Mike Oldfield is kind of a lone wolf. He almost always did "his" stuff; there's some collaborations, but he mainly do everything himself, so he can be called a multi-instrumentalist with guitar as his main instrument. Of course, there's always some guest musician involved in his albums, but he mainly do his music by himself.
He began in 1973 with Tubular Bells and is still doing music after 37 years; he have 24 main albums (apart from shows and best of) and is currently composing his 25th. His first album Tubular Bells is in fact the very first album to be published by Virgin; this music was later used in the movie "The Exorcist", so there is no link between the album and the movie; the music was simply used for the film.
His music is mainly instrumental; but in his 80` phase, he did some vocal songs, hiring different singers. He mainly use Maggie Reilly as his female singer and she appeared on most of his vocal albums. But in 1991, on the albums Heaven's Open, he decided to give a try himself at vocals so he took some courses and sang for the first time on one of his albums. Because before Tubular Bells, he did a duo album with his sister Sally in which they both sang called The Sallyangie with which they did only one album called Children of the sun. He also did a duo with his brother Terry which was called Barefoot. After that Mike began his solo career with Tubular Bells.
His career can be separated in 4 phases:
1 - The early works in the 70`era.
2 - The 80` phase until he quit Virgin in 1991.
3 - The Warner years from 1992 until 2004.
4 - The Mercury years until today
Even if he was the starting point of Virgin records with Tubular Bells (who is still his most successful record with more than 16 millions sold), his relation with them became more and more bad with the years. Richard Branson, the Virgin's boss who welcomed Tubular Bells in his studio, wanted Mike to become more commercial over the years; Mike being open-minded, he complied by doing albums half instrumental and half pop songs (in his 80` period) so that everyone could be happy; he could use this opportunity to try and explore new ways in music. But he eventually did an album including only pop songs, Earth Moving, so it was time this experimental phase change because his company was trying to change him. So he stroked back (after Earth Moving) with Amarok, a one hour instrumental (yes, one track on the cd of 60:02) who was designed so that no part whatsoever could be used to play on radio. He even included a morse code in the music saying FU*K OFF RB (RB = Richard Branson); this was used has a contest when the album was released to who could find first the hidden message within the album. This album remains one of his greatest accomplishment, praised by the fans (me included!).
He ended his contract with Virgin in 1991 with Heaven's Open. He moved to Warner and began there with Tubular Bells II, who is not a sequel but a new album with the same structures as the first. Since then, everything went well for him, he never really had to comply again doing what he don't want.
He finally moved to Mercury records in 2004, but this time, I don't know why. Probably his contract was ending and simply wanted to change.
So by which album can a beginner discover him?
He had musical phases so I can't put an album that is the sum of his career. I will instead suggest albums based on phases: (I provided links to .rar of the albums I did myself so don't worry about viruses or things like that; just click on the highlighted albums titles)
Of course, Tubular Bells (1973) is a good introduction. It's the basis of his career and show how he can accomplish many styles/moods. His career can be seen as a big Tubular Bells! But here you have two choices: the 1973 or the 2003 version. In 2003, he re-did the entire album with today's technology because he had only one week in the studio at the time so he have always been unsatisfied with the result so he finally re-recorded/re-played the entire album, so it's NOT remasterization; it's complete re-recording from A to Z. So you choose between the 1973 sound or the 2003 sound. It's the same music, just not the same recording quality. It is called Tubular Bells 2003. I suggest the 2003 version, because you have the chance to not have any nostalgia and/or emotional bond to the old; it's also very rare to hear old music with today's recording technology! But if you crave for 70` sound, take the 1973, of course.
If you like the 70` sound era, I suggest Ommadawn (1975). It's a more serious (I don't mean dull but more "taken seriously, professional") album that really show his talent.
If you're more about 80`, I suggest Five Miles Out (1982). It include a long instrumental and also a pop song. More of a fun album.
I you want to go straight to pop, go Earth Moving (1989).
For the middle of the Warner years, go Tubular Bells III (1998). Please note that this album has absolutely nothing to do with the original musically! Only the beginning part have something in common. So don't feel "I want to discover something else than Tubular Bells". This album IS different!
For a good idea of his recent work, don't hesitate and go Light+Shade. It's a perfect sum of his recent years.
For the video side, all the songs who ended with videos are mainly vocals. But he once did a complete video for a 20 minutes instrumental.
Moonlight Shadow video
The best site for Mike is Tubular.net. Everything is there. Wikipedia is also a good source.
If you have any questions or if I forgot something, I will answer them with pleasure!
Please note that the albums I included here are not necessarily his "best" albums; they are albums that are good show/introduction of what he do.
Last edited by Drealm; 07-06-2010 at 15:46.
Serial Under Achiever
It's also worth mentioning the orchestral version of TB.
This was released in '74, and is a straightforward orchestral take on the original.
MO plays guitar on it, and it's performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by David Bedford.
It's not a great album, but is certainly worth a listen if you're familiar with the original...
what about 'songs of distant earth'? that's a personal favourite of mine. After Tubular Bells, of course.
The songs of distant earth is one of my favorite too; but to discover Mike, it's not his average sounding album, it is quite unique so it's not a good album to pick on first listen because it can give a false impression of his career.
Originally Posted by goth metal raver
But if anyone is interested to dig into his best albums, of course The Songs of Distant Earth is a masterpiece. It's an unique album in Mike's discography, hugely inspired.Don't ever miss it if you enjoy Mike Oldfield.
The Ommadawn link is dead. Someone made a complain about my link and 4shared disabled it.
a restless spirit
Try 'Crises' - excellent album. And I rate 'The Songs of Distant Earth' ahead of TB. 'Incantations' is also very original.
I'm listening to Incantations right now, and I think it's much better than the much-hyped Tubular Bells, and definitely better than Songs of Distant earth, which was nice music, but it nearly put me to sleep.
I like to say that on Tubular Bells he was saying "Listen to what I can do", but on later albums like Incantations he actually got down and did it.