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Discography > Amarok

 
     


Amarok

Released: June 14, 1990

Recorded: Roughwood Croft, choir recorded at CTS Studios, Wembley

Amarok cover

0:00 Fast Riff Intro
2:32 Intro
5:46 Climax I - 12 Strings
6:18 Soft Bodrhan
7:20 Rachmaninov I
8:35 Soft Bodrhan 2
9:29 Rachmaninov II
9:56 Roses
10:42 Reprise I - Intro
12:45 Scot
13:16 Didlybom
15:00 Mad Bit
15:56 Run In
16:11 Hoover
18:00 Fast Riff
19:57 Lion
21:57 Fast Waltz
23:42 Stop
24:33 Mad Bit 2
24:46 Fast Waltz 2
25:06 Mandolin
26:07 Intermission
26:23 Boat
29:27 Intro Reprise 2
32:07 Big Roses
33:13 Green Green
34:24 Slow Waltz
36:04 Lion Reprise
37:05 Mandolin Reprise
37:47 TV am/Hoover/Scot
39:50 Fast Riff Reprise
42:22 Boat Reprise
43:32 12 Rep / Intro Waltz
44:12 Green Reprise
44:46 Africa I: Far Build
48:00 Africa I: Far Dip (**)
48:46 Africa I: Pre Climax
49:32 Africa I: 12 Climax
50:24 Africa I: Climax I
51:00 Africa II: Bridge
51:17 Africa II: Riff
51:34 Africa II: Boats
51:52 Africa II: Bridge II
52:10 Africa II: Climax II
54:22 Africa III: Baker

Also Appearing

Clodagh Simonds, Bridget St. John, Janet Brown

Paddy Moloney

African Musicians organized by Julian Bahula

Produced and Engineered by Tom Newman

Cover and Booklet by William Murray

Instruments:
Bowed Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, 12-String Guitar, Classical Guitar, Bass guitar, Sitar Guitar, Glorfindel Guitar, Highly Strung Guitar, Flamenco Guitar, Bazouki, Mandolin, Ukulele, Steinway Piano, Banjo, Farfisa Organ, Lowrey Organ, Shoes, Hoover, Glockenspiel, Marimba, Bodhran, Northumbrian Bagpipes, Clay drums, Triangle, Tambourine, Wonga Box, Bell Tree, Sticks, Finger Cymbals, Toy dog, Melodica, Chairs, Psaltry, Spinet, Flamenco Guitar, Jew's Harp, Penny Whistles, Bass Whistles, Punch Ball and Club, Spoons, Referee's Whistle, Fingernails, Pan Pipes, Glass of Water, Guitar Tuner, Violin, Door, Face Slap, Toothbrush and teeth, Vox Organ, Fake Radio, Contents of Aeromodeller's toolbox, Glass, Hammer and Bucket, Fake Firework, Rototom, Cabasa, Bongos, Orchestral Bass Drum, Timpani, not much synth at all really, Kalimba, Long Thin metallic hanging Tubes.

Personal Assistant: Jeremy Parker

Technical Adviser: Richard Barrie

A fully digital recording

Cover by William Murray


Notes

Since getting the Fairlight CMI in the early 1980s, Mike's albums had become increasingly sequencer-driven, something further encouraged by the arrival of sequencing software running on the Atari ST and the STacy portable computer, meaning Mike could even sequence music on holiday.

Amarok was to represent a return to Mike's roots in hand played music, abandoning his sequencers and using minimal editing, with producer Tom Newman making sure Mike stuck to the rules.

The album has a wide dynamic range, partly out of Mike's desire to make Amarok an "angry, protest album" against Virgin, saying "I was imagining Simon Draper of Virgin driving his Lamborghini with the music up loud, so I put these enormous brass stabs in there, obscene amounts of volume just to irritate him." (MOJO, November 1998).

As part of the quest for high dynamic range, the album was the first of Mike's to be recorded to digital tape, using a Sony 3348 48 track machine. Technical engineer Richard Barrie says "I’d spent a lot of time trying to get the studio incredibly quiet, so the dynamic range was really big, and what I wanted to at the front end of the album, but he wouldn’t let me do it, was I wanted to go to the other end of the live room and drop a pin on the floor and say ‘this is the bottom of the dynamic range’, up to...you know, to the maximum...but he wouldn’t let me do it!"

Richard Barrie also recalls some of the lengths that they went to in order to capture some of Amarok's more unusual sounds, notably the sound of Mike's sports car revving up: "I ended up putting microphones all the way down the drive, and then Michael was in the car with a set of headphones on - and Tom was in the studio - waiting for the cue to go, and then I had to break the headphones link, so that Michael could then go revving up the drive! But that was it, the sport on Amarok was no editing, everything had to be played at the correct point in the thing. Mad! Absolutely mad!"

There is a hidden message in Amarok - at 48:05 some morse code can be heard (played on a bright synth sound). It actually spells out "F*** off RB" (with RB standing for Richard Branson). Mike was annoyed at Virgin's lack of promotion for the album (although if he really had made it deliberately uncommercial, Mike would surely have expected them not to promote it...), and so took out his own advertising campaign. Part of the campaign was Mike offering a prize of £1000 to the first person to find the hidden message.

The cover photograph was taken by Mike's old friend William Murray, who also wrote the story found inside the CD booklet. Mike helped spark off William's interest in photography during the mid 70s, when he gave William a camera as a present, leading to him eventually becoming a professional photographer. It was, according to Murray, intended to be "reminiscent of Ommadawn" and he told David Porter that "I thought this will be easy, put him behind a bit of glass, put some water on the glass, ....woof, no trouble. Then you realise how good Bailey is, it's not as easy as I thought by a long shot." (David Porter interview, 1990). The metal lettering was hand crafted from brass by Tom Newman.

[Richard Barrie quotes from an interview by Richard Carter, February 12th 2014]


Personnel

Tom Newman (producer)

Also appears in: Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Platinum, Five Miles Out, Islands, Heaven's Open, Tubular Bells II, The Songs of Distant Earth, Voyager


Richard Barrie (technical engineer)

Also appears in: QE2, Five Miles Out, Islands, Earth Moving, Heaven's Open, Tubular Bells II, The Songs of Distant Earth, Voyager


Julian Bahula (musician)

The leader of Jabula, he came to fame in the 60s in South Africa playing in 'The Molombo Jazzmen' (later to be shortened to Malombo) led by Philip Tabane. He moved to London with the band Jo'burg Hawk, a group of both black and white South Africans who weren't allowed to play together in their homeland. Though he was not keen on doing sessions for other artists, he made three exceptions - Mike Oldfield, Stevie Wonder and Dick Heckstall-Smith.

Also appears in: Ommadawn


Janet Brown (musician)

Well known in the UK as an impersonator of prime minister Margaret Thatcher. She impersonates Mrs Thatcher again at the end of Amarok (the 'Hello everyone...' bit at 54:34). She died in 2011.


Paddy Moloney (musician)

Leader of Irish folk group 'The Chieftains', which Paddy formed in 1963. Most famously, the group featured on the soundtrack to the Stanley Kubrick film 'Barry Lyndon'.

Also appears in: Ommadawn, Five Miles Out


Clodagh Simmonds (musician)

Had previously been a member of Irish progressive folk band 'Mellow Candle' as well as having played Harpsicord and Mellotron on the song 'Sarah' on Thin Lizzy's 'Shades of a blue orphanage' in 1972. The group's drummer was Mike's friend William Murray. She also sang with the group Jade Warrior, alongside Jon Field (flute on Tubular Bells).

Also appears in: Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn, Tubular Bells III


Bridget St John (musician)

British folk rock singer. Made some LPs on the Dandelion record label, run by British DJ John Peel in the early 70s (albums on this label are now extremely rare and change hands for huge amounts of money). Did some vocals for Kevin Ayers' Shooting at the moon album. She put her recording career on hold in 1976 to move to New York.

Also appears in: Ommadawn, Earth Moving


William Murray (cover artwork)

Drummer, who Mike would have met in 1971 while recording 'Whetevershebringswesing' with Kevin Ayers. He played with Richard and Linda Thompson's 'Sour Grapes' band, as well as with Mellow Candle. He also played drums with Kevin Ayers in 1971 on the 'Whatevershebringswesing' album and later worked with Paul Kossoff. He was a good friend of Mike's. Mike bought William Murray a camera as a present, which sparked off an interest in photography. Helater moved to Dallas, Texas, USA, where he worked as a photographer. William took the photograph of Mike that's on the cover of Amarok. He died in 1999.

Also appears in: Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn



Instruments

Miscellaneous stringed instruments
John Le Voi Bouzouki Flat-backed bouzouki, sold via Chandler Guitars in February 2006.
Bowed Psaltery
Ukulele
Violin
Gibson RB-250 Mastertone Banjo Mike appeared with this banjo at the Tubular Bells II premiere concert in Edinburgh. Its appearance is consistent with a post-1960s RB-250, so our current best guess is that it's the same banjo which Mike used on every album from Ommadawn onwards. Also used in: Ommadawn, Crises, Tubular Bells II
Mike Vanden 'MJV' F4 style Mandolin Originally bought from John Alvey Turner's music shop. Sold via Chandler Guitars in December 2007.
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Also used in: Voyager, Tubular Bells 2003
Percussion instruments
Bodhrán 18" bodhrán decorated with a St John Eagle from the Book of Kells. The bodhrán (pronounced as bough-rahn or bow-rahn) is an Irish frame drum made from goatskin, played with a beater called a tipper or cípín. Also used in: Ommadawn, Incantations, Five Miles Out, Voyager
Electric guitars
Danelectro/Coral Sitar An electric guitar with a special bridge to produce a buzzy sitar-like sound. Also used in: Islands, Guitars
1961 Fender Stratocaster, fiesta red Mike once said in an interview (The Raft) that this was his favourite guitar and that he'd never sell it. However, he finally decided to part company with it in December 2007 and sold it through Chandler guitars, fetching £30,000.
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Also used in: Discovery, Tubular Bells II, The Songs of Distant Earth, Voyager, Tubular Bells III, Tubular Bells 2003, Light + Shade
1966 Fender Telecaster This guitar used to be owned by Marc Bolan. Mike added an extra pickup - made by Bill Lawrence - to it, with the help of his dad in their garden shed. Mike later took all the finish off the guitar, leaving it as bare wood. Video
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Also used in: Tubular Bells, Ommadawn, Five Miles Out, Tubular Bells 2003
1957 Gibson Les Paul Junior This guitar was modified with a 2 octave fretboard. It was bought by a Scottish fan.
Photo Photo Photo Photo
Also used in: Ommadawn, Incantations, Five Miles Out, Discovery
Höfner Shorty Super "Tubular Bells Guitar" Travel guitar with built-in speaker. Presented to Mike by Virgin Records Germany for his 10th anniversary with them.
Photo Photo Photo Photo
PRS Signature A particularly high grade, limited edition, version of the Custom 24. In Vintage Yellow.
Photo Photo Photo
Also used in: Earth Moving, Tubular Bells II, The Songs of Distant Earth, Voyager, Tubular Bells III, Tubular Bells 2003, Light + Shade
Vox 'electric mandolin' This is actually a mini 12 string electric guitar. Borrowed from Tom Newman, it used to belong to Cat Stevens.
Nylon-string guitars
1974 Ramirez 1A Classical Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Also used in: The Orchestral Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn, Voyager, Tubular Bells 2003, Light + Shade
1975 Ramirez 1A Flamenco Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Also used in: Tubular Bells II, Tubular Bells 2003
Steel-string acoustic guitars
Martin 00-21NY Sold via Chandler Guitars to a Scottish fan in December 2007.
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
[?] This is likely the guitar used for the opening Fast Riff.

Also used in: Voyager, Tubular Bells 2003
Martin D-28-12 Serial number 335787. Sold to a German fan through Chandler Guitars in December 2007.
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Also used in: Ommadawn, Discovery, Tubular Bells III
Bass guitars
PRS Bass Guitar Also used in: Tubular Bells II
Guitar effects
Roland GP-8 Guitar effects processor used for Mike's trademark 90s distorted guitar sound. Sold via ebay in December 2007. Also used in: Tubular Bells II, The Songs of Distant Earth, Tubular Bells 2003
Pianos
Steinway Model B Studio grand piano. No 137655. When this piano was auctioned, it was listed as being a 6'11" piano, c.1910, with a rosewood case. Also used in: Tubular Bells 2003
Organs
Farfisa Professional Organ Photo
Having sold his original Farfisa organ, Mike obtained another in preparation for Tubular Bells II. He found it in a school for the disabled, and swapped it for his Yamaha DX7.

Also used in: Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn, Incantations, Crises, Tubular Bells II, Tubular Bells 2003
1970 Hammond L.122 Organ Also used in: Heaven's Open, Tubular Bells II, Tubular Bells 2003
Lowrey Organ Also used in: Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Tubular Bells II, Tubular Bells 2003
Vox Continental Organ
Synthesisers
Roland D-50 Linear Algorhythmic synthesiser keyboard. Mike told H & SR magazine that he'd used "a string sound and a bell-like sound" from the D50.

Also used in: Islands, Earth Moving, Heaven's Open, Tubular Bells II, The Songs of Distant Earth
Roland VP-330 Analogue vocoder keyboard, often also used for its string sound. Mike told H & SR Magazine that he'd used this on the album for "some robot voices".

Also used in: QE2, Five Miles Out, Crises, Discovery, The Killing Fields
Microphones
Bruel & Kjaer 4006 Small diaphragm omnidirectional condenser microphone.
Photo
Also used in: Heaven's Open, Voyager, Tubular Bells 2003
Bruel & Kjaer 4011 Small diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone. Also used in: Heaven's Open, Voyager, Tubular Bells 2003
Bruel & Kjaer 4040 Large diaphragm omnidirectional condenser microphone. Serial Number 001. Also used in: Heaven's Open, Voyager, Tubular Bells 2003
Studio effects and outboard
AMS Digital Delay Photo
Brooke Siren DPR502 MIDI controlled noise gate
Neve 1073 Mic Preamps Used on Amarok Also used in: Tubular Bells 2003
Quantec Room Simulator Digital reverb unit, released in 1982.
Photo
Also used in: Crises
Yamaha REV-7 Reverb unit.
Photo
Tape recorders
Sony PCM-3348 48 track digital multitrack tape recorder, recording to Ampex 467 1/2" oxide tape.
Photo
Also used in: Heaven's Open, Tubular Bells II, The Songs of Distant Earth, Voyager, Tubular Bells III
Mixing desks
Harrison Series X Photo
Also used in: Islands, Earth Moving, Heaven's Open, Tubular Bells II


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Articles

The Amarok Cover: David Porter interviews William Murray (1990)

Mike Oldfield Turns The Clock Back Computers: (1990)

Mike Oldfield on Amarok (1991)

Gareth Randall Interviews Mike Oldfield (1995)

Two Sides Sleeve Notes (2012)




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