Milking a Dead Horse
Like it or not, Mike Oldfields "Tubular Bells" was and is a highly influential album. Not a hugely unique album by any measure but certainly well known and respected as an experimental, progressive, concept etc. recording. When released in 1973 it was successful enough to launch Oldfields career, helped on by its inclusion in the score of the film "The Exorcist", which is probably what it is most famous for.
In 1975, an orchestral version of Tubular Bells was released. Performed by the Royal Symphony Orchestra, it was greeted with mixed reviews, although most would agree that its a harmless gimmicky album that does no more harm than to add a twist to the original.
In 1993 Oldfield released one of my personal favorite albums, Tubular Bells II. He had always openly expressed his ill feelings about the quality and performance of certain sections of the original Tubular Bells and this new album allowed him, not to reproduce note for note the original, but breath new life into the overall concept of the original. Its a wonderfully executed album, reusing just enough themes from the original for it to be called "Tubular Bells" and yet deviating enough for it to stand on its own feet. This was again, and quite rightfully so, another successful album for Oldfield.
Just five years later in 1998, in a seemingly cynical move to cash in on his earlier successes, Oldfield released the abysmal Tubular Bells III. Panned by critics, panned by all but the hardest of fans, Tubular Bells III is a cacophony of shite. Conceptually irrelevant and musically dire, it is a dated mishmash of new age techno with Oldfield rehashing old themes from not just the Tubular Bell albums.
An even more bizarre album was released by Oldfield a year later. Called "The Millennium Bell" and sporting similar artwork, it was obviously designed to take advantage of the interest surrounding the three Tubular Bell albums. Musically however this had nothing similar and seemed to be nothing more than a collection of kooky new age tunes. It again was snubbed by most.
Finally in 2003, Oldfield released "Tubular Bells 2003", a rerecording of the original Tubular Bells score. Oldfield described the album as being what the original would have sounded like if he had the time, the money and the technology back in 1973. Certainly its a great sounding album, it bleeched off all the warts from the original. Unfortunately it was some of those warts that gave it the "Bell's" feel and character that everyone fell in love with. It not strictly true to the original either. The distorted "Basses" part of the original is still there (and disapointingly, still 30 seconds too long) but now he's added in subtle "Metallica" power chords underneat, completely ruining the point of the piece. Unlike some of people I totally enjoy John Cleese as Master of Ceremonies on the album. As rerecordings go, itss pretty good, but it's still a rerecording nonetheless.
Also worth mentioning, Mike Oldfield has repeatidly dipped into Tubular Bell's to provide inspiration for his other albums. Most recently, his 2007 album, The Music of Spheres, has a strickingly similar opening to the main Tubular Bell's theme. A theme which, on a final note, has always been just a musical phrase by JS Bach played backwards.
Posted at 14:10