists such as Jean Michel Jarre, Chicane, Robert Miles, Sash! and Pet Shop Boys will be very pleased with this new release.
Apart from the fact that this is a double album for the price of a single album, the writing, playing, programming & production on it is outstanding.
The trademark MO guitar sounds are present through the majority of the album, accompanied by some very fresh sounding electronics & vocal samples, sort of leading on from the sound of TB3 and Tres Lunas.
I agree with another reviewer on this page in that the stronger of the two discs is probably "Shade", but that could purely be down to my own personal taste of what I like about Mikes music, with my standout tracks being Quicksilver, Ringscape, Romance & Lakme, the latter two would fill a dancefloor in any club that plays electronica / dance music.
To sum up, a double album which you'll want to listen to again and again, and one which will suit almost any mood or occasion that you find yourselves in. Long may this sort of superb recording quality continue as Electronically based music is back on a roll at the moment. I recommend this album!!
on 9 September 2011
Right... this is a 2000s work, not 1970s so don't expect it to sound like the early stuff.
Mike Oldfield's star shone very bright, very early, and having been introduced to him by a friend with almost 10 years on me, I was hooked on the magnificent Tubular Bells from not long after its release.
I stayed with Mike through those early times, but gradually fashions changed, tastes changes, indeed Mike changed and amongst all this some contract wrangling and challenging lifestyle choices meant (to me) that Mike's music took a gradually increasing downward turn and I fell out of love with it at about the time of the crushingly disappointing Earth Moving. (My opinion... I never really did "get" Mike's "songs".)
Then I took a plunge on The Songs of Distant Earth, and I rather lucked in to his best album by far - I read the Arthur C. Clarke novel first and listened to the album on the back of that.
But, apart from another disappointment, frankly, with Tubular Bells II - I avoided Mike until intrigued, and impressed by Music of the Spheres.
That was a couple of years ago, but in the last week I succumbed to other Amazon reviewer's advice and bought Tubular Bells III, Tres Lunas, Voyager and... wait for it, wait for it... Light and Shade.
And I'm so glad I did!!!
See my reviews for the others in the appropriate places, of course, but here I would just like to say what a pleasure it has been to listen to Light and Shade.
A double album (you probably know!) with a supposed "Light" disc and an accompanying "Shade" collection.
Mike has changed yet more, but the Light side is unmistakeably (recent) Oldfield, and a very good listen indeed, IMHO.
Shade is supposed to be darker... which actually translates into being dance-y, rave-y (I may be middle-aged, but I know all the streetspeak cos I is down wid da kids, man) and a different sound for Mike in my experience.
That said, I've always been into Electronica, and have no problem with a bit of dance music - and Mike has managed to do it rather well. Dance afficionados might beg to differ, but, hey... it sounds good to me.
So if the price is right and you feel you can cope with the style... then I recommend this combination of Light and Shade.
on 16 July 2006
This time, before wrtiting my own thoughts, I took the time to read what others had to say. And it seemed to me that some were too much concerned about how others should feel about this geniuse's music. I wonder why?
The first two instrumental tracks grabbed my hearing from the start. Those who are worried about nuances, should pay good attention to Blackbird by listening to this song using earphones. Suddenly there's so much more, including the occasional flapping of a bird's wings. It is easy to associate the blackbird's song with the way Oldfield heard it. And there's development, too. Sometimes people think that writing pieces that play 15/30 minutes and more is a good sign that the composer worked on the track and showed the theme from various angles, then taking it into a new dimension. How about Bach's Well Tempered Clavier then? Why mix different moods and meanings, by comparing totally different albums? Comparing is one of man's vices, I am sure.
As to the rest of the tracks, espeecially the Shade album, then it's obvious that the composer simply tried his hand at the very popular new music technology - VST instruments and had good results there. He showed that he could put to good use things that most of us cannot take beoynd purely technical level (sometimes, beyond the point of installing a VST synthesizer into a computer). I could not recognise the sound of a real synth from that used in Blackbird.