Wednesday, 10 February 2016

"Tubular Bells" by MIKE OLDFIELD (2009 Universal/Mercury 2CD/1DVD 'Deluxe Edition' Remasters) - A Review for Mark Barry...

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"...Two Slightly Distorted Guitars..." 

In the first half of 1973 - two chart-annihilating vinyl albums signalled a huge move away from 7" single-driven Rock to something longer and stronger – Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side Of The Moon" which landed on our doorsteps 1 March 1973 – and Mike Oldfield's Virgin Records debut LP  "Tubular Bells" which hit Blighty racks in its gorgeous and highly distinctive 'Bells and Sea' sleeve on 25 May 1973. Both albums have had longevity beyond the wildest dreams of either artist and with the hindsight of more than 40 years – remain iconic and still amaze.

Having said that - fans have had their fair-share of CD reissues for Mike Oldfield's densely overdubbed, side long instrumental musical soundscapes (the HDCD version in 2000 was one) – but this 2009 'Deluxe Edition' which offers Audio and Video finally does that tape consuming beasty a solid. Here are the Sailor's Hornpipes...

UK and USA released 8 June 2009 – "Tubular Bells: Deluxe Edition" by MIKE OLDFIELD on Universal/Mercury 270 354-1 (Barcode 0602527035413) is a 2CD/1DVD Reissue and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 – "The 2009 Stereo Mixes by Mike Oldfield" (56:02 minutes):
1. Tubular Bells (Part One)
2. Tubular Bells (Part Two)

3. Mike Oldfield's Single (A-side of a UK 7" single released June 1974 on Virgin VS 101. The original B-side "Froggy Went A Courtin'" (despised by Oldfield) is not on this reissue.

4. Sailor's Hornpipe (Original Version with Viv Stanshall) – Recorded in The Manor Studios in Oxfordshire in Spring 1973 – first appeared as part of "Collaborations" – the 4th LP in the 4LP "Boxed" Set UK issued October 1976 on Virgin VBOX 1.

Disc 2 – "The Original 1973 Stereo Album Mix" (48:48 minutes):
1. Tubular Bells (Part One)
2. Tubular Bells (Part Two)
Tracks 1 and 2 and Side 1 and the LP "Tubular Bells" – released 25 May 1973 in the UK and USA on Virgin V 2001

Disc 3 – DVD (All Regions) – 2009 5.1 Surround Sound Mixes by Mike Oldfield
1. Tubular Bells (Part One)
2. Tubular Bells (Part Two)
3. Mike Oldfield's Single
4. Sailor's Hornpipe (Original Version with Viv Stanshall)

Visual Content
1. Tubular Bells (Part One)
First broadcast as part of the series "2nd House" on BBC 2 – 1st December 1973

The glossy gatefold digipak has been well thought out – each flap with interesting memorabilia – the pregnant lady advert from the Zigzag newspaper advertising the birth of new 'Virgin Releases' – master tape boxes from CBS and BASF and a very well endowed 24-page booklet on the history of the album and its aftermath by Tape Engineer and Music Historian MARK POWELL. You get pictures of The Manor Studio in Oxfordshire – Oldfield with Kevin Ayers & The Whole World (circa 1970/1971), snaps of Producer Tom Newman and a camera-shy Richard Branson along with the ever present mixing desk and Oldfield surround as always by six million instruments.

MARK POWELL, MIKE OLDFIELD and PASCHAL BYRNE are the team of three that has handling the tapes with care because the Audio is gorgeous – clear and warm and full of presence. But I would say that after hearing the 2009 Stereo Version – the original 1973 version does seem a tad flat and more hissy – but the DVD 5.1 version that I've heard on a mate's sound system is simply awesome (far better that the Quadrophonic LP experience in 1974). The "Mike Oldfield Single" (issued in a "Tubular Bells Theme" picture sleeve in the UK June 1974) is based on the Celtic Tympani section on Side 2 with Oldfield having added Oboe and other instruments. And of course the use of the opening piano refrain in the horror movie of the moment "The Exorcist" gave the album considerable exposure and made that piece of music synonymous with the LP for decades to come.

When the first portion of Side One settles into that Acoustic Guitar around 4:07 only to crescendo a few seconds later – the effect is incredible. And those doubled-up high string guitars at 11:30 minutes leap out of the speakers only to be followed by the HUGE rock guitar piece. It all leads towards the layer-after-layer-of-instruments preceded by Viv Stanshall of The Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band acting as 'Master Of Ceremonies' as he introduces each instrument in that wonderfully posh and eclectic voice of his – magic. Fans will love those warbling guitars at 8:02 on Side 2 – the girly vocals mixing with the notes to beautiful effect – even if that Pilt Down Man voice still sounds decidedly creepy. And you gotta love Vivian Stanshall clearly drunk as a skunk on the original version of "Sailor's Hornpipe" as he discusses a painting in the Manor at some ungodly hour in the morning - deliberately slurring his words by the time he gets to the end (God bless him).

I wasn't expected the DVD to be so engaging. Never mind the 5.1 Surround Mix that really leaves the Quad LP from the 'Boxed' set in 1976 in the dust – the performance of the December 1973 concert is an absolute blast (if not a little ramshackle in places). A group of seven musicians are seated in dimly lit silhouette as the piano refrain starts (with a huge Showcase logo behind them). But then as they zoom in and the lights go on – we see Oldfield seated with his Bass Guitar and stripy shirt looking decidedly uncomfortable (grin and bear it baby). Unfortunately there are no credits at the end so you can't tell who the other six musicians are – but with guitars in their hands and other instruments – Side 1 becomes this strange entirely different entity 'live' - where their guitar flicks and piano flourishes differ wildly in some cases from his. A chorus of ladies join them for the acoustic fade out. They even try some ropey water footage in the centre of it as the bells shimmer. The image does get a tad blurry in places in that Seventies kind of way – but for fans this extra is an absolute treat.

"Hergest Ridge" would follow in 1974 and the wonderful "Ommadawn" in 1975 and thereafter a career that seems to have endlessly rehashed his 1973 magnum opus for every anniversary since. A great Deluxe Edition and a milestone in Rock Music's history...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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