Exorcist required for classical Tubular Bells
ON his first completely classical outing, Mike Oldfield falters by leaning too heavily on his past. The criticism that Oldfield has never moved beyond his 1973 hit Tubular Bells is generally made by those who have never heard works such as the masterful Ommadawn ( 1975), the incomparable Incantations ( 1978), the chaotically brilliant 60- minute track Amarok ( 1990) and the epically space age The Songs of Distant Earth ( 1994). Each of these was so intricately constructed, so full of layered melodies, motifs and instrumental climaxes that, even after countless plays, they continue to reveal new facets. Music of the Spheres , on the other hand, will play right into the hands of Oldfield detractors who maintain that he had only one idea, which he constantly reiterates. I’m not sure who Music of the Spheres will appeal to. Its 14 tracks are far too episodic to mean very much to classical purists and its onedimensional structure is likely to alienate fans of his normally more complex fare. At least three of the tracks ( Harbinger , The Tempest and Harbinger Reprise ) are restatements of the opening theme of Tubular Bells , admittedly with some fine variations, perhaps courtesy of a solid helping hand from conductor Karl Jenkins. Only the gorgeous Silhouette , which harks back to the kind of thumping short- form instrumental Oldfield was tossing out in the 1980s like confetti, will cause a swoon. Also excellent is On My Heart , which features Hayley Westenra. But far too much of Music of the Spheres is pleasantly orchestrated soundtrack fare, with a couple of lovely themes, zillions of scales on the piano courtesy of noted but under- used pianist Lang Lang, and altogether too much Tubular Bells .