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08/20/2003 8:20p PT
Matt Rowe - Reviewer

Despite what you may have already heard about Mike Oldfield's franchise-like seminal work of classical/pop composition and its updating, wipe them out and read on.

Oldfield's enduring classic has already gone through several remakes with different results. But it is with this one that we get a mixed review. Since The Exorcist imprinted itself on the American consciousness, Tubular Bells' opening piano piece has since become one of the most recognizeable bits of haunting melodies.

Having said that, this version of Tubular Bells, 2003, is even more haunting and beautiful than previous versions. And while that may sound like so much blasphemous banter to purists, it must be noted that recording technology has improved allowing for a higher quality work to be extracted from the composition. But this dosen't mean that there aren't missteps here; there are.

Just as every classic composition of Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin, to name a few, have been recorded a thousand times over, each iteration provides a nuance that becomes unique to the recording. Conductors have interpreted and breathed life into priceless classical pieces to the point that many would argue the virtues of one recording versus another although the notes are the same.

Tubular Bells 2003 is such a recording. It comes in two parts, the immediately recognizeable Part One with the theme to The Exorcist as it's starting point and Part Two with the "Caveman" tune.

Part One has tapped into the heart of the original composition with near perfection. In many ways, it can be said to be more alluring. It is a much cleaner celebration of the individual notes that make up the whole of Part One than Tubular BelIs I. If you can sit and hear this with closed eyes, it becomes an experience, not just another remake. Brighter and necessarily so because of the loving attention afforded each note, Oldfield explores his own work more intensely. Oldfield recruited John Cleese to reprise the roll call of instruments that was originally done by Viv Standstall. Cleese's vocals are equally as grand. Part One's "Finale" ends with a less than expressive background choral vocals making the song's ending a little weak whereas the original is full.

Part Two is where the rest of the album becomes a different thing. It's more quietly effected with some reworked material. Sally Oldfield lends her support on the vastly different "Caveman". Where before there were male grunts and enunciations, there are now a shared male/female verbal play. Part Two, overall, is much softer.

What must be stated is that Tubular Bells 2003 does not intend to replicate the original precisely. If it did so, it would have been a selfish and useless exercise. Rather, it finds the vein of the original and draws directly from it. It discovers the spirit and infuses it into every re-explored nook and cranny.

This is what Tubular Bells 2003 is, a re-design of the original. Never meaning to replace it, never intending to supplant it, but, instead, reasserting itself into our psyche. This album has its place on the shelf next to Tubular Bells itself. I highly recommend this to fans. The DVD-Audio version of this work will be extraordinary.

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212 Frech

Mike Oldfield

Tubular Bells 2003

Released:August 5, 2003
Origination Year: 1973
Time: 48:33
Tracks: 17
Produced by: Mike Oldfield
Style: Studio
Format: CD
Enhancement: None
Label: Rhino Records

Mike Oldfield:

Mike Oldfield:
All Instruments

Sally Oldfield:
Background Vocals

John Cleese:
Instrument Roll Call

Track List

Part One

  1. Introduction
  2. Fast Guitars
  3. Basses
  4. Latin
  5. A Minor Tune
  6. Blues
  7. Thrash
  8. Jazz
  9. Ghost Bells
  10. Russian
  11. Finale

Part Two

  1. Harmonics
  2. Peace
  3. Bagpipe Guitars
  4. Caveman
  5. Ambient Guitars
  6. The Sailor's Hornpipe