fri 23/06/2017

CD: Mike Oldfield - Man on the Rocks | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Mike Oldfield - Man on the Rocks

CD: Mike Oldfield - Man on the Rocks

Musical recluse returns with a nearly decent album

Maybe it's just that nothing in Oldfield’s tropical hideaway gives him much to worry about
Oldfield: another day in paradise ...

After years of similar-sounding instrumental albums many Oldfield fans may have been expecting Tubular Bells 4. But his return to the Virgin label starts with a more intriguing proposition: Oldfield has teamed up with vocalist and Freddie Mercury lookalike, Luke Spiller from The Struts to record his first rock album for decades. So, then, could the presence of this Young Turk herald a new chapter for the old progger? It seems not. What might have been rather eccentric and charming, in the end, turns out to be mostly throwaway.

At least the videos offer fans a genuine treat - even if mainly from the weird spectacle of the two protagonists together. “Sailing” has Spiller pouting in various tropical settings whilst Oldfield strums alongside like a genial uncle (see overleaf). And then there’s an acoustic version of the title track of the two performing on what we guess is the composer’s Bahamian patio. 

As pieces of music, unfortunately, both tracks plod. Maybe it's just that nothing in Oldfield’s tropical hideaway gives him much to worry about. That, at least would explain such nonsense as "Every while I would remember/ the day we drank moonshine in the rain/ and raised our glasses to the wind”; a line to make even James Blunt wince 

"Castaway", "Nuclear", and "Chariots", however, are much, much better. In fact they come close to evoking Oldfield’s fertile mid-period with a little late Queen thrown in. "Castaway" has a pretty, dreamy, chill out feel; "Nuclear" has a grand, almost pomp sensibility; and "Chariots" is a funky, choppy number. All sound like a proper band at work, as opposed to what they actually are -  Skype collaborations between Oldfield and a bunch of guys in a studio in LA. It’s a real shame there wasn't more passion on this album as with more tracks like these it would have been pretty decent.

 

Overleaf: Watch Mike Oldfield's video for the single "Sailing"

 

Comments

Have just listened to the album. Your review is pretty spot on but I think it's worth mentioning that as a guitarist Oldfield is back to his best on this LP. His fans will be delighted with the change in direction but for those who really wanted a return to a complex instrumental piece a new generation of proggers are taking on the mantle. Try out Mohribold by Andrew Taylor for instance.

Hi Rick, I absolutely agree with you. I happen to be one of "those who really wanted a return to a complex instrumental piece", so THANK YOU for the brilliant recommendation regards checking out Mohribold by Andrew Taylor... Suffice to say I have just ordered the CD... Have you any other similar recommendations further to this? The more the merrier as I just can't get enough of this type of music! :-D

The reviewer ignores the fact that Oldfield actually is going through another divorce, so it's not all that paradise for him now.

I'd divorce him after this... Terrible album.

I kindly disagree. Having listened the album several times now, I have to say this is an album with very strong content in it. It is way better than I had courage to expect. Not a throwaway at all. This one seems to behave for me like many of the Oldfield albums: first you feel it to be a bit mediocre but then it grows never stopping. It is rewarding to discover new dimensions on each listen.

The Genuis is back! JK has it very right. When giving the CD more play, it opens in surprisingly freshful way. There really is hope in this music world of ours after all! Waiting for the gigs! Cheers to You all from Finland!

its a better album than this is a review. Casual backhanded contempt suits only the talented. This reviewer is immune from that category.

HEY RUSS COFFEY!!!! THIS IS FOR YOU!! This review is garbage, but I'm not here to point by point refute the nonsense, I just wanted to point out that I recall reading that the lyrics you are complaining about when referring to "Moonshine" are actually a memory of Mike's back when he used to get sloshed with his old friend Vivian Stanshall: "Every while I would remember/ the day we drank moonshine in the rain/ and raised our glasses to the wind”... For a memory to be expressed so well, i would think you should have a different perspective. You are not terribly in depth with an understanding, are you?

I consider "Moonshine" more of a tribute to Kevin Ayers, who died a year before this album was released. Mike Oldfield has reasons enough to write a song in memory of Kevin Ayers, because Kevin is at the base of Mike's career, when he lend out his B&O tape recorder on which Mike could make his demo for Tubular Bells. And Mike admired Kevin Ayers' relaxed lifestyle. In the song "Flying Start" on "Islands" Kevin appears and both sing about "drinking wine". So there is a link to the text in "Moonshine" too.

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