With the imminent release of Oldfield's 2014 release; Man on the Rocks, I find myself drawn to his other most recent release now 6 years old. For those fans of old like myself, Music of the Spheres is a (very sweet) treat. Finally, Oldfield shakes off his frankly dreadful techno-chill phase and goes classical!!!
Harbinger, the albums opener, heralds this as another work in the Tubular Bells series. At first this grated with me but hang in there, the nods to Tubular Bells are only occasional. I find it helps to make sense of Oldfield's entire back-catalog if you see it as one big piece of music with plenty of variations on a theme along the way. I'm sure some of those grand old masters of classical music used to do this throughout their careers, Viv Aldi for example, before he set up that supermarket chain.
Joking aside, Music of the Spheres features some truly beautiful moments, it is clearly Oldfield's most rewarding work for many, many years. The only negative for me is that at times it does stray into Hollywood film-score territory. With so much of that in our lives already is this unnecessary? I might have preferred those saccharine cinematic passages to instead have been pieces more challenging to the ear of a listener matured by years of Oldfield's grander moments.
Plus....for those who yearn for a return to the sound of those early classics; Ommadawn, Hergest Ridge, Incantations and the like, an artist by the name of Andrew Taylor has come to your rescue. Look up his recent Mohribold album, many of the Oldfield faithful seem to be talking about it.
I grew up in a house where my Dad was a huge Mike Oldfield fan, and I remember him excitedly rushing home with his latest album, putting it on the hi-fi, and then we would sit there and listen to it, waiting for him to pass judgement. His enthusiasm rubbed off on me, and as the years passed we would both listen to the albums separately, then reconvene to discuss what we had heard. For me, "Amarok" has been his finest album, followed by "Ommadawn", but this album is right alongside them.
The first thing that must be said is that "Music of the Spheres" is NOT "Tubular Bells 4", and although it immediately sounds like Oldfield you soon realise that the entire album is orchestral and there is little, maybe even no guitar on there, so don't expect wailing electric guitars, but do be prepared for strings, brass, and choirs. Right from the start is is clear that this is an Oldfield album but the orchestration is simply gorgeous. The album is split into two halves, a Hayley Westenra vocal ending the first "side", and the rousing "Musica Universalis" bringing the second to a close, a few of his trademark tubular bells popping up towards the end.
Critisicms? The album is only forty five minutes long and could easily have been much longer, but what we have here is just perfect. Oldfield's best album in years, and I really can't wait to hear the album again.
Having been a great fan of Mike Oldfield's music since 1973 (!) I've never really been disapointed with any thing he's done but as with all genuinely creative artists ,their careers have their high points and low points. Mike Oldfield is no exception and although it's been a long time coming ,'Music of the Spheres' is definately one of the high points in his long career.This is Mike Oldfield at his very best. When I first heard he was creating an orchestral peice of music with no electric guitar my main concern was that it wouldn't sound like Mike Oldfield.I've always thought that Mike's distictive sound came from the fact that, apart from his unique electric guitar style he generaly plays nearly every instrument himself thus giving each peice his own unique'musical voice'. Where 'Music of the Spheres'succeeds is that although apart from some beautiful acoustic guitar played by Mike,the music is played via an orchestra but some how has that unmistakable Mike Oldfield 'sound-scape'you would expect to hear if he'd played everything himself. From the opening bars of Harbinger to the last notes of Musica Universalis this is classic Mike Oldfield of a quality we haven't heard Mike produce in many ,many years. At its very best Mike's music has an almost addictive quality about it.Sadly this quality has been lacking in recent years but here he's back with a piece of music that in parts is so beautiful it will send shivers down your spine and bring tears to your eyes ! This is the Mike Oldfield album I've been waiting so long for,brilliant in its composition and construction.Music that inspires and moves you with flashes of genuine genius.Anyone who thought that 'Tubular Bells' or 'Ommadawn' were the pinical of Mike Oldfield's career listen to this. My only hope now is that we all get the chance to see it performed live.