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Mike Oldfield: Return to Ommadawn

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: Virgin EMI Records
Released: 2017.01.20
Category: Progressive rock
Producer(s): Mike Oldfield
Media type: CD
Web address: www.mikeoldfieldofficial.com
Appears with:
Purchase date: 2017
Price in €: 1,00

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] Return to Ommadawn, Part I. (M.Oldfield) - 21:10
[2] Return to Ommadawn, Part II. (M.Oldfield) - 20:57

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

All instruments played by Mike Oldfield:

Stringed instruments:
    Acoustic steel guitar
    Flamenco guitar
    Bass guitar
    Acoustic bass guitar
    Electric guitars
        Fender Telecaster
        Fender Stratocaster
        PRS Signature
    Celtic harp
    Vox Continental organ
    Hammond organ
    Farfisa organ
    African table drums
    Penny whistles in B♭, C, D, E♭, F and G
    Vocal effects derived from the original Ommadawn
    Mesa Boogie
    Fender Twin Reverb

Mike Oldfield - Producer, Inlay photography
Paschal Byrne - Mastering
Phil Smee - Artwork
Rupert Lloyd - Illustration

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

2017 CD & DVD-A Virgin EMI CDVX 3166
2017 CD & DVD-A Virgin EMI CDV 3166
2017 LP & DVD-A Virgin EMI V 3166

Recorded in December 2015 – November 2016 Nassau, Bahamas

Returning to Ommadawn (1975), his third acoustic album, for inspiration, Mike Oldfield takes that beloved long-playing format that he made his own to create this latest acoustic album of two suites.

Unsurprisingly playing every instrument himself, he still picks a mean melody line, with what feels like a very natural harking back to the original for inspiration.Oldfield opts mostly for a spacious, dream-like sound, and his guitar playing is the star of both suites. The two set pieces are unquestionably rooted in the 1970s, where their roots in prog-rock lie.

Oldfield hasn’t lost that uncanny ability to release an earworm of a melody line into the ether, which will likely please his considerable fan base no end. Whether it will extend his appeal to a new audience is unlikely.

Rating: 3/5

Siobhan Long - Jan 19, 2017
© 2017 The Irish Times

New releases by Mike Oldfield don’t exactly grow on trees, but nor can they be deemed rarities. For the first three decades he brought out roughly half a dozen a decade. But Return to Ommadawn is only his second since 2008. As the title announces, it tours the landscape of his third album Ommadawn, which he recorded in his own studio at Hergest Ridge in 1975 and played pretty much everything that didn’t require breath (wind instruments and vocals).

It’s roughly the same story here except that Oldfield blows on his own penny whistles, which feature prominently in the mock-Celtic musical landscape he conjures up with mandolin and ambient chanting. But this is Oldfield paying a redemptive visit to his prog past, so there’s plenty of noodly bass, thoughtful guitar riffing and simple piano licks. In homage to 1970s vinyl, there are two title tracks, parts one and two, each of 21 minutes, which go about the business of building and layering in a style that is integral to Oldfield’s DNA. It’s like catching a time machine back to 1975, when War of the Worlds was but a twinkle in Jeff Wayne’s eye and Mark Knopfler was still plucking in pubs, and Tubular Bells had given Oldfield the freedom to make the music he wanted.

There’s nothing as immediately grabby or winningly pretentious as Oldfield’s indelible debut. But the quasi-symphonic Return to Ommadawn grows on you, and by the third listen it has worked its way in whether you like it or not. I do like it, with its thudding drums, Hispanic nods and shanty stylings. And Oldfield has not lost his ear for innocent, intricate, cheerful melody. Anyone of the relevant vintage whose system was colonically irrigated by the advent of punk should probably steer clear. For anyone else, this is an uplifting retro-reboot.

Rating: 4/5

Jasper Rees - 21 January 2017
© 2017 The Arts Desk

Mike Oldfield releases new album Return To Ommadawn through Virgin EMI on January 20 – and this sees him bowing to popular demand.

“When I first began to think of what I should do for my new album, I went on social media and asked the fans for their opinion. And so many of them seemed to want me to go back to the acoustic style of the first three albums, and of these it’s Ommadawn that appears to be their favourite one.”

What also clinched his decision was a comment from synth pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre!

“I saw that Jean-Michel was doing a live Facebook chat with his fans, and I went online to follow what was being said. One person asked him whether he might ever collaborate with me, and his answer was interesting. Because he said that he loved my music, but that I was too acoustic for him. This got me thinking. If someone like him believes I’m an acoustic musician, then it showed how important that part of my career has been. So with all this overwhelming evidence, I felt it would be very exciting to do a project again along those lines.”

Work on the new album began last December, and was only finally concluded in November this year. And Oldfield is keen to stress that this is a pure solo work. “I’m the only musician who is involved. I play everything. There are no guest appearances whatsoever.”

Well, that’s not strictly true, because those with keen ears will notice a very brief choral burst from the Penrhos Kids at the end of the second track, titled Part II. But this isn’t quite what it seems.

“I did wonder if people might be disappointed that the album doesn’t have a follow-up to On Horseback, which was the final song on Ommadawn. So, I took one line from the children’s choir who sang on that track and inserted it here. This is a way of linking these two albums across more than 40 years. It’s not a new recording.”

Oldfield readily admits that he’s specifically designed the album for vinyl. There are just two tracks here, titled Part I and Part II, each of which is around 20 minutes long.

“I tend to think of them as being Side One and Side Two of an LP. This was deliberately done because I love vinyl and the way it brings people closer to music. As far as I’m concerned, if you listen to downloads, that has the same impact as what you hear in a lift! Of course, the album will be made available in all the usual formats. But for me it’s the vinyl one that matters. The cover is very elaborate, and there will be a gatefold sleeve. This will have hundreds of photos I’ve taken of all the instruments I’ve used in the recording sessions. The aim is to give everyone hours of enjoyment as they try to identify all of these, and what roles they might have played in the making of the record.”

However, Oldfield doesn’t have any plans to perform Ommadawn and Return To Ommadawn in the live environment.

“It would just be too difficult to organise. I’d have to find musicians who could play the parts in the way that I believe fits best, and that would be almost impossible to achieve. Yes, there are very talented people around who could duplicate what I’ve done, but it could never have the same emotional connection. The only way I could see this working is if you have 15 or more clones of me onstage!”

Malcolm Dome - 8 Dec 2016
© 2017 Team Rock

Mike Oldfield - Return To OmmadawnTraditional rock music and social media have not always been an easy match. Mike Oldfield, though, has used it in the way it was intended, drawing inspiration from his fans for a new album. A quick survey of opinion found what they would like to see most was a return to his acoustic roots, the eyes clearly misting over at the prospect of more music in the style of the 1970s.

The clincher for Oldfield was a comment from Jean-Michel Jarre, who referred to him as an ‘acoustic’ musician, in the process reminding him of those roots. Jarre was absolutely right, for even though Tubular Bells is electronic in sound it is deeply acoustic in concept.

Oldfield, then, travelled back in time, arriving at the Ommadawn record of 1975. Here he was unwittingly mirroring the work of Brian Eno, whose Reflection, released earlier this same month, drew on its makers Discreet Music, also of 1975. As you might expect though, the two resultant instrumental records are chalk and cheese, Oldfield’s inspiration being an album notable for its frenetic activity.

The original Ommadawn was an extended love letter to the influence of Celtic instruments and melodies on English music, and it integrated those instruments seamlessly into an album of progressive folk-rock that united UK musical styles. Northumbrian pipes, guitars and drums mixed seamlessly.

Fast forward 42 years and here we are again with Return To Ommadawn, Oldfield perhaps unintentionally reuniting the music of the countries in their current, more divisive political position. Once again he takes the ‘two sided’ approach, doffing a cap to the continuing popularity of vinyl, and once again Celtic musical language and instruments form the basis of the ‘new’ material.

Oldfield plays all the instruments himself, keeping a fiercely protective arm around his music, meaning we will almost certainly never experience it live. This is a shame, for it forms the soundtrack to an invisible film, uplifting music given with its creator’s passionate input.

Perhaps the most striking moment comes three-quarters of the way into Part 1, where the music takes a brief opportunity for reflection before moving on to a powerful drum track and distant vocal, the only instance where voices are heard.

It is these moments of punctuation that make the listener sit up. Ten minutes earlier in Part 1 there is a really nice episode where the texture is pulled back a bit, the drums soften and the melody makes itself known in more plaintive form – a more obvious reference to traditional folk music. This is however spoiled a little by a very keen guitar solo, an instance of where less could have been more.

The cheery flute that starts the second part heads for the same emotional plateau of the first, celebrating the outdoors. Both parts are more or less the same length, giving pleasing symmetry – and once again half way through Part 2 there is a gear change. More percussion are added to the lower end of the texture, before a shrill pipe comes out with another bright and breezy melody, taken up by the rock guitar. This is crowned by a big unison statement of another traditional theme, the emotional strong point of the album.

Oldfield’s style is quite twee at times, and it does ramble on occasion, but the rambles are never anything less than pleasant. There are however some points where it feels like too much music is going on, an overabundance of melodies that are usually crowned by a heroic electric guitar solo.

Yet in the wake of some very difficult times for Oldfield, capped by the tragic sudden loss of his son in 2015, Ommadawn seems to have put him in a happy place. Towards its close it is easy to imagine being in the wide open, ultra-green expanses of Ireland with a strong wind blowing on your face. It is an image contrary to that of the glowering cover as the album pulls to a jubilant, slightly mischievous close.

As its title implies, Return To Ommadawn is nothing new of course, but it is a happy reunion that will please Oldfield’s fans greatly. It may not necessarily introduce him to a new audience, but it leads those in the know to a familiar place they know well.

Ben Hogwood - 20 Jan 2017
© 1999-2017 OMH

Return to Ommadawn is the twenty-sixth studio album by Mike Oldfield. It is a sequel to his third album, Ommadawn (1975). The album was released on 20 January 2017 on CD, CD/DVD, LP and as a digital download by Virgin EMI Records.[4] The CD/DVD-Audio set contains a 5.1 surround sound mix of the album.

Oldfield has played with the idea of creating a sequel to Ommadawn in the past; "Amarok was originally going to be Ommadawn II, but it went off a little in its own direction." On 16 October 2015, Oldfield stated on Twitter, "I am continuing to work on ideas for "A New Ommadawn" for the last week or so to see if [...] the idea actually works."[7] On 8 May 2016, Oldfield stated on his Facebook group page that the new Ommadawn project with the tentative title of Return to Ommadawn is finished, and he is awaiting a release date from the record company. On 7 December 2016, Oldfield revealed in a Facebook post that the release date was to be 20 January 2017. A 30-second preview was included in this Facebook post, and a 3-minute "radio exclusive single version" was played on BBC Radio 2. Return to Ommadawn is the first album since Incantations (1978) that follows the format of having one track per side of vinyl simply titled "Part one", "Part two" etc.


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