So much of Music Of The Spheres sounds like an old arrival rather than a new departure.
Sid Smith 2008
If you're going to prove your detractors wrong better to do it in grand style. In his autobiography (Changeling 2007) Mike Oldfield describes how, after being the butt of patronising attitudes whilst a member of Kevin Ayers' band, he wanted to come up with something that would make everyone sit up and take him seriously. Well, it doesn't get much grander than Tubular Bells, and more or less the whole wide world (give or take a few million sales here and there) sat up and took notice.
The phenomenal success didn't necessarily make him happy. Several times in his book he talks of being grateful for the abiding interest in Bells whilst simultaneously resentful about having everything he does compared to that first record. Despite such stylistically diverse pieces such Ommadawn, the catchy pop and rock of Moonlight Shadow or Family Man, or even the techno-tinged moods of 2005's Light And Shade, he's never quite escaped the gilded cage which his debut album has constructed around him.
It's no great surprise, therefore, that the dancing string motif of the opening track Harbinger is clearly drawn from the same gene pool as the first fruit of his loins. Similarly the stirring bass figures which stoke the engines of Musica Universalis bear a striking resemblance to those underpinning the Viv Stanshall-narrated coda of Tubular Bells.
Back then the guitar was pretty much the star. Here Oldfield's tunes have been threaded into Karl Jenkins' opulent orchestral embroidery. Not surprisingly Music Of The Spheres does sound an awful lot like an Adiemus album at times. Shabda in particular has those choral voices that Jenkins pushed to the fore though mercifully aren’t lumbered with that ridiculous invented 'ethnic' language which Jenkins devised.
Perhaps because Oldfield's presence is limited to a few cameo appearances the album lacks the personality and tension which he achieved with side one of Tubular Bells. And if that seems unfair then it's because so much of Music Of The Spheres sounds like an old arrival rather than a new departure.