Two Sides – The Very Best of Mike Oldfield
If you do not know Mike Oldfield’s work, you need get your hands on Two Sides: The Very Best of Mike Oldfield at the very least.
Opening with the instantly recognizable first part of his 1973 debut, Tubular Bells, with the pulsating swirling piano that gained worldwide recognition as the theme to The Exorcist, it’s amazing to think Oldfield wrote, played, and produced such a complex and stirring album (and we only get a piece of it here) when he was just 19! Part One of Ommadawn (Oldfield’s third release) follows, with its tribal rhythms, chanting and soft, perfect classical guitar playing (at the beginning) and electric leading. This 1975 release is considered one of the first successful world music albums released in Europe.
From Oldfield’s Discovery, there is the dynamic speed of “The Lake,” inspired by his skiing trips in Switzerland. A slightly more metallic sound along with what sounds like pig grunts begin the small pieces of his 1990 Amarok collected here. Not for the faint of heart, a continuous piece of music with, at times, some really beautiful passages (especially Oldfield’s amazing classical guitar playing), this album Oldfield gave Virgin instead of their wanting Tubular Bells 2 (and saw his break from Richard Branson’s company) is interspersed with foot stomps, Hoover vacuum cleaner sounds and a woman imitating Margaret Thatcher; here we just get a taste of all that mayhem. The first disk also includes the “Sentinel” from Tubular Bells 2 (which Oldfield would go on to make and release for Warner Brothers) and “Supernova” and “Ascension” influenced by Oldfield’s love for and meeting with Arthur C. Clarke.
The second disk represents a good amount of Oldfield’s single releases, not something he is usually associated with. There is th waver-y “Family Man,” the slightly staccato “Five Miles Out,” and Oldfield’s big single, “Moonlight Shadow.” “Summit Day,” from his album Guitars, at first features Oldfield’s spot-on classical playing then flights of a simple electric guitar line as only a master like he could perform. Along with the orchestrated (with classical guitar again), gorgeous “Lake Constance,” these two tunes are the prettiest pieces across these two disks. “On My Heart,” from 2008’s Music Of The Spheres, with a lilting vocal from Hayley Westenra ends the second disk.
This two-disk set, spanning decades as it does, and complete with song descriptions from the artist only offers a taste of Mike Oldfield. A guy with this kind of output can’t be sufficiently wrangled on just two disks with many of his long suites of songs broken up as they are here often in just parts. Still Two Sides: The Very Best of Mike Oldfield will begin your education of one of the most important music artists of our time.