Tag Archives: Modern Classical

Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells | Review

Artist: Mike Oldfield
Album: Tubular Bells
Year: 1973
Genres: Electronic,Rock
Styles: Folk Rock, Modern Classical, Prog Rock, Classic Rock

I have been struggling with this review because I just haven’t really been able to get into this work. Generally I would like something like this on paper – long, evolving piece meandering through various textural changes and riffs with varied instrumentation and production techniques. But I just don’t get this. I have been struggling to figure out why. I think it’s mostly the melodic content – the riffs are pretty standard 70s rock mixed with folk to my ears which doesn’t fit the epic long two track format that this is. It also doesn’t seem to move in one particular direction… there’s certainly some ‘ahh’ moments where it settles into something exceptional but it changes so drastically every time, when it restarts I can’t get into it. For example, it’ll riff out in a more ethereal folky rock riff, then break into some prog rock direction complete with wolf-like vocals. It’s kind of like a saw waveform, starting at the bottom, gradually ramping up and instantly dropping down to the bottom again with some new material.

Near the end of the first piece the dude announces what instruments are playing as they’re going in a British accent, which is pretty offputting. It sounds like a comic attempt that fails for me (likewise the Irish jig/riff piece at the very end).

When it comes to repeating riffs, perhaps I have been spoiled to find minimalism like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, which took me in a direction that was much more of a rewarding listen than this.

I can understand why this is so popular – it’s a different take on things, accessible enough, refreshing and slightly challenging, not entirely alien to a listener’s ear. The recording technique and arrangements are creative it all seems pretty novel for 1973. I can imagine if I was around then, I’d drop some LSD or get pretty baked with my hippie buddies, and laying on the floor I’d soak it in on a brand new hi-fi, I’d probably really enjoy it. It just doesn’t align with my tastes where I’m at right now.