George Starostin's Reviews



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Mike DeFabio <> (26.08.2000)

You know it, buddy! This album is quite incredible. It's NOT new age, like most people will tell you, but is really well-written and completely listenable prog-rock, if you wanna slap a big fat label on it. The whole first half has NO DRUMS, and yet parts of it rock as hard as anything Zeppelin ever did. The parts that don't are gorgeous. That part in the second half with the crazy death-metal screaming? That's an incredible song! I love it! And it's not the howling that does it for me (it scared the pants off me when I was a kid), it's that poppy melody underneath it. He wrote and played this whole album at the age of NINETEEN! I mean, sure, Mozart wrote his first symphony when he was like 2 or something, but teenagers writing this kind of thing don't just fall out of the sky these days. I give it... a really high rating.

Ivan Piperov <> (26.10.2000)

Music, structure, instrumentaton and emotion...all of this and something very special and maybe even moving is treasured within this brilliant, totally revolutionary one-man tour de force recording.(personal too) The music is so strong, that even the midi-version rules! I give it a solid 10, and regard Mike Oldfield's composition and guitar playing abilities at least as high as Frank Zappa's.

David Lyons <> (15.12.2000)

Lyons Patented Pointless (and, this case, factually lacking) Fact. The exorcist-y bit, is something by a famous composer (possibly mozart, although it might not be) played backwards. So there you go

Scott Crawford <> (08.03.2001)

To add to the little half-fact above from David Lyons....

The intro is in fact from Bach's Toccata and Fugue, and it is INVERTED, not backwards.

Stephen Patterson <> (14.03.2001)

You said that you consider the two Tubular Bells sequels vastly inferior?

This may be very true of the Third, but go back and listen to Tubular Bells 2. Myself and Many other fans and critics alike consider it to be Far better than the original. Along the lines of Neil young - Harvest Moon is better, but Harvest gets the 'all time classic' tag. So have a listen if you haven't already, Tubular Bells 2 is an excellent compliment to the First, AND outshines it considerably.

although i must say as a side note that Amarok is by far his Masterpiece, musically, Inventively, and Technically. (plus its hilarious in parts) If you haven't heard it already - i advise you to do so.

Addison Holmes <> (28.08.2002)

Just to fill you in: the voice introducing the instruments on the first side is Vivian Stanshall, who possessed, it was widely claimed, the most beautiful speaking voice in England. The wolf sound was Mike screaming into the microphone drunk, and then halving the speed on play back.

Fernando Henrique Canto <> (29.09.2003)

I have to make a confession... *sigh* After all those nervous comments on the Rush board... It was thanks to your reviews page that I got into Mike Oldfield. Now go ahead, fire at will. I have turned into a big Mike Oldfield fan, and that's no surprise, considering I was a big fan of Jean-Michel Jarre, and they kinda go together (yet Mike says everything Jarre does is crap. Oh, such an arrogant dork.) Tubular Bells is easily one of his best albums (I still consider it his second best), and I like it very dearly. Yet I have to disagree with you when it comes to the emotional ressonance this album causes. For me, the big reason why this album is amazing *is* the emotional ressonance. After all, Mike was a very troubled kid when he made this record, and I can feel *all* those ugly feelings of angst and frustration on this record. It's everywhere, even on the silly 'Sailor's Hornpipe' album closer. And of course, the music itself is brilliantly written, as usual. There are lots of parts on here that I love: the crescendo at the beginning of the album, into the mandoline melody with the glorious ascending organ chord; the finale of side one (duh); the first 7 minutes of side two, culminating in a gorgeous mandoline melody - this is, actually, one of my absolute favourite moments of Oldfield music ever. All of that, combined with the *huge* revolutionary impact this album had, make this album an absolute classic. Mind you, if *I* was in charge of your site, Mike would be on a regular page with a rating of three, with Tubular Bells rating as an absolute ten. But then, I can only rate it that big on my site, so whatever.

One side note: I think Tubular Bells II is lame, lame, lame; a horrible follow-up to such a classic. It's lifeless, artificial and horribly dated by some cheesy synths. Uck, I'll stop rambling now.


Scott Crawford <> (26.10.2000)

Just a quick note to clarify the matter of the two different mixes of Hergest Ridge.  The original mix has never been released on CD as of this time, and is only available on early vinyl editions.  I would usually agree with you on your point about nitpicky changes in mixing, but in this case, the mixes are quite a bit different.  In some parts, instrumentation is completely changed, and others, some parts are completely removed. which greatly changes the music.  In case you're wondering, the easy way to tell which mix you have is to listen at about 4:00 on part one.  If you hear a climax that leads to a cymbal clash and a little trumpet melody, you have the original mix, if you just hear wondering guitars, you have the new mix.

Ivan Piperov <> (26.10.2000)

You make the same mistake as many critics did in the 70'es, comparing this to the debut just because it's two long pieces again. HR is a more stand-alone affair again, but totally different too. Well, you've shown all the good what do you want?! I'd happily give it an eight.

Fernando H. Canto <> (20.03.2003)

*yawn* This kid never gives up sending comments to every Mike Oldfield album ever released, eh? Just wait until we get to Tubular Bells III, if we ever get there. Anyway, I have to say that your review leaves me quite brokenhearted. I'll be frank here and say the biggest problem with Hergest Ridge is the way people treated it, and still treat it now. It is NOT a sequel to Tubular Bells, and it wasn't even intented to be. Mike wasn't in a good frame of mind when he made this album. The success of his debut freaked him out, and Richard Branson was pressuring him to write another album. Mike didn't want to, but he surrended eventually, and wrote Hergest Ridge. Yes, it's not as impressive as the previous album, it lacks boldness of spirit, etc. etc. But I love it! 'Cause it's astonishingly beautiful! The complexity of the melodies deserve merit, and if you listen closely, Mike uses the same melody several times, and you don't realise it because they sound different. The songwriting here is refined, with eyebrow-raising chord changes (the choir section in part one spring to mind, and the opening of part two), extra instruments (oboe, trumpet, etc.), and taste, you know. I don't care if there are fewer sections and more repetition: I'm fully able to enjoy repetitive pieces and hundred-things-per-minute stuff. I really like this album. Really, really like it. This might be a personal thing, but I award it a whooping four stars (or 12/15). And the two mixes thing: I never cared for the original mix, because you can only find it in early LP pressings. There are more instruments, and were put there as an afterthought, to make the album less repetitive and more "accessible" (commercial).


Carlos Ubilla <> (15.01.2001)

I like very much Ommadawn. I first listened to Tubular Bells, and I liked it instantly. Then I listened Ommadawn, and I liked it too, but then I liked Tubular Bells best. However, Ommadawn grown on me and now I like it better than Tubular Bells. I think it is more subtle and folksy than Tubular Bells. By example, about 7:50 - 8:00 minutes of the first part. I guess it drives more pleasant emotions on me than Tubular Bells. Something I would like to be confirmed by other commentators, is that the part you find boring and that 'do very little' (first 6 minutes of part 2) is not synthesizer noodling; they are overdubbed guitars (I am not sure where I read this). Finally I agree with you on the controversial part: I like "On Horseback" as an epilogue. I don't agree with the people that disdain and/or complain about such things of our nature. After all, we are only human, aren't we?

Paul Kaye <> (02.09.2002)

I'm surprised you don't talk more about "the bagpipes section" - it's the highlight of the whole disc for me, an achingly beautiful piece of Irish Uillean piping - it got me more interested in bagpipe music in general and made me realise the harsh screech of the highland (Scottish) pipes are an anomaly. I've discovered a lot of music through this that I would really hate to be without. I love Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn, but never liked his later stuff as much, but then I've not heard Incantations or Amarok, which are both recommended here and which I might now try.

Fernando Henrique Canto <> (29.09.2003)

I was reading through Mike's forums at the fan site, and I was shocked seeing the quantity of people that popped in, saying Ommadawn is their favourite album *ever*. Wow. I certainly love this album, but not *that* much. I sincerely don't see what's so good about it, but I rate it higher than you. It's clear to see how Mike got more interested in making his albums more cohesive and better flowing, and while this makes the ride a bit smoother, I think it involuntarily reduces the number of "highlight" moments. On here, if there is a highlight, then *everything* is a highlight. And I think the whole of side one *is* a true highlight. Very, very beautiful. And side two has that beautiful bagpipes playing... wow! Certainly one of Mike's best, I give it... four stars.

And will you stop calling Mike's music "ambient"? Darn it! 'Woodhenge' is ambient, Ommadawn isn't! Sheesh.


Fernando H. Canto <> (20.03.2003)

I might be the freak here, but I do like this album as something you must "concentrate" upon, as much as I let it flow as background music. It works both ways. This album might be the *real* beginnings of New Age, in that it sounds *very* New Agey in several parts (think of the beginning of part 4). It is repetitive, very repetitive, and all that. And there is an unexplainable gorgeousness running through it... Those little themes and stuff... Yes, this album is awesome. I was blown away when I listened to it for the first time. I didn't expect so much stuff. Part one works as an overture of sorts, with a great use of the string sections, the long "Diana, Luna, Lucina" part... One thing, though: if that is supposed to be Latin, why do they sing "D-eye-ana"? I didn't think the Latin "i" sounded like "eye". Oh, well, part two has a bit of an ominousness in its subtlety, but I do think the Hiawata's Departure part was overdone. Part three has a wonderful guitar melody along with the aboryginal stuff, and a great rock section with synths and all. The drummer of Gong plays here! Mike had connections with several of those avantgarde bands that recorded in The Manor: along with Gong, there is Henry Cow, and - of course - The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (Vivian Stanshall). He was even featured in a Gong album, and in a Henry Cow album, too. But anyway, part four has those New Age-ish harps and xylophones and stuff, and the ending is quite great, too. Great album, one of my all time Oldfield favourites. Serious! One great thing is that if you love one bit of this music, you're bound to listen to it many times! Heh heh. Four stars and a half, from me (13/15).


<> (14.06.2001)

I think Platinum is a great record, but if you are looking for the best version of the 'Platinum' Side, look for the Live version on The Complete Mike Oldfield - as it far outshines the studio version, IMHO.

p.s. The Track 'Sally' wasn't about his Sister - It was about his then wife, Sally Cooper.

Joe Lamb <> (25.04.2002)

Re: your Platinum review.

Or rather, the added comment after it.

Oldfield and Sally Cooper never married. ;')

Also, The reason that the original *Sally* was withdrawn was that Richard Branson thought it was too weird.

(Vocals were slightly vocoder-ed or similarly distorted and the chorus ran... "Sally, I'm just a gorilla. I'll say I'll love you evermore. Even an ape from Manilla, couldn't stop me knocking on your door.")

It had (or has) one of the finest of Oldfield's *in song* solos ever, which related back to the Platinum side of the album and foreshadowed the next track *Punkadiddle*. The track is *out there* in the Oldfield community, and is well worth getting hold of.

Fernando Henrique Canto <> (29.09.2003)

Wow, so you like Platinum, eh? Me too! I'm in *complete* agreement with you on the sidelong 'Platinum'. It's great! Indeed, one of Mike's best sidelong songs, up there with 'Crises'. All 4 parts are very accomplished (I love 'Airborne' and 'Charleston'), and they fit very well with each other, and what else could I get? One thing I have always liked about Mike is his sense of humour. He knows exactly *when* and *how* to extract some chuckles from his listeners to break away pretentiousness. Sadly he seems to be losing completely his sense of humour after Heaven's Open. *sigh* Side two *is* a bit patchier, though, and I think the abscence of 'Sally' does harm the album a bit. As far as I heard, it was the centrepiece of the album (it gathered all the themes from the title track - you know that DO - doo - DO - doo - do -do - DO -doo melody on 'Airborne', right?), and gave much more meaning to 'Punkadiddle' - which *is*, after all, just a dumbed down jig with punkish beats. That was the point! Yet I can't deny that the synth melody is cute, and the "HOI!" shouts are funny! I like this song. Great album, indeed. I'm surprised you rate it so big.


Fernando Henrique Canto <> (29.09.2003)

Commercial, eh? Eighties, eh? Sell-out, eh? Well, this is not a *sell-out*, I guess. But Mike was trying to collaborate with his label, Virgin. According to him, they weren't promoting his albums well, and were more interested in the punk movement - which led to him writing 'Punkadiddle' one album ago. Here, he goes a bit more commecial, but I think the results are fine. I love the covers of 'Arrival' and 'Wonderful Land' he does, and his self-penned ditties are alright. 'Sheba' is my favourite, for it has a pretty melody and Maggie Reilly in the vocals... plus... PHIL COLLINS ON DRUMS!!! How cool is *that*? The only weak links, imo, are 'Celt', that smells like nothing but filler to me, and 'Conflict', but not that much. 'Molly' is rather pretty, and 'Mirage' does have a cool crescendo on it. The big songs? I have grown to love 'Taurus 1'. There are some really, really pretty themes towards the end of the song. And the title track does some fine reprises, and the "Finale" is quite good, too. Overall, good record.


Mike Kozak <> (13.04.2002)

Y'see, George, I'm one of those blokes you mentioned above. I got into Mike with Tubular Bells. Then I had a brief listen to Ommadawn and thought "blah, like TB, but not as good". Then I got Crisis and thought it was good. And then I got FMO and thought it was good too. So I never heard the albums in between to make any sort of comparison. And when I come from that perspective, I can say I like listening to FMO. It has a certain homogeny of sound that I like, and is really identifiable with Mike Oldfield. And I must say that at the time I got into this I was in junior high school, and has a crush on Maggie Riely's voice, in part because she sang like this girl I liked. I've subsequently have heard a little more of the stuff in between and I find it all to be sort of homogeneous, but if you like the sound, I suppose that means you should like it all. But really you don't.

Still, as I got into Five Miles Out first, I like it best. Sue me. Besides, I kind of like that vocal switching thing in the title track's chorus.

Fernando Henrique Canto <> (29.09.2003)

Eww. I'm sorry to say that I'm completely with you on this one, George. 'Taurus II' is a big letdown. I do have to say that I don't think this as a "rewrite" of 'Taurus 1', but as a sequel. We all know how Mike is obsessed with sequels (*ahem*lame sequels*cough*Tubular Bells II*ahem*). But this one is *majorly* uninteresting, unoriginal and unimpressive. Yikes, quite bad. I'm quite fond of those last 4 minutes, though, with a fine "twang-twang-twang-twang" guitar riff. But that's all. Not even Maggie Reilly saves the song. Geez! On side two, 'Orabidoo' annoys me a little with all those vocoders, and 'Mount Teide' hasn't much aside from those nifty drum rolls by Carl Palmer. 'Family Man' is awesome, though, and the title track is even better. Very clever, powerful and moving, I think. The themes of 'Taurus II' sound much better on here. :)


Fernando Henrique Canto <> (29.09.2003)

Oooh, better! Better! I love the title track! I think it's one of his best sidelongs ever, up there with 'Platinum'! Yes, I love it that much! I think it's very, very beautiful. The synths shine on this song. I also like his whiny, nasal singing. It's funny! (though if you really want to know what Mike's singing sound like, you should check out the underrated Heaven's Open. Wow, *that's* singing) I'm surprised you don't mention the little synth arpeggio that begins the album, that sounds almost exactly like the Tubular Bells theme. That was actually intentional, though, and Mike even acknowledges that in the album's liner notes. Side two is also quite good. I love 'Moonlight Shadow'. Ooh, Maggie Reilly. Such a great song. I hardly think pop music can get much better than this. I also love the singing by Maggie's sister, Lisa Reilly, on 'In High Places'... Wait, that's Jon Anderson! Heh heh, geez. I love that song. Synth-reggae sung by Jonny! And it's *real* reggae, you know, only with a few 7/8 bars thrown in to make Jon Anderson happy. 'Shadow On The Wall' is very cool, too. I enjoy Chapman's singing greatly. It's not a "menacing" song, of course, but it's good. And 'Taurus 3' is just awesome - a great display of Mike's sense of melody and guitar skills, and it has those loud blasts of percussion! But I hate 'Foreign Affair'. I think the melody is very annoying, and Maggie has to sing the same verse SIX TIMES IN A ROW! AAAA! Blargh, bad way to fill up the time slot. Great album, though. I can't wait till you get around to review Mike's other albums. Have you ever heard Amarok, George? For what I've read your complaints about Mike, I think you'll love Amarok. And please review it, so I can laud it. Heaven's Open is also very good, but Tubular Bells II is lame lame lame. Sheesh.


Fernando Henrique Canto <> (23.02.2003)

In my neverending pursuit to finish my Oldfield collection (that would be my third complete collection, along with Pink Floyd and Queen - yes, Queen), this album was quite a pleasant surprise. It's, indeed, good to see Mike raising to SUCH level of Pop songwriting. These are good pop songs! I think the reason Mike's songwriting was so sharp in here is that he still values a good melody. I think these compositions are more melodic than several of his previous efforts, and be it a pop tune or an instrumental epic, an Oldfield song with a solid melody is instantly tons better than 'Taurus II'. :) What's nice, too, is that this album is very even. Among the first 7 tunes, it's hard to me to come with absolute favourites. 'To France' is very ABBA-like. No, really, VERY ABBA-like. Doesn't that bass-drum rhythm remind you of 'Chiquitita'? The main mandolin line is VERY Oldfieldish, so Oldfieldish indeed, that I'd probably recognise this as a Mike Oldfield tune if I heard it played in the other side of the town. Maggie Reilly gives a mighty performance here. 'Crystal Gazing' is a great little poppy tune, and 'Talk About Your Life' is surprisingly beautiful - even if the 'To France' melody is reprised halfway through the song. Seriously, what's with Mike's obssession with "concept" albums? He did the same thing in Five Miles Out, and would do the same thing in Islands. Dammit! I far prefer when he's in full pop mode, like in Crises, or in Heaven's Open. But, anyway, I don't have much against Barry Palmer. Mike wouldn't get Jonny Anderson working for him again even if he wanted to: it seems like he got angry at Mike for calling him to sing silly pop tunes. Moron! Okay, so I hear people say 'Smile' (a non-album song) sucks major arse, but still, 'In High Places' rules! Anyway, Barry Palmer doesn't really turn me off. 'Poison Arrows' is quite cool, even though the 'hiding in shadows, poison arrows' line is SO similar to the 'carried away by a moonlight shadow' line, y'know. Heh. 'Tricks Of The Light' is catchy as heck ("Oldfieldriff"! You hit it right in the head of the nail!), the title track is fairly cool, and 'Saved By A Bell', as far as power ballads go, is rather tasteful. Did you notice those drum fills? Simon Philips is a fucking awesome drummer. If you ever get to hear 'Music From The Balcony', from Heaven's Open, pay attention to the drumming. Well, about 'Greg Lake (instrumental)', your definition of "more inspired than on 'Taurus II' and less inspired than on 'Crises'" is just PERFECT. That is really, exactly it. 'Nuff said. Good album. By the way, I'd like to do a few corrections before I forget once again: The title QE2 refers to the ship Queen Elizabeth II, not to the Queen herself - hence the ship-immitating album cover; there are NO SYNTHESIZERS in Tubular Bells, so the "loop synth riff" is, in fact, an actual bass - Mike played that riff straight for 8 minutes in THE FIRST TAKE! And finally, the line in 'Foreign Affair' goes "ali goum pa la mere", so, in fact, the whole line's in French. But that doesn't help matters much, anyway. I never liked that song, and probably never will.


Fernando H. Canto <> (18.07.2004)

What do I say? Well, firstly, I think it's kinda foolish to compare The Killing Fields with A Hard Day's Night. I mean, back in that time, movies like those were made mainly to showcase the band and their songs, isn't it true? So, want it or not, A Hard Day's Night is much less of a soundtrack than The Killing Fields, because the songs themselves HAVE to be consistent enough to justify a movie. On the other hand, The Killing Fields (the movie) wasn't made to showcase Oldfield's music. Ok, I know you weren't *comparing* the two albums, but whatever. Just stop mentioning the Beatles in the Oldfield page (or in every single page of your website, for that matter. Heh heh, kidding, of course. I love the Beatles, and you can mention them as many times as you want). Anyway, unlike you, I actually think the album is very interesting, and nice to listen to.You mentioned Mike's skills as a classical composer, but I think that's the least interesting aspect of the record. These orchestral pieces were done by request of the director, who asked MIke to include soundtrack cliché in the music. That's why it sounds generic. It is really soundtrack music, not classical, and I know there are people who particularly value soundtrack music, so whatever. But what really springs out of this record is Mike's skills with the Fairlight C.M.I., the synthesizer/computer he was using by that time. Pieces like 'Evacuation' and 'Execution' were all done in the Fairlight, and it show how well Mike was mastering the synth. These are very good tracks, and if 'Execution' shifts between moods all the time, that's because it's supposed to follow the movie, George!! This is not Tangerine Dream! It's a soundtrack! And what the heck is with that "How are you supposed to seriously judge the merits of a musical composition if it's just one minute long" comment? If that's the case, why do you judge the merits of those 40-second songs on Wire's debut? I, for one, think those "snippets" ('Worksite', 'Blood Sucking') are very well executed. Anyway, I think this is quite a good album... at least, it's better than everything he produced after 1991 - and I mean everything, from Tubular Bells II to his latest Tubular Bells 2003 - the re-recording of the debut album, which is not that good - including The Songs Of Distant Earth. You might disagree with me, though, but I'm beginning to hate The Songs Of Distant Earth, because fans LOVE that one down to its very particles. Heck, I thought Oldfield fans could value a melody, and TSODE refuses to present more than 3 or 4 solid melodies to me. Fuck TSODE. Oh, by the way, fans don't prefer this one over Discovery. Fans actually like Discovery very much. They tend to hate Earth Moving and Heaven's Open, instead.

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