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Mike Oldfield - Incantations CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

3.93 | 420 ratings

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3 stars As Tubular Bells was the original "big bang" of the Oldfield Universe, the resulting dust settled over a period of years in the form of albums that took on the character of some aspect of the primordial soup. OK so I am mixing metaphors a bit. But MO's penchant for minimalism, while crystallized on "Platinum" through his Philip Glass cover, was thoroughly indulged in the prior "Incantations". Like so many double albums, it probably should have been put on weight watchers and emerged slimmer. "Incantations" is Oldfield's statement as a serious contemporary composer, which may or may not matter to that fickle aficionado known as a prog fan, and certainly doesn't to a pop fan, of which Oldfield had more than his share.

Four more or less equal parts, each highly repetitive but with distinct sections, comprise the offering. Part 1 seems to summarize where the man had gone before, particularly on Ommadawn, and is most notable for the scintillating dual flutes of Sebastian Bell and Terry Oldfield, Mike Laird's trumpet, and a sort of new age tribalism. The impressive main theme is repeated in the last few minutes and ended stylishly. Part 2 is the weakest, sadly reprising an "Ommadawn" theme without purpose or shame, and is pastoral to the point of somnolence, without enough of the reverent quality present on "Hergest Ridge". The low point is a pancake-flat adaptation of a portion of Longfellow's "Hiawatha", so flat that it would have been best if Maddy Prior had actually just read the words. Part 3 seems to be looking forward a bit, containing flaccid glimpses of what would form the basis for better material on albums like QE2. Again, quite weak, with little to recommend as a piece.

Part 4 is the album's keynote, underscoring by contrast the lack of emotion in the rest of the material. This is deliciously melodramatic, with Oldfield's best guitar work, and repetition that actually works, especially in the spellbinding vibraphone solo by Pierre Moerlen. Even the reprise of Longfellow finds Maddy Prior shifting position on her perch just enough to hit all the necessary highs. This is the only one of the four parts that actually builds from one segment to the next as far as I can tell.

Take most of part 1, add mere sprinkles from 2 and 3, and all of part 4 and you have a solid 4 star effort. But as is, we are dealing with a lullaby more than a magic spell, more so than Mr Oldfield might have intended. Hence 3 stars, good but flawed.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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