80's, Acoustic, Celtic, Epic, Folk, Instrumental, Old School, Symphonic
"27 years after "Amarok", "Return to Ommadawn" revives the epic breath of Mike Oldfield's most beautiful epics."
TONYB (09.02.2017)  
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An elusive character since the outset, Mike Oldfield continues, after more than four decades of career, to surprise his fans. Then, the news of a comeback with the use of acoustic instruments for his new project left the fan both hopeful and doubtful, as his various productions over the last 20 years have had the art of blowing hot and cold.

And yet, as the project's announcements were skilfully orchestrated, the hope of reviving the greatest works of the past has gained momentum. The first thing is the title, explicit enough to arouse all the fantasies... with however a mistrust linked to the previous "Tubular Bells III" (rather a good album in itself but in a very different style from its predecessors). The structure then, wanted to follow the codes of the famous inaugural trilogy of the artist's discography: two tracks of twenty minutes each, ideal to fill a vinyl disc whose current revival is a guarantee of future success. And then the complete list of instruments, proposed as an appetizer six months before the release of the album, once again prioritizing the acoustic, Celtic instruments, following shortly after the unveiling of the 55 sections distributed between the two tracks. 

Needless to say that waiting was long and that a certain anxiety invaded me at the moment of putting the disk on the turntable. But, from the very first notes, an enchanting magic that I had not felt for a long time distils its crystalline notes through the speakers. No doubt about it, the great Mike Oldfield is back. Melodies wrought with the classical guitar, layering of themes in the background, acoustic instruments of all kinds, percussions, electric guitar chorus recognizable among thousands, bass parts reminding the original formation of the artist, the whole mixed with an irreproachable quality and a unique spatialization including in stereo (while waiting to be able to listen to the 5.1 version).

From the first minutes, the emotion is tangible, coming as much from the quality of the work as from this endless waiting (more than a quarter of a century since the last opus of the genre - "Amarok") and the listener finds himself thrown into a pastoral universe, effectively evoking "Ommadawn" but also and especially "Hergest Ridge". So of course, Mike Oldfield being rather gifted in recycling, everyone will try to compare this new release with the previous works, to find familiar elements, more or less marked references. And indeed, a careful listening will send the listener back to a great majority of the 25 albums that preceded this one, especially in terms of the sounds used, and even beyond with a guitar cover of the rhythmic of Ravel's Bolero! But "Return to Ommadawn" has its own identity and must be listened to not by ignoring the past, but rather as a wonderful combination of it.

And contrary to "Amarok" in which a tangible tension reigned, Mike Oldfield wished to let his guitar breathe, proposing numerous passages where it is equipped with a minimal background, letting the melody release a lot of emotions, more particularly in the second part, as to better underline then the superb rises in power and the choruses which punctuate in particular the end of each suite. In the same way, the maestro indicates to have voluntarily avoided reworking his interpretation until the end, leaving it as roughly as possible, even if it means keeping a few buns here and there, reinforcing this feeling of authenticity and emotion that exudes from this album.

Unexpected comeback or beginning of a new cycle (Tubular Bells 4 is already announced...), "Return to Ommadawn" reconnects with the epic breath of Mike Oldfield's most beautiful epics, who has lost nothing of his talent as a composer and interpreter, nor of his ability to trigger strong emotions. For my part, when a music makes me cry in this way, I can only consider that it reaches its goal perfectly. To consume without moderation.
- Official website

01. Return to Ommadawn, Pt. I - 21:10
02. Return to Ommadawn, Pt. II - 20:57

Mike Oldfield: Guitares / Basse / Claviers / Mandoline, Ukulele, Harpe Celtique, Bodhran, Glockenspiel, Penny Whistle
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(1) COMMENT(S)    
Très bel exercice de la part de Mike Oldfield, qui offre une "ré-invention" de ses oeuvres de la période à mon sens la plus magistrale. Il a été capable de s'inspirer sans s'auto-plagier ni faire une redite insipide et creuse. En plus, la qualité du son est impressionnante, c'est un vrai voyage sonore.

C'est donc un "Ommadawn" revisité, entièrement ré-écrit, qui sans jouer de la même recette offre pas mal de clins d'oeil à l'oeuvre originale. On retrouve certaines structures familères, des thèmes ou leur évocation proche, avec le même plaisir et la même atmosphère.

Je dirais toutefois que cette nouvelle "version" manque un peu de "charisme". A l'écoute, on est ravi mais on n'a pas cette impression de se prendre une claque comme avec l'original. On n'a pas non plus ce sentiment que l'original avait imposé, à savoir de comprendre immédiatement que ce sera un repère temporel mémorable et incontournable. Ca manque un peu de "gniaque" par moments, il aurait fallu oser appliquer un peu plus d'énergie sur certaines variations.

Néanmoins, c'est un très agréable moment à passer en compagnie du témoin d'une époque révolue, revu d'une manière excellente et qui procure un plaisir certain, à renouveler sans se lasser.
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