What does it sound like?:
42 years after the release of his third album Ommadawn, Mike Oldfield returns (SWIDT?) to the format that made him famous – longform musical pieces split into two parts. The original album saw Oldfield dipping his toes into what later became ‘world music’, incorporating Uillean pipes, pan pipes, bazoukis, the bodhran, and African drumming.
‘Return To Ommadawn’, his 26th album, references several of these elements – Part 1 begins with panpipes over what sounds like a harp tinkling away gently in the background, while halfway through the drums propel the piece to the end. There is even a brief burst of the Penrhos Kids for those fans of “On Horseback”, the unlisted song that closes the original album.
Oldfield’s nylon string guitar is the dominant instrument for much of parts 1 and 2, with the occasional electric stab (Oldfield has stated that the album marks a return (did it again!) to the “acoustic style” of ‘Tubular Bells’, ‘Hergest Ridge’ and ‘Ommadawn’).
The whole thing flows along nicely – Oldfield (who played all the instruments) layers each part skillfully, the playing is impeccable, and it SOUNDS great, even streaming through my crappy PC speakers (the production on this album is amazing…)
And yet….there is something lacking. The whole piece lacks the energy that the original possesses. As with much of Oldfield’s later work, there is an all-pervasive new-agey sheen over the whole thing (luckily no ill-advised forays into Ibiza-style trance music though, for which we can all be grateful).
I do like the album, though (it’s on pre-order) – it’s a very pleasant way to spend 40 minutes or so, but I can’t see it appealing to the casual buyer.
(thanks to @bargepole for the stream)
What does it all *mean*?
It’s nice to see Oldfield is still capable of creating longer pieces of music without resorting to endlessly reworking Tubular Bells
Goes well with…
headphones, a good book, a comfy chair…
Might suit people who like…
Albums with gatefold sleeves; Mike Oldfield before he started putting “songs” on his albums and putting out (shudder) “singles”.