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If you liked Tubular Bells 3, you'll like this
on 1 April 2015
Unlike most of the other reviews (it seems), I'm a fan of electronic music first and Mike Oldfield music second, rather than the other way round. Don't get me wrong, I'm also a regular listener to "Tubular Bells" and "Five Miles Out", but if I say that one of my favourite albums is "Tubular Bells 3", I'm sure there are plenty of Oldfield fans that will disown me- especially those who have grown sceptical of Mike Oldfield's frequent decision to cobble together almost anything, and stick the word "Tubular" on it to make a quick buck.
This release, a collection of re-versions of old Oldfield tracks, falls well between two stools. Firstly there will be a bunch of Oldfield fans who don't like the trance sounds or the repetitive bass notes. Secondly there will be a lot of fans of trance music who will find this whole thing incredibly dated. It's largely a collaboration with 'York' (I'm still unclear as to whether York is a duo, or a single person, but there you go).
York's hit that I'd previously heard of, "On The Beach" and "The Fields Of Love", were both in the late 1990s. Sure enough, this album sounds like it could've been produced a decade ago. It's definitely not "up-to-date" from that record, but then, neither was "Tubular Bells 3" when it was released, but it's still great in its own way.
That being said, though, the end result is actually very listenable- as long as you don't expect to either (a) go raving with it, or (b) stroke your chin at the impressive musicality of it. If you can put those concerns aside, it's a strong album. It's got a very polished sound, and it's nicely structured, with a mixture of radio-edit-format versions (such as "To France" or the slightly twisty take on "Moonlight Shadow") along with slightly more extended 'club' versions which explore the progressions in a bit more depth, such as "Ommadawn". (Although your chances of ever hearing any of these tracks actually played in a club are pretty much assuredly zero.)
Some tracks sound like Mike Oldfield has had a good hand in steering the track into something that's musically in keeping with the original, and they qualify as interesting re-works. Some others, such as "Guilty", sound more like Oldfield has just handed the master tapes over to York, who's sampled a couple of prominent bits and laid them on top of something which, beyond being in the same key, bears relatively little resemblance to the original.
New track "Never Too Far" is pleasant enough, if a little bit forgettable.
If you're not a fan of "the remix" in principle- I am, but many are not- then some of it won't be to your taste. But if, like me, you find yourself revisiting old albums by Chicane or the "Cream Ibiza" series from the late 1990s every once in a while, or if you happen to think that "Tubular Bells 3" was rather underrated, then you should think about giving this a go.