Additional notes from Richard Carter
Notes On The Instruments
Electric guitars - Mike continued to use his PRS Custom and red Fender Stratocaster as his main electric guitars. Somewhere between the time of him recording this album and Tubular Bells 3, Mike acquired a PRS Custom 24, into which he had installed a Roland GK2A pickup system (got all the numbers here...). Mike uses this pickup to connect the guitar to a Roland VG8 virtual guitar modeling processor. This is similar in idea to a guitar synthesiser, although technically it isn't synthesising as it uses the waveform produced by the guitar strings/pickup as its starting point (just so you know...). The unit is capable of recreating the sounds of all manner of guitars, amplifiers and effects units via digital modeling, although a feature used by Mike a fair amount is its ability to create the sounds of other instruments. Several tracks on Voyager use the unit to create the sounds of whistles and bagpipes.
Mandolin - Used a lot on 'Dark Island'. By the time of this album, Mike was using a mandolin built by Scottish instrument builder Mike Vanden.
Notes On The Musicians
Maire Breatnach - Has played on all sorts of albums including those by The Chieftains and Riverdance, as well as releasing her own solo albums. Maire plays fiddle, viola, whistles, piano and keyboards, guitar and vocals. She probably contributes the fiddle to Voyager.
Noel Eccles - Irish percussionist who has worked with The Chieftains, Liam O'Flynn, Van Morrison and The Corrs, amongst others. Played percussion for Riverdance and has played on the soundtracks of numerous films including Room With A View and Mask.
Liam O' Flynn - Uillean piper. Has released several solo albums and has also played with the likes of Kate Bush, Enya, Mark Knopfler and The Everly Brothers. Founder member of 'Planxty'.
Seán Keane - Vocalist and Fiddler. Has played with The Corrs, Mark Knopfler, James Galway and currently plays with the Chieftains. Brother of Irish singer Dolores Keane. Also played in the band Arcady, alongside Johnny 'Ringo' McDonough, who played Bodhran on 'Exposed'.
Matt Molloy - Highly regarded Irish flautist and Tin Whistle player, who has played with artists like The Chieftains (the band which he is currently with), The Bothy Band, James Galway and Van Morrison.
John Myers - Whistle player and Fiddler, once played with Shane McGowan's group 'The Popes'. He may have played either tin whistle or fiddle on Voyager.
Davy Spillane - Player of Uillean Pipes and Low Whistles, born in Dublin, Ireland, founded the band Moving Hearts before going on to become a solo artist. Davy has played on numerous soundtracks and also featured on Riverdance, as well as having collaborated with many other artists, such as Van Morrison, Kate Bush, Steve Winwood and Enya. Davy Spillane also makes his own pipes and whistles. More information on Davy and his instruments can be found on his website. Davy may have played either Uillean pipes or the Low whistle on Voyager.
Information on Pat Walsh seems to be a bit thin on the ground. The AMG All Music guide lists him as having done vocals on the album. However, as it lists all the musicians as being vocalists, and also claims that Bill Smith (designer of the cover) played guitar on the album, I would rather question its accuracy (and not for the first time...).
In 1992, after leaving Virgin, Mike signed a three album contract with Warner records. Voyager, as the last of the three, was recorded to finish this contract off. The suggestion of doing a Celtic album came from the record company, who no doubt had in mind the popularity of acts such as 'Riverdance' at the time. Mike liked the idea, feeling that Celtic music was 'easy' for him, as his natural way of playing music is rooted in celtic playing styles.
What emerged was a very calm, relaxed album, with this feel influenced by Mike's then recent discoveries of meditations and Tai Chi.
'The Song of the Sun' was written by Bieito Romero, piper of Galician group 'Luar na Lubre'. Mike first met the group in 1992 and has since had a good relationship with them. The tune of 'O Son do Ar' (the track's Galician name), stuck in Mike's head, making it seem an obvious choice for him to cover for the album. Take a look at the group's website for more information on them.
Händel's sarabande from his Suite no 4 for harpsichord in D minor is incorporated into 'Women of Ireland' (the tune is played on a guitar synth sound between 2:30 and 3:00). The piece, arranged for orchestra, was used as the theme music to Stanley Kubrick's film 'Barry Lyndon' which also featured music by The Chieftains, who provided the tune 'Women of Ireland', amongst others. Like with 'Dark Island', although 'Women of Ireland' is credited in Voyager's sleeve notes as being traditional, it seems that it was actually written by Seán Ó Riada, leader of 'Ceoltóirí Cualann', a group which featured several musicians who branched off to form 'The Chieftains'. 'Women of Ireland' first featured on Ceoltóirí Cualann's 1964 album 'Ó Riada Sa Gaiety', under its Irish name of 'Mná na h Éireann'. The Chieftains later played it on their fourth album (the imaginatively titled ' The Chieftains 4') in 1973.
Mike Oldfield, being a fan of Stanley Kubrick's films, almost certainly heard the two pieces of music on the 'Barry Lyndon' soundtrack.
Though 'Dark Island' is listed in the sleeve notes as being a traditional tune, it seems that it was written in 1958 by Iain McLachlan, under the title 'Dr. Mackay's Farewell to Creagorry', a lament for a doctor on the island of Benbecula where McLachlan lived. Words were then added by David Silver for when the tune was used as the theme music to the 1963 BBC TV Thriller 'The Dark Island'.
© Richard Carter 2002