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CD: Tubular Brass - Tubular Bells | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Tubular Brass - Tubular Bells

CD: Tubular Brass - Tubular Bells

Superb brass recreation of a 1970s classic, with added baluphonium

A witty reimagining: Tubular Brass

The best music is always ripe for reinvention, though for every disc of Kraftwerk songs performed in mambo style there's a collection of Beatles hits massacred on pan pipes. Happily, Sandy Smith’s superb brass band version of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is a triumph. Mostly it's based on composer David Bedford’s 1974 orchestral arrangement, Smith adding details taken from Oldfield's various recordings. Oldfield's original is the product of one musician and lots of tape, but this one uses 28 brass players plus Hannah Peel on synthesizers. It lives, moves and breathes in a very different way, and there’s something very comforting, very analogue about the sound of a crack brass band at full tilt.

The fun comes in hearing Smith’s disparate brass voices tightly meshed together or arguing the toss. Oldfield’s opening keyboard solo loses nothing when played by a gaggle of cornets, the 7/8 time signature handled with ease. The bass line sounds magnificent on sonorous low brass. The “Blues” section in Part 1 resembles a mariachi number, and the dense chords in “Ghost Bells” will make your windows rattle. Viv Stanshall’s narration in the final section is handled by TV chef and professional Yorkshireman Brian Turner, suitably incisive when intoning words like "glockenspiel" and "baluphonium". Listening through headphones allows us to hear the tuba ostinato flitting from left to right.

“Caveman” becomes an invigorating stomp, and Peel’s proggy synth improvisation in “Ambient Guitars” feels utterly right. As does the “Sailor’s Hornpipe”, providing a defiantly unpompous finale. Britain’s brass band tradition rarely receives the credit or attention it deserves – most of Tubular Brass's members are amateurs, doing it for love. Buy this disc and be amazed. Then go and hear the music live – further performances are scheduled throughout the coming summer.

Overleaf - watch the video promo for Tubular Brass

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