Music of Mike Oldfield

I have long enjoyed the music of Mike Oldfield and I am sure I am not alone.

I know very little about music, I just know what I like. My question is that is this music technically good?

I was thinking of starting a Mike Oldfield appreciation thread myself. I’ve been a longtime fan, all the way back since Tubular Bells was released.

As far as being technically good, I don’t really know and I’m not sure it matters. Does it make music any less great is it’s more difficult to play?

I’m like you, I know what I like, and I like Mike Oldfield.

I’ve always liked Tubular Bells, but any of the rock stuff where he’s singing is questionable at best.:frowning:

It depends what you mean by ‘technically’ any good.

As a composer, Oldfield was responsible in his early years for some very interesting, ambitious and original fusions of ideas. He took the standard rock guitarist’s vocabulary and used it to serve a more ‘classical’ sensibility towards extended instrumental composition, with repeated themes and harmonies explored using an ingenious array of voices and styles - including some combinations so innovative they could only be described as ‘Oldfield-esque’. His early work most definitely achieved some new ground, and at its best was able to convey a very rich and impressive range of emotional texture.

Although to many ‘rock’ fans the music seemed to have ‘classical’ leanings, Oldfield used very few tools of classical composition. Though he often repeated themes, he never cared to develop them as a classical composer would, nor was he inclined to explore harmonic development. However, there was no doubting his truly stunning gift for melodic invention, and at times his talent for arrangment and the complex ‘layering’ of voices could be breathtaking - and certainly represented a massive step forward for what was termed ‘progressive’ rock.

If nothing else, he certainly achieved what all composers aim for - to develop his own inimitable style, sound and mode of expression for his ideas and responses to his world.

After his first three rather spectacular albums, including the mightily impressive ‘Ommadawn’, a patchy and rather unsuccessful collaboration with David Bedford on ‘Incantations’ encouraged Oldfield to think about new directions, with less emphasis on extended, dense instrumental textures and more room for simpler arrangements, often stripped down to rock’s basics of lead, bass and percussion, and the inclusion of lyrics. Mike has had his hits and successes, but to my mind this can’t hide the fact that his strongest and most distinctive gifts do lie in the arena where he found fame - extended instrumental composition for a rock-inflected ‘orchestra’ - rather than writing 3 minute songs.

So far I’ve really been talking about Oldfield the composer. As a rock guitarist, he is one seriously impressive contender. Not only is his technical proficiency a match for almost any other rock guitarist you care to mention, but his ability to coax forth highly melodic lines as well as every emotion from raw anger to sublime poetry is worthy of far more recognition than he ever receives. The populist compilations of ‘greatest guitar heroes’ and suchlike never feature Oldfield’s name, but he quite definitely belongs in the pantheon of great rock guitarists.

Wow. I knew I liked him. Now I know why. :slight_smile:

Thanks, ianzin, for the excellent critique.

Do Rick Wakeman next.

Ommadawn and Incantations - great albums. Yeah, his singing puts me off as well… :wink:

Oh good, a Mike thread!

My father-in-law is a composer and retired music teacher. (He’s 86, but has a brain of a 20 year old.) I played him a lot of Mike stuff, and he pointed out a lot of things (such as the layered introduction of instruments on Incantations) that I had never noticed, being a music illiterate. He did think “The Top of the Morning” on TB III was
very nice, as do I.

There is a Mike mailing list for those of you who are interested. I was an active member 8 or 9 years ago, but I dropped out from lack of time.

Favorit albums? Mine is TB II, followed closely by Ommadawn and Amorak.