Joined: April 2000
||Posted: May 26 2003, 17:12
Before I start my track-by-track analysis of the CD, I'd like to tell everyone that what follows is my own opinion. It's not the absolute truth, as I'm not Zarathustra and I don't claim to be him. I'd also like to state three points about the album:
1 - I never was a big fan of the music of Tubular Bells (I). It always sounded too complicated to me, even if I know that many people here praise it just for that. Plus, it sounds very redolent of its own time, and not easy to 'update' without damaging it.
2 - Dividing the CD into single tracks is a very bad idea. I know that Mike had nothing against it, but he also never explicitly said that he was for it. A result of this is that there's at least one track which makes a lot of sense as music, but no sense at all as a track. See below.
3 - When talking about this album for the first time, Mike said he wanted to re-record Tubular Bells mainly because he wanted to get rid of the 'imperfections' and the other things that weren't satisfactory to him when he first recorded it in 1973. But the final result is not a re-recording of Tubular Bells. It absolutely isn't. It is a brand-new recording, called "Tubular Bells 2003", of a musical work written by Mike Oldfield and first performed/released in 1973 as "Tubular Bells". "Tubular Bells 2003" as a musical work is very similar, in many points, to "Tubular Bells", but it's not the same thing. So a comparison between TB2003 (the album) and TB (the album) is not only useless, it's dangerous, because it can hamper the enjoyment of Tubular Bells 2003 as a wholly independend musical work.
Having premitted all this, here I go.
Introduction: Very good. The world-famous main theme is flowing and hypnotically repetitive without being obsessive, the sounds are sharp and precise (especially the organ chords) and the climax is great. In one word: perfect.
Fast guitars: Very good. Those bleeps at the start remind me a bit of the thunderstorm in HR, a nice memory nudge. The rest is just Mike at his best.
Basses: So-and-so. A bit too heavy. Maybe a single-instrument line, without overdubs, would've been better.
Latin: Good. I like the synthetized stuff, and also the whole percussion thing going on in the background. Plus, another perfect climax. (Note the famous 'taped motor drive amplifier organ chord'.)
A minor tune: Very good. Musically, one of the best movements in the whole work. The mixture of old and new sounds that Mike chose to play it may sound a bit TresLunas-y, but I find it very suitable.
Blues: Good. Is this a blues? Doesn't sound like it is. But it's of course a classical example of Mike's wonderful guitar playing.
Thrash: Very good. Metal Mike!!! "Shadow on the wall" meets "Outcast" with a strong Zeppelin flavour. Great. A bit short, maybe.
Jazz: G. Bad idea to put this as a track of its own, because it's the natural continuation of what came before. Another nice percussion backing.
Ghost bells: As a link piece, good. As a CD track, bad. I can't think of any reason why anyone would want to play this on its own, except, maybe, to sample the sound. But there are sound effects CDs that may serve this purpose much better.
Russian: Apart from the title (Mike yet again using the title 'Russian' for something unrelated to Russia...), another very good section. Extremely clear sounds, very fitting to the melancholy mood of the piece. The guitar countermelodies, first appearing on the Boxed version of TB, are a welcome reappearance here.
Finale: From a musical point of view, very very good, the first of the two best tracks on the CD. Each of the instruments is given its due relevance when it's its turn, and the final climax with the bells (and the choir) sounds as powerful as ever. But John Cleese's voice in some points sounds forced, just like he was trying to be deliberately comical. I've heard many people saying that being intentionally comical, i.e. doing or saying something with the intention of making people laugh about it, is very hard to do, even for professionals. And even a consummate professional like Cleese succeeds 70% in doing it, but not 100%.
Harmonics: Very good. The flute going up there, on top of everything else, is one the musical highlights of Tubular Bells as a whole.
Peace: Very very very good, the other one of the CD's best tracks. I might be a very sentimental guy, sometimes even a bit corny, but I just love Mike when he goes romantic like this. And then at the end it just rises up in the sky with yet another of his wonderful crescendos... into...
Bagpipe guitars: Good. Maybe not powerful as 'expected' (see point 3 above), but very well crafted in its overlaying of the melodic lines. Then the acoustic guitar comes in, and we are suddenly taken into a brand-new rendition of the classic 'Mike Oldfield's Single'... and then the bagpipes come in again... and they go away... wonderful.
Caveman: Very good. Funnier than all the previous versions of Mike's caveman. Yes, it's two voices, and the second is not Mike's. Listening to the track, I got a vague feeling of knowing whose it is.
Ambient guitars: Good. Mike's new-age facet shows up very nicely here. Its relevance, or its being fitting/unfitting to the whole thing can, of course, be argued upon, but it's there, and I think that we should simply accept the fact that it's there.
Hornpipe: Very good. Only thing is that the catchy folk feeling of this piece derives a lot from its being mainly acoustic, even if not totally unplugged (the Farfisa organ is there, but in the background). So what is that electric guitar doing there at the end? Shouldn't Mike have kept it acoustic all the way through?
Overall score: 9/10. A nice addition to the TB trilogy, and an essential part of any Mike collection.
This is all. Now you're all free to attack me.
Edited by Ugo on May 26 2003, 17:16
Ugo C. - a devoted Amarokian