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on 25 July 2011

It looks like Universal are going to sort out the glitch after all:

Thank you for your email regarding Mike Oldfield's Incantations.
The new re-master of Incantations is faithful to the original analogue master tape. These tapes included an edit point at 12:37 on Part 4 of Incantations which can be discerned as a small jump in the track. Following feedback that this has affected the enjoyment for some listeners, a new master has been prepared and approved by Mike for all subsequent pressings. If you would like us to send you an amended disc please let us have your address details and we will send you one. Please email for CD and for vinyl.

If you have any further enquiries please don't hesitate to contact us:

Kind regards,
Universal Music"

Original review:


As we all know the course of true love never does run smooth - and so it seems with these Mike Oldfield re-releases/remasters.

Firstly the packaging.

Clearly things must be getting tight at Universal Music as we no longer get the clear plastic shroud to protect the digipack - instead we get a tape wrapped around the bottom of the product sealing the flaps shut.

Don't worry it comes off easy enough but then you have to throw it away - which is probably a clever marketing ploy - because on that piece of tape you have just thrown away is the only place where it says this is a "deluxe" product!

There is a big black sticker over the rather nice new photograph of the Minorca beach proclaiming the new 2011 remaster with 5.1 mixes and rare and previously un-released material - again this comes easily enough off and you get to throw this away too - Hmmm - a pattern is emerging here.

After having gone through the discs I can see why these "stickers" are so placed and so disposable. I'm almost tempted to throw the whole thing away after going through it all.

On the positive side the booklet is good - the notes are informative and do offer up a few bits and pieces not normally regurgitated. Interestingly they still can't mention "Don Alfonso" - Its still referred to as "a single" when the "For Maureen" version of In Dulci Jubilo is bought up!

Disc 1:

The 2011 "remaster". Incantations has always sounded bright and clear on its previous incarnations - perhaps a little too bright on some systems. No danger of that on this release though. There is definitely a dampening filter put across the recording. It tones down the brightness of the sound - cymbals and glockenspiels are more muted and there is sense of a blanket being placed over the speakers. Some people may well prefer this. I do not. Listen to the start of Part 3 - usually a cacophony of crashes and tinkles - its quite dull on this version with the shaking tambourine almost disappearing entirely.

Unfortunately there is still an annoying high pitched whine at various points in the recording - most noticeably right at the start of Part One - Incantations has always had this so I'm guessing its on the master but you'd think this could be filtered out now using today's technology.

The little wobble in the beginning bit of Part 2 has finally gone however horror of horrors it has been replaced by the most unforgivable of sins - a glitch jump in Part 4 around 12:37 just at the start of the wonderful marimba section.

tagged at the end is a "remaster" of Guilty - the single version. Only here its running noticeably slower. 14 seconds slower - and it sounds dreadful.

Disc 2:

I'm at a bit of a loss to comprehend what the purpose of including the "new" pieces was. They are pleasant enough but really do not seem to add anything to the Oldfield canon.
Diana is nice but just meanders with no sense of purpose and just fades away to nothing.
Northumbrian is clearly an out take or cut from an improvisation - you can see why it didn't get used anywhere.
Piano Improvisation - is exactly what it says - a sketch of an idea - only notable to hear where part of Platinum came from.
Hiawatha is painful. The vocal has been auto-tuned - very badly. And again the "mix" does not add anything of particular note.
Canon for 2 Vibraphones - sounds just like its lifted straight from the master - nothing new and nothing of any particular note.

Thank goodness for the short singles being on here with no problems - its good to finally get Pipe Tune & Wrekorder Wrondo on CD with no tweaking. Tho its a pity they didn't include the Incantations excerpt that was the B side to Guilty - It's even acknowledged in the booklet!

The new mix of the extended version of Guilty is actually ok! Its missing the double drum hits right at the start but it has a good sound scape and feels a bit more polished - until the new twiddly guitar bits at the end which frankly sound amateur and distracting. The abrupt fade out at the end is disconcerting.

Then the disc closes with Diana Desiderata. Again its pleasant enough but without a decent end or being in context with the rest of Incantations it just doesn't hold its own. The addition of the Stephen Hawking voice is off putting and un-necessary.

Disc 3:

The pieces that were on Disc 2 but now in surround - really I don't know why he bothered! Diana is probably the best of the bunch but for all the other pieces the surround really does not add anything.

Again Guilty is the best track - the surround works well for this - until you get to the ridiculous guitar at the end which just sounds too loud and clearly just plonked over the top of the original.

The videos of William Tell & Guilty suffer from the same issues as the videos on the previous re-releases. They have put thin black bands top and bottom of the picture reducing the size of the image and the videos suffer from artefacts and banding whenever there is a jump cut - as if the video level is too high and the processing peaks and cuts out.

So overall I have to say I am very disappointed. This is not what I would call a "deluxe" product - and I seriously doubt I will be playing anything from it again bar the short singles on Disc 2.
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on 30 July 2011
First off, let me convey how thrilled I was to receive this deluxe version of Incantations, for it arrived here in New Zealand just three days after it was released in the U.K. Now that is remarkable! Well done Amazon, a fine job of such a speedy delivery!

Sadly the story takes a turn for the worse from here on....

My issue is with the term DELUXE...that is to say this DELUXE version of Incantations seems to be way below standard...this is really disappointing from a fan's point of view, particularly when one considers how long some of us fans have waited for Incantations to be issued in DELUXE format.

I picked up on previous reviews in that there seems to be widespread disappointment around the packaging. Yes I concur, the packaging really is not up to 'DELUXE' standards. To my way of thinking, DELUXE ought to mean a substantial cut above the rest. DELUXE meaning something really special that will satisfy dedicated fans because it should attain a special ranking that automatically sets regular versions aside.

I too am disappointed to detect the audio 'glitch' on Part 4 around 12.36. It sounds awful, particularly when listening through headphones. This reminds me of the New Order DELUXE issues of their back catalogue whereby each disc in that series suffered from serious audio glitches. One track in particular was taken directly from vinyl instead of the original master! That whole debacle was a great big disappointment to say the least and therefore DELUXE was actually sub-standard. The same thing is emerging here with Incantations. This should not happen! Who was supervising during the re-mastering and transfer? Just not good enough!

My personal view is that there are simply 4 key components of a DELUXE version. The ingredients of a DELUXE version should be:

1. Top quality printed material (booklet paper, cardboard cover, binding, gluing etc)
2. Relevant bonus material (well researched, rare or highly sought after and of the best possible audio quality)
3. Informative sleeve notes, new insights into the recording etc & new photos
4. Superior audio quality

Here's where Incantations stubs out in those 4 key areas:

1. The printed matter looks like they used second rate paper. The plastic slip case has been replaced with a cheap & lousy sticker.
2. The bonus material on the DVD (visual) is great but the choice of audio tracks on disc two raises eyebrows.
3. The sleeve notes and extra photos are very low calorie...a little more would have made it DELUXE...paper quality is poor so it will no doubt show its age very quickly.
4. The audio quality is generally acceptable but is tarnished by a tape edit glitch on part 4...

Now just a final note on audio quality to UNIVERSAL: some of us are really critical listeners because we have expensive audio gear. We listen for each and every nuance and we do this not to trip up the manufacturer or to be annoying. We do this because we love Mike Oldfield's Incantations and have listened to it hundreds of times over the years...this is meant to be a pleasurable experience but it gets diluted and devalued when audio glitches or over-use of compression significantly changes the actual sound. Sorry UNIVERSAL but you must afford the fans a better service and to be honest this product is not DELUXE at all.

Sorry if I sound like Bad News Brown but I just have to be honest and from a fan's perspective I just wanted a DELUXE version of Incantations, not a sub-standard version that seems to be somewhat less than other versions.

I give it a 3 out of 5 but other fans will have their own views. DELUXE ought to be DELUXE and I just don't see this as being a DELUXE product.

Thanks for reading my review, sorry if it sounds negative.
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on 25 July 2011
Incantations (Remastered)

Incantations (2011) is both a joy and frustration to me. What it may do is lead some to re-assess this album.

Back in 1978 it was Mike's fourth album and the next in an increasingly complex set of albums, though with diminishing sales.

Nevertheless, I remember that there was a degree of expectation amongst fans. After the release of Ommadawn in 1975, and with there being one album a year from Tubular Bells in 1973, there were three years of work (and waiting!), with the resulting album being a double, Oldfield's first. It is still his longest album to date.

It is a subtle, orchestral, classical work. Many of the other reviews here will say that. It uses proper orchestras, blistering guitar, and amazing choral voices that are still quite amazing. It is an album that runs in cycles, with rhythms and voices that intermix and overlap. On hearing it in the 1970's I was both mesmerised and frustrated. I loved certain aspects of it, yet felt that some parts were overlong and repetitive - something that fans have argued about ever since. (I have heard it referred to as Mike's `White Album' because of this.) As such, it got rather unfairly criticised, and was rather ignored at the time: this was when Punk Rock reared its head, and Mike's music was seen as out of step.

Personally, I have found over time that I have grown to love it, whilst perhaps accepting that it's not perfect.

So: what of this new remastered 2011 version?

Well: the short answer is that it is still frustrating.

The complexity of the musicianship, both in the quieter parts and the parts where `everything' is going on, is still dazzling.

On this new stereo mix, I'm pleased to say that the music is clearer than ever, as you might expect, having been overseen by Mike. What this did show me is that that there are layers that the previous vinyl or earlier CD versions (even the 2008 edition!) lost, or perhaps brought forward in the mix a little. Though I must say that this is not vastly different, and I'm not expecting everyone to notice, in places there are things going on that I've missed before. This makes it perhaps less repetitive than before, but only if you really listen.

After the quality of the 5.1 Surround Sound mixes of Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn, I expected nothing less of this release. Unfortunately, my disappointment here was that there wasn't a surround sound mix of the whole album. The Stereo mix, as good as it was, was not a Surround Sound mix: though a little tweaking on the sound processor of my DVD set-up created something not bad.

And this is my impression of the new album throughout. For every excellent improvement, there's something that niggles.

Even the packaging seems to follow this rule. The new cover is stunning (with the old cover shown in the booklet) but the removal of that awful `Deluxe Edition' band around it is essential, but be careful when doing so. I lost some of the sheen on the front cover doing so. (Comparatively, the new vinyl version is also wonderful.) Similarly, whilst it is great having a DVD in the package, it is in a side pocket and may be prone to scratches if it is used a lot.

There's also a worrying little blip in the remastering on Part 4, at about 12 minutes 37 seconds in, that just sounds wrong. The editing just doesn't quite match the smooth rhythmic pattern built on up to that point. This is unfortunate, as the final five minutes or so are as excellent as they've ever been.

There's another misstep here also. Having the single Guilty (both 7" on the `original' album and in Surround Sound for the 12" version) is great - I still have my original copy on blue vinyl! - but it is such a jolt after the end of Incantations that it can quite spoil the mood created. Strange how on early versions of the original single CD they had to trim Part Three to make it all fit, whereas now we have the full album and Guilty on one CD. (The track is not on the vinyl version though, as far as I can see.)

The second CD is good, though some of it does seem a little irrelevant. There are remixes of some of the Incantations themes (Diana, Hiawatha) or parts that didn't make the final version (Piano Improvisation, which I thought was rather good.) They're rather like those Beatles Anthology tracks to me - they made me feel in the end that they were incomplete, and wanting more, `proper' versions.

This was the same but even more so on the DVD's Surround Sound versions. The tantalising re-edits and snippets sound great, but in the end, all they left me with was a feeling of disappointment that there wasn't more.

A minor detail but also a disappointment: the DVD has a very boring front screen. Whereas Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn had screens that changed through the music, this one doesn't: instead we have a picture of a tabletop with some photo's on it, rather like the Exposed cover, but far too small to make out anything of use.

Whilst we're talking of the concert footage, from the tour (released as Exposed), the DVD does have the added Exposed footage of Incantations live at Wembley, as in 1979. The concert footage here does seem to work in Surround Sound, (whereas on the Exposed DVD it was only Stereo) but running them as two badly separated/edited parts was a shame.

The booklet notes seem to be edited comments from Mike's autobiography, Changeling.
In the end, as much as I want to love this, the album frustrates as much as it entertains. I'm a little worried that Mike's signed off on this one. As much as I liked it, after a few repeated watches and listens, I keep getting the feeling that it's not as well put together as the three previous reissues.

In summary, this is a package that both enthuses and irritates. It is clear that Incantations, despite its faults, is an underrated work that can now be more fully appreciated. My disappointment here is that this version is still not as good as it could have been. Frustratingly sublime.

UPDATE: Heard from Universal Music about this, who've said 'The new re-master of Incantations is faithful to the original analogue master tape. These tapes included an edit point at 12:37 on Part 4 of Incantations which can be discerned as a small jump in the track. Following feedback that this has affected the enjoyment for some listeners, a new master has been prepared and approved by Mike for all subsequent pressings. If you would like us to send you an amended disc please let us have your address details and we will send you one.'
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on 6 August 2011
Shame on quality control by Universal and Oldfield himself. Don't get me wrong the original Incantations could be five stars but this release lacks of quality control.
I have just received my CD and I can tell you that if Universal says "These tapes included an edit point at 12:37 on Part 4 of Incantations which can be discerned as a small jump in the track..." it's not just a small jump it's a mistake that needs to be corrected right now. Amazon should remove the item until a new release comes to stores. Be warned you will notice the jump even if you never heard Incantations before.
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VINE VOICEon 3 June 2016
Finally got around to buying my 3rd copy of Incantations cd. Had the vinyl years ago.
1. First time on cd and missing 3 minutes from Part 3.
2. First time on cd in its entirety.
3. Incantations DELUXE.

This is a review of DISC 1 of the deluxe set.
As you may of worked out already I adore this album. Possibly number 6 of all the thousands of albums I have heard. Definitely one of the most played. Admittedly I use it a lot for background ambience, but I do LISTEN to it frequently also.
Mike has stated the tune Guilty inspired him to expand the ideas behind that track into this 75 minute magnum opus. That surprised me when I first heard that. Guilty is very up-beat, danceable. Nothing like the chilled out, almost neo-classical feel of this 4 part track.
Maddy Prior sings the two songs, ODE TO CYNTHIA (a poem by Jonson) on Part 4 and prior to that at the end of Part 2 on HIAWATHA'S DEPARTURE (a poem by Longfellow). These two are set to almost the same music, tribal drums and glockenspiel create an hypnotic relentless rhythm for the other instruments to follow. If you are not familiar with Maddy's voice search Steeleye Span, or indeed Maddy Prior on YouTube.

The 75 minutes of Incantations meanders through many shades of quiet rock. You could imagine an orchestra playing this. If you get the deluxe version, or have Exposed dvd then you will see over 50 minutes live. The American release AIRBORN has a wonderful remix of live and studio Incantations. (Strange, but the live stuff was recorded in Birmingham, England on Airborn).

The glitch reported by reviews of earlier pressings is no longer present. Upon very careful listening I heard a double hit on a glockenspiel. This is also present on the original full length release, CDVDT 101. One would not even notice it under normal listening conditions.

Finally, you a bonus track in the form of Guilty. So you can "hear" where it all began.
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on 25 July 2011
Incantations is a wonderful Mike Oldfield album, worth at least 4 - 5 stars, but Universal have totally dropped the ball on this deluxe release...

As mentioned before, there is a jump glitch in part 4 and this is absolutely disgraceful... HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED??!! There's absolutely no excuse for this. It ruins the whole deluxe edition for me, to add insult to injury, I bought both a signed LP and the deluxe CD. I'm really, really disappointed by this. I reckon Universal really need to withdraw all of these defective versions and release this again, PRONTO!!

They say it's a 2011 remastered edition, and apparently Mike oversaw the proceedings... Hummm, I can't believe he'd let something as bad as that glitch go on general release.

Just as they were doing a fantastic deluxe series of Mike's back catalogue, (see the previous 3 releases) this stinker happens. If it's not sorted, then for me the whole deluxe series has been ruined :(

I stopped buying the 2000 remastered editions because there was a similar problem with Ommadawn part 2 (an annoying glitch) sadly this too has got me apprehensive about continuing my deluxe collection, something I was so looking forward to.

Incantations previous releases 5/5 Deluxe Edition 1/5 (1 star for sleeve notes and extra content).

A very disappointed fan!
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on 10 August 2016
Superb retro analogue synth music that still sounds fresh, interesting and futuristic.
Highly recommended to anyone who has an interest in 80s style analogue synth or film music - Mike Oldfield is one of the masters of the genre.
A definite five star highly recommended purchase.
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on 26 November 2011
Before I get a bazillion 'I did not find this review helpful' marks, let me just point out that I purchased this CD because, obviously, I absolutely love this album.

It is, in my lowly opinion, probably Mike Oldfield's masterpiece amongst masterpieces.

So why, after quite a few months, are versions with the dodgy edit (part four) still retained in stock?

Why are retailers trying to get away with flogging the faulty version?

As others have noted, for a deluxe version the packaging is utterly grim (cardboard like sandpaper - it over-absorbs the ink so looks and feels really cheap). But really what matters is the music. I can live with duff packaging if what's inside does what it claims ... but no.

So, unfortunately I think this reissue is best avoided.
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on 17 August 2016
After having listened to most of Oldfield's albums down thru the years ( I missed a few of the later ones ) , I have to say that I think this is his best work , with Ommadawn a close second . Tremendous peaks and troughs , and Maddy Prior as well .
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on 2 October 2008
I love the whole album, but it is the last 5 minutes of Track 4 (what was side 4 of the double LP) that is the truly outstanding part. The rest of Track 4, and arguably the whole album, just builds and builds to the incredible climax when Maddy Prior's voice comes in. It is just so beautiful, it literally brings tears to my eyes. In more than 30 years of listening to music (this being one of the very first albums I bought), there are only a handful of tracks that can do that.

Don't just listen to Maddy, however. You have to listen to the whole album to get the full effect of Maddy's bit.
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