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The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Tubular Bells 50th Anniversary Celebration

Review by Gary Hill

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells album, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra working with the London Contemporary Voices Choir have created a new studio interpretation of the work. They add in several other pieces from Oldfield's catalog to fill out the set. I think this really works well at capturing the progressive vibes and melodies of the music, while also bringing a new angle to it. I really like this set a lot.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
                         
Tubular Bells Part 1

The familiar piano brings this into being. Other instruments join as it begins to work out from there. This really does evolve, and the orchestral arrangement suits the flavors of the piece, lending some intriguing angles and majesty to a song that is already majestic. This gets so powerful and driving at times. This thing has some much change and diversity built into it with different instruments and motifs leading the way at various points. Yet, there is still a unifying theme, and that opening piano is heard at various points throughout. A voice or two come up here and there by the time it gets about three quarters of the way through introducing instruments. I like the more theatrical approach on those parts here in contrast to the ones on the original album. 

Tubular Bells Part 2
Guitar gets us going on part two. The cut gradually builds outward and some chorale vocals come over the top. Those vocals drop away shortly, and the number continues to expand and grow in a dramatic and powerful way. A voice that sounds as if it's in pain comes in around the half-way mark. It has a dark, almost monstrous sound. This piece is a real powerhouse working through all kinds of twists and turns. The closing section of this has some positively magical prog rock moments.
Sailor's Hornpipe
Folk music meets symphonic prog in this bouncy number. It's playful, bouncy and fun.
Disc 2
             
Ommadawn Part 1

Intricate tones bring this in with a real beauty. There are some non-lyrical vocals laced over the top of this as it gets underway. Those eventually drop out of the mix. This thing works out into all kinds of different zones and territory. This has some pretty exceptional guitar playing on this song. Vocals come in later. This time they seem to have lyrics, but they are not in English. There is some tribal percussion that serves as the backdrop for those voices. Other instruments join, filling out the arrangement as this continues. After the vocals drop away the music really intensifies. We get some killer guitar soloing.

Excerpt from Hergest Ridge Part 1
This starts with a section that is packed full of symphonic magic. It drops to a more stripped back movement where bass leads and some atmospherics augment. This builds outward after a time turning in some killer symphonic prog. There are some chorale styled non-lyrical voices over the top later, but they are more like icing on the cake. They do become more prominent further down the road. This becomes so powerful before it drops downward to end.
Moonlight Shadow
There is more of a folk rock motif at the heart of this cut. This one has lyrical vocals. Imagine this as a folk rock song with a symphonic arrangement augmenting it.
 
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