If anyone mentions contemporary instrumental music, the chances are you’ll think of multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield. You’ll probably only be able to name one of his albums (or maybe two or three, if you had heard he had recorded a sequel).
Tubular Bells (1973), obviously. The follow-up Hergest Ridge (1974) was also a number 1, as was Tubular Bells II (1992), but other than that – despite an enormous cult following – you could have easily failed to notice he’d done much else. You would be wrong.
Where to start
I’m not sure this even needs to be said. Start with Tubular Bells, obviously.
What to buy
Tubular Bells II lacks some of the innovation of the original, but is a worthy sequel and a good place to go next. Tubular Bells III (1998) is actually better, but you might want to skip the bells for a while after the first two. Buy The Songs of Distant Earth (1995), which is a lovely science fiction masterpiece, and then maybe go for Platinum (1979) to hear something slightly different from when he was huge.
Don’t bother with
Tubular Bells 2003 – it’s just a re-recording of the original album. Also, The Orchestral Tubular Bells isn’t really essential for most listeners.
Family Man, from Five Miles Out (1982) is rather charming, as is Dark Island, from Voyager (1996). Moments like these are peppered throughout his career.
- Mike Oldfield – The Top of the Morning (January 2014)
- Preview – Mike Oldfield for Man on the Rocks (March 2014)