Michael Gordon Oldfield (born 15 May 1953) is a British musician, songwriter, and producer best known for his debut studio album Tubular Bells (1973), which became an unexpected critical and commercial success. Though primarily a guitarist, Oldfield plays a range of instruments, which includes keyboards, percussion, and vocals. He has adopted a range of musical styles throughout his career, including progressive rock, world, folk, classical, electronic, ambient, and new age music.
Oldfield took up the guitar at age ten and left school in his teens to embark on a music career. From 1967 to 1970, he and his sister Sally Oldfield were a folk duo The Sallyangie, after which he performed with Kevin Ayers. In 1971, Oldfield started work on Tubular Bells which caught the attention of Richard Branson, who agreed to release it on his new label, Virgin Records.
Its opening was used in the horror film The Exorcist and the album went on to sell over 2.7 million copies in the UK. Oldfield followed it with Hergest Ridge (1974), Ommadawn (1975), and Incantations (1978), all of which feature longform and mostly instrumental pieces.
In the late 1970s, Oldfield began to tour and release more commercial and song-based music, beginning with Platinum (1979), QE2 (1980), and Five Miles Out (1982). His most successful album of this period was Crises (1983), which features the worldwide hit single “Moonlight Shadow” with vocalist Maggie Reilly.
After signing with WEA in the early 1990s, Oldfield’s most significant album of the decade was Tubular Bells II (1992) and he experimented with virtual reality and gaming content with his MusicVR project. In 2012, he performed at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games held in London. Oldfield’s discography includes 26 studio albums, nine of which have reached the UK top-ten. His most recent album is Return to Ommadawn (2017).
Return to Ommadawn is the twenty-sixth studio album by English musician and songwriter Mike Oldfield. It was released on 20 January 2017 on Virgin EMI Records and is the sequel to his 1975 album Ommadawn. The CD/DVD-Audio set contains a 5.1 surround sound mix of the album.
In March 2014, Oldfield released his album Man on the Rocks, which marked a diversion from his traditional long-form, instrumental style of music as it comprised standard rock songs with vocals. When Oldfield started on his next album he took to social media, asking fans what sort of album they would like from him. He found that the majority of people who responded wished for a long-form, acoustic-oriented one similar to that of his first three: Tubular Bells (1973), Hergest Ridge (1974), and Ommadawn (1975), and learned that the latter had become a particular favourite among fans. This influenced Oldfield to record a sequel to Ommadawn which had been on his mind for some time; his 1990 album Amarok was originally going to be Ommadawn II before the material “went off in its own direction” and the idea was shelved. In addition, Oldfield wished to make the sequel after he logged into an online chat with French musician Jean-Michel Jarre, who said that he was a fan of Oldfield’s music and wished to collaborate with him, but considered his music “too acoustic”. Oldfield recalled: “This got me thinking. If someone like him believes I’m an acoustic musician, then it showed how important that part of my career has been.”
On 16 October 2015, Oldfield posted on his Twitter account that he had started working on music for “a new Ommadawn” for the past week to see if the concept “actually works”. Oldfield was aware of the popularity of Hergest Ridge and used the album for inspiration for Return to Ommadawn. This was the case for the introduction, whereby a folk melody was to start the piece before Oldfield changed it to a more atmospheric one. Ideas were explored further in subsequent weeks, and Oldfield began recording in December 2015 at his home studio in Nassau, Bahamas. Early on, Oldfield realised that he was out of practise in his guitar technique, as his fingertips had softened, causing pain when playing. He focused on the instrument for three weeks to get up to scratch.
Oldfield began by gathering the necessary instruments that he intended to play on the album and arrange his studio into an environment that he could work in. This involved the purchase of a mandolin, ukulele, and bodhrán. He then decided to record in time with a wind-up metronome, as opposed to a programmed click track, and set up his workspace and Pro Tools software to resemble a 24-track machine that he had used in the 1970s. Oldfield had used Logic Pro software but found it increasingly unreliable, which prompted him to switch to Pro Tools and invest in larger, 4K resolution screens, which allowed him to view a 20-minute piece on one display without scrolling. Oldfield played sections of the album to his two sons for feedback; one suggested that a part sounded too busy and should instead feature just one instrument, which Oldfield took onboard and has bits that feature one guitar. As with the original Ommadawn, Oldfield left mistakes in the recording to retain a human quality to the music as opposed to a highly produced sound.
In May 2016, Oldfield stated on Facebook that the album was finished and that an official release date had yet to be confirmed. Towards the end of recording in late 2016, the Bahamas suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew, which caused extensive damage to Oldfield’s home, resulting in loss of main power for three weeks. When the album was finished, Oldfield delivered the recordings to Virgin EMI using a backup Internet connection through a small satellite dish installed on his roof. The transfer took around 24 hours due to the low speeds. On 7 December 2016, Oldfield announced a release date of 20 January 2017. On the same day, a 3-minute excerpt aired on Steve Wright’s afternoon show on BBC Radio 2.
Return to Ommadawn is Oldfield’s first album since Incantations (1978) that follows the format of having one track per side of vinyl simply titled “Part One” and “Part Two”.
On Metacritic the album has a score of 64 out of 100 based on reviews from 7 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. It charted at number 1 in Spain. (wikipedia)
British multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield offers up this warmly crafted sequel to his 1975 classic Ommadawn, marking a return to a more organic style of composing. After polling fans online about what type of approach they’d like to hear, Oldfield was overwhelmingly urged to revisit the acoustic style heard on his first three albums. Eager for the challenge, he spent nearly a year in his studio crafting what would become 2017’s Return to Ommadawn, an instrumental meditation on the prog-folk fantasy world he’d originally imagined four decades prior. A true solo effort, Oldfield plays every instrument on the record, which is divided into “Part I” and “Part II,” each lasting about 20 minutes in a nod to the original’s vinyl format.
A pleasing blend of Celtic, folk, and rock elements using a multitude of acoustic and electric guitars, old-school keyboards, mandolins, whistles, and hand drums, Return to Ommadawn is thoughtful in its construction, unfurling in a dreamy fantasia that indeed recalls Oldfield’s early days, but softened with the nostalgia of accumulated age. The emotional arc of the album is subtly instituted with the gentler peaks of “Part I” eventually becoming quite majestic in the final two movements of “Part II.” Oldfield’s Ommadawn is an enchanted place and this lush revisitation both honors his initial creation and neatly extends its boundaries. (by Timothy Monger)
01. Return To Ommadawn Pt. I 21.09
02. Return To Ommadawn Pt. II 20.58
Music: Mike Olfield
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