Tubular Bells / From The Manor Born – Tubular World
This is a bit of an oddball release co-produced by Robert Reed who’s obviously a huge fan of Mike Oldfield and Tubular World I do believe was a forum that was originally started up by Oldfield himself many moons ago though I could be wrong as I have not really delved that deep into it. The forum also closed down a while back to and the name was also one of the tracks on his album The Songs Of Distant Earth. However, in the past through my Soundcloud connections I came across some musicians who share an interest in the forum Tubular Net and some who take part in producing music that is either structured or developed around the sound of Oldfield’s music.
Tubular Bells is perhaps Mike Oldfield’s most iconic album and it is without doubt one of my favourite albums of his. Though I have to confess that in general I am not the type of guy who would spend my money on an album by a tribute band playing it. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against tribute bands and I do not mind paying the smaller ticket price they charge in general to see them play live. But I draw the line when it comes to buying albums of them playing the same album of the artists you idolized in the first place.
Covers are all well and good but in reality, just how many of them were actually better than the original artist. I would say less than 1% and its extremely rare to come across any cover song that is better than the original. Jimi Hendrix cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” I personally think is one of the very few exceptions and examples where the cover was done better.
Like I mentioned covers are all well and good but even as nice as Magenta’s cover of the Yes song “Wondrous Stories” might sound it’s not the sort of thing I would personally buy and it’s never gonna cut the mustard with the original version I am afraid not meaning to be disrespectful in anyway because they did do a decent job of it. I personally think trying to do a cover of any song is more of a difficult task to do it any better than the original and its perhaps got more chance of appealing to you if you never heard the original version in the first place. Which is why it was only really the documentary that drew my attention to this release.
The oddball thing about the documentary entitled From The Manor Born that comes with this package, is that unlike the Mike Oldfield Story documentary that was put out some years back on the BBC. This documentary does not feature the man himself or Richard Branson who are both integral to the story. However, it does feature quite a few people who were involved in making the prolific album at the time.
The other odd thing about this release is that it’s not one I could recommend simply because it has completely disappeared and is no longer available for some reason. I even got lucky with my pre-order of it and I had no idea that the standard edition I originally ordered was a Limited Edition like the Deluxe Edition. As to if more physical copies will be made, I have no idea and all traces of it have completely disappeared from Tigermoth Records online store.
However, Tubular Bells by Tubular World is still available to purchase in the form of a Digital Download and I have also noticed that the Double CD has now been reissued and was released again a few days ago on the 14th of January. But as for the documentary its hardly likely to be reissued.
Packaging & Artwork…
Well as you can see even though I pre-ordered the Standard Edition I was sent the Deluxe Edition instead and the only logical reason I can think why they did such a thing was down to them running out of copies of the cheaper edition and it was not by mistake. There is a £10 difference between the two editions and in my own personal opinion it’s not worth shelling out the extra 10 bucks simply because the way the Deluxe Edition has been presented is not done right in my personal opinion. So, let’s now take a look at the two editions and weigh up what little extra you get for the money here.
The Standard Edition was priced at £25 and is what I pre-ordered on the 16th of November with the postage and packing it cost me £26.90. This might sound steep but considering you are getting 2 CD’s and 2 DVD’s in the package I personally think that’s a good deal and well worthy of its price point.
However, because they are individual packages, I cannot really see any reason why they could not have been sold separately and in a way by them doing it like this, it could be seen as a marketing ploy to bleed more money out of your pocket. Especially for those like myself who were more interested in the documentary and had to spend the extra cash just to obtain it.
As you can see in the picture above the Standard Edition comes with the discs stored in two cardboard gatefold Digisleeves with die-cut pockets to hold the discs firmly in place. It does not come with a booklet and all the linear production notes and credits are printed on the inside of the sleeve. It also comes with an essay written by Paul Harris printed on the back of the sleeve. Overall, a quality job has been done here and it looks neat and tidy.
The Deluxe Edition was priced at £35 and this contains the same contents as above only they come in a steel tin that sort of replicates a Steelbook Edition of a Blu Ray or DVD. It also comes with 6-archive double sided photocards and Tom Newman’s mix notes. This was a Limited Edition and only 500 copies were made and the first 100 copies were signed by Tom Newman. The number is written on the back of the tin and mine is numbered 471. It does appear that the Standard Edition must have also been limited to around 500 copies with how it’s no longer available.
Although the Deluxe Edition may look nice in that it comes in a steel tin. I personally do not think enough has been done here to merit its extra price point. For example, the 6-archive double sided photocards are hardly high-quality photos and look as if they have been taken from the TV. I’ve seen old Polaroid photos from the 70’s look as bad as this quality and they are nothing to write home about I am afraid. They really are dreadful quality. Tom Newman’s mix notes are not quite how I expected them to be either, and I would have expected a copy of his actual handwritten notes printed on a piece of paper. Not just printed words on the back of a photograph of him 😁😁😁. But to top it all as to where this presentation fails is how everything is just bunged in a tin as you can see in the picture above.
OK! it gives you the option to store everything along with your DVD’s on a shelf or even remove the music media and store the case on a DVD shelf and the discs along with your other CD’s but things could have been done better here. For starters the difference between the price of a Standard Edition and Deluxe Steelbook Edition film on Blu Ray is only £5. Furthermore, the steel tin comes with the picture printed on it not just a printed sticker stuck on it.
Now I am not for one moment suggesting Rob Reed can compete with a film company who sells a hell of a lot more copies to be able to bring the cost of making the product down as in this example above. But if you are charging an extra £10 the very least, he could have done is made it more presentable by inserting a plastic case on both sides or a plastic hinged tray to hold the 4 discs on the one side and made a booklet to make the difference between the two editions standout from one another.
Bunging everything in a tin like this is hardly what I would call a Deluxe Edition and it certainly does not merit chucking an extra tenner at it which is why I ordered the standard edition in the first place. I should not really complain because I never forked out the extra 10 bucks but in reality, I personally don’t think I got anything of any real extra value for free. Others may have a different viewpoint than my own and like what’s been done here but I am perhaps too much of a realist regarding how I part with what little money I have to spend on such things and that is my honest opinion.
The albums cover art was done by Tenllado Studio who have done previous redesigns of some of Mike Oldfield’s albums in the past and post their work on forums such as Tubular Net. I have no idea if it is the work of one person or more but they do other artwork besides and I dare say the connection was made through the forum. The artwork is very fitting to name I will say and looks the part.
Tubular Bells By Tubular World In Review…
Tubular Bells by Tubular World was released on the 14th of December 2020 along with the documentary To The Manor Born and the only way to obtain a physical copy of the album was to purchase the both. However, the physical album has now been reissued and made available to purchase once again on the 14th of January. The album comes with 2 CD’s though its not a double album and the only difference is that Disc One has been mixed by Tom Newman and Disc Two has been mixed mainly by the other musicians who play on the album. The only other notable difference is the track listing of both discs.
The whole of this project was most likely masterminded by Rob Reed and he has worked in a collaborative way with many other musicians and Paul Harris in producing it and putting it all together. I should also mention that part of the proceeds is going in support for the mental health charity and organisation known as MIND. Although according to my further research the only reason this album came about was down to Reed thinking of what to use as a backing music or a soundtrack for the film footage of the documentary.
Knowing how hard it would be to get the clearance for using Oldfield’s original Tubular Bells as a backing track he set about recording a few sections of it with Les Penning. It was Harris who suggested asking all those musicians who have been influenced by Mike Oldfield and also had played with him, to contribute to a new version. Hence the reason why this album exists.
Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is an album I can never tire of hearing and one I have played more than once every year since its release back in 1973. Though I have to confess that the version I play 9 times out of 10 is Oldfield’s new remix he done and released in 2003 and this is by far the best recording that exists of the album. He very much decided to re-record parts of it again and the reason for this was that like myself he was never happy with the original mix. The original mix was not helped by putting it on vinyl and the length of the two tracks on both sides well exceeded vinyl limitations.
Though as my memory serves me hearing it on vinyl back in the 70’s was perhaps the best way to hear the original version because at least it never showed up the flaws like it did later in the 80’s when it was put on CD. Digital technology was responsible for cleaning things up and you will hear a hell of a lot more that goes into a recording and its mix on a CD in relation to vinyl. Vinyl has always had its limitations and no matter how much you spend on a turntable and a cartridge you will never eliminate the surface noise and its poor limitations I am afraid.
Though these days they can get around the vinyl limitations by splitting the album tracks up and putting them on two or three LP’s but that would never work with this album and by doing such things it also bumps up the cost, and vinyl today is already ridiculously overpriced as it is. As to why I don’t know or really understand because it certainly is not up to the quality of what the CD has to offer though with all recordings it is really down to how well the instruments have been recorded and how well the album has been mixed.
Even today with how things have been cleaned up to hear the vinyl album sound like it did back then you would have to have a vintage hi-fi setup from the 70’s because even amplification has been cleaned up since those days. Though thankfully Oldfield did remix the original version himself and released it in 2009 which I think is a better mix than the original though still not a patch on the 2003 reworked and remixed edition and the 5.1 DTS version of that is a SURROUND FREAKS PARADISE!
Having said all that just what does this new arrangement done by Tubular World have to offer. Well one of the first disappointing things I soon discovered when it arrived is that it does not come with a surround mix which is very unusual for Rob Reed’s standards. Though there is a bit of one on the DVD package which contains the documentary that I will go into in my review of From The Manor Born. Hopefully that is not the only thing that’s disappointing so let’s now take a look at the musicians and credits.
Musicians & Credits…
Produced by Robert Reed and Paul Harris. All tracks written by Mike Oldfield (Stage Three Publishing) except Sailor’s Hornpipe (Traditional). Tracks 2,5,6,7,8,11,13,15 Mixed by Robert Reed. Tracks 1 & 17 Mixed by Daniel Holdsworth. Track 3 Mixed by Scott Ampleford. Track 4 Mixed by Hubart Razack. Track 9 Mixed by Chris Kimber. Track 10 Mixed by Steve Smith. Track 12 Mixed by Rubén Alvarez. Track 14 Mixed by Ryan Yard. Track 16 Mixed by Manu Herrera & Álvaro Rodríguez Barroso. Cover Art by Tenllado Studio. Documentary: Interview Research & Interviews by Paul Harris. Filming & Sound Recording by Andrew Lawson. Editing by Robert Reed.
Robert Reed: Piano – Keyboards – Electric & Acoustic Guitars – Bass – Vibraphone – Organ.
Daniel Holdsworth: Piano – Farfisa Organ – Electric & Acoustic Guitars – Bass – Glockenspiel – Tape motor driven organ chord. Percussion.
Hubert Razack: Electric & Acoustic Guitars – Spanish Guitar – Bass – Piano – Organ – Mandolin.
Rubén Alvarez: Electric & Acoustic Guitars.
Manu Herrera: Electric & Acoustic Guitars.
Jay Stapley: Electric & Acoustic Guitars.
Steve Smith: Electric Guitar – Bass.
Silverio Carmona: Acoustic Guitars – Bass.
Nacho Soto: Electric Guitar – Voices.
Steve Hillage: Double Speed Guitar.
Cayetano Ruiz: Electric Guitar.
Rick Fenn: Acoustic Guitars.
James Stirling: Acoustic Guitar.
Miguel Engel Arcengelus: Mandolin.
Phil Toms: Double Bass & Bass Guitars.
Álvaro Rodríguez Barroso: Bass – Keyboards.
Phil Spalding: Bass.
Chris Kimber: Keyboards – Percussion.
Richard García: – Philicorda Organ – Piano.
Luis Suria: Electric Piano – Organ.
Juam García: Acoustic Piano.
Rich Nolan: Drums.
Pablo Egío: Drums.
Alasdair Malloy: Glockenspiel – Tubular Bells.
John Field: Flutes.
Marcial Picó: Flutes.
Stefano Fasce: Flute.
Les Penning: Recorders.
Steve Bingham: Violin.
Brenda Stewart: Viola.
Jim Carter: Master of Ceremonies.
Ariane Valdivié: Vocals.
Tom Newman: The Piltdown Man & Nasal Choir.
Ryan Yard: Keyboard – Programming.
The Album Tracks & Mixes In Review…
One of the biggest concerns Rob Reed had regarding bringing in other musicians to play different sections was how the mix would work out in putting it all together and that was one of the main reasons he chose to bring in Tom Newman to sort it all out and do a completely new mix from the multi tracks supplied by each artist. There is quite a notable difference between the mixes on the both CD’s and I can see why they chose Newman’s mix to be on the first disc because it does feel more complete and in line with the original even though it’s an alternative version with how he’s handled the stems.
For this review I am not going to go through every track on the two discs individually and merely pinpoint a few of the differences between the mixes that are spread over the couple of CDs you get here. There is actually a 28 second difference between the length of the both discs although that is not so noticeable in relation to the mixes and both discs will give you a full representation of Tubular Bells.
The first disc contains 2 tracks like Oldfield’s original version of the album mixed by Tom Newman and comes with an overall playing time of 50 minutes, 53 seconds. I think the significant thing about this particular mix is that Newman has mixed it more or less how he mixed the original album and he has done his own thing with the original stems from the other musicians. He’s even thrown in some additives and subtracted some minute parts along the way and gone for more of an ambient and subtle dynamic approach.
For example, this mix is not upfront or in your face in relation to how the other musicians mixed their parts has you can hear on the second CD. There is also a notable difference with the volume levels of the both discs as well and Newman’s mix uses way less compression and is the quieter of the two. It is perhaps the more discreet of the mixes and has been finely tuned and well balanced with how all the elements have been layered and panned out in the stereo field. I would also say its less choppy with how he has done everything here which is why I personally feel that it does feel more complete.
What Newman has done here is taken all the elements of instrumentation and gave them his own sound and even though his mix does feel more complete not everything is necessarily going to sound as good as some of the original mixes done by the other musicians. For example, the Nasal Choir to which he himself did and to which I personally feel he done a very good job of. Does sound better to me with Rob Reed’s mix on track 6 “Blues” on the second CD. The notable thing about it with Newman’s mix is that he panned it from left to right and by doing that it does take away some of the resonance that can be heard in bis voice.
Other notable differences on side one of the album are the ambient nuisances he’s added in “Basses” to which add well to the effect and he has toned down a bit of how the bass guitar projects on this section. One of his better additions however is that he’s put the chimes of Big Ben in the “Ghost Bells” section and I quite like that. Some of the notable differences on side two can be heard on the opening track and it’s quite evident that Newman’s mix not only sounds superior with the ambient presence but he’s also removed the quite evident bit of distortion that can be heard in Rubén Alvarez’s mix of “Harmonics” on the second disc.
There has always been to me a certain amount of beauty that was put into the second side of Tubular Bells and the section that was later entitled “Peace” certainly displays that. Personally, I think it’s more at home here with the way Newman has mixed it and I have to say he’s done a better job in particular with mixing the vocals and most of the vocal parts on the album he’s done exceptionally well throughout. There are more little nuisances and touches he has given to the mix but rather spending all day making comparisons I best get on with the mixes on the second CD.
The second disc contains 17 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 50 minutes, 25 seconds and the 17 titles are what Oldfield gave to them when he remixed the album himself and can be found on the Tubular Bells 2003 Reworked Edition. The biggest majority of the tracks were mixed by Rob Reed and the mixes on this album are fuller on and sound more up front and in your face in relation to Tom Newman’s mix. Some may prefer these mixes in relation to Newman’s and I personally feel you can take some good and bad points regarding all the mixes over the couple of CDs and like I said they will both give you a full representation of Oldfield’s iconic album.
The second disc gives you what the musicians themselves have brought to the table in some respect so for this disc I shall go into not only the mix but detail every track regarding who is actually playing on it. The promotional video above will also give you an incite of who’s playing on each section and the musicians who appear on the album.
Track 1. Introduction.
The opening section of Tubular Bells was the bit that was used mostly for the film score of The Exorcist and it was the release of the film that gave the album a boost to gaining its success. The album itself may very well appear to be of some lengthy distance over its two parts in that they are both over 20 minutes. Although when split into individual tracks like this it perhaps looks more like a pop album rather than a prog album and this opening section is the second longest track on it over its 5 minutes, 32 seconds.
This is one of two tracks on the album that was mixed and mostly played by Daniel Holdsworth. The only thing he is not playing is the flute to which is played by John Field who played it on the original album. Holdsworth is an Australian multi-instrumentalist and composer and the co-creator of the music-theatre production, Tubular Bells for Two alongside with Aidan Roberts originally. He has also performed in bands such as Darks Common Underground, The Maple Trail and The Saturns all of which including himself I have never heard of myself. He’s also composed music for film, television, theatre and dance.
His approach to the opening section we have here is more or less close to the original and he’s used more or less the same instrumentation that Oldfield used himself. It only sounds partially arranged with how it flows along with its sequence of notes played on the piano and farfisa organ and the only real difference is the piano section at the very end, to which he perhaps played as a tailspin to allow the next collaborator to continue from. That short piano section was also removed on Newman’s mix. There is no doubt that Holdsworth is a very talented musician and his acoustic and electric guitar playing I particularly like and its very close to Oldfield I will say too and he’s done a GRAND! job here.
Tracks 2 & 3. Fast Guitars / Basses.
This next section was mixed by Rob Reed and features him on electric, acoustic and bass guitar as well as keyboards. It also features Rubén Alvarez on electric guitar who is another unknown to me though and obviously another Oldfield NUT! judging by his Youtube channel plus Les Penning on recorders. This does have more of an arranged feel about it and almost has more of a light hearted approach until the bass and duel on the electric guitars come into play to which they all do a SPLENDID! job of. One of the many shorter tracks on the album “Basses” was mixed by Scott Ampleford and features Phil Toms on double bass and bass guitars with Rich Nolan on drums. Here it’s without the ambient nuisances that Newman added to his mix and is more or less how this section was originally played and they do a fine job of it.
Track 4. Latin.
Like many of the musicians on the album I have never heard of them and Hubert Razack is no exception and this section was mixed and played by him and features Stefano Fasce on flute. Razack is another multi-instrumentalist judging by his Youtube channel. The one thing I have noticed is that he is only one of the two musicians on this album that have used a mandolin yet there are a ton of sections throughout the album that sound like a mandolin was used on them. Like Daniel Holdsworth, he’s very much stuck to the original regarding the arrangement and done a very good job of it.
Track 5. A Minor Tune.
Speaking of the mandolin I have noticed by this promo video that Rob Reed posted on his Tube Channel a while back that he also is playing the instrument though it is not listed in the credit notes. It makes me wonder how many more of the musicians on the album are playing the instrument, although it’s not unusual for its sound to be also replicated and played on a guitar.
Here Reed is paired up once again with Les Penning on the recorder which is not that unusual to see with the many collaborative pieces they have done together over the past couple of years or so. I quite like how they both give their own feel to the piece rather than try and make it sound spot on to the original and it is done with more of an arrangement in mind.
Track 6. Blues.
Like the previous track this was also mixed by Reed and a couple of the tracks that follow it were also mixed by him. Here is on keyboards and guitar alongside Jay Stapley on guitar and Phil Spalding on bass both of which have played with Oldfield in the past and are session players. It also has Tom Newman doing the nasal choir to which I do prefer in this mix and they all do a GRAND! job of it.
Tracks 7, 8, 9, 10. Thrash / Jazz / Ghost Bells / Russian.
The next part is a series of short sections that build up towards the “Finale” and all of them are under a minute long. Both “Thrash” and “Jazz” feature the same musicians as the previous track and they provide the adrenalin to which is brought down by “Ghost Bells” which features Chris Kimber on keyboards another unknown musician to me who specialises in ambient and meditation music from my research of him. Here you can hear the bells without the chimes of Big Ben that Newman threw into his mix and they do sound like real tubular bells.
The final of these short pieces “Russians” was arranged by Phil Toms. It features James Stirling on acoustic guitar and Steve Smith on other guitars including bass and was mixed by him. It also features Steve Bingham on violin and Brenda Stewart on viola and I found this video of them performing it on the Tube.
I have always loved the acoustic guitar in this section and Stirling does a very admirable job of playing it too. The mix on the video I do feel is quite good however, on the CD it’s very muddy and distorted in particular where the orchestration of the violin and viola come into play. None of the mud and distortion are evident in Newman’s mix however, he has bathed it in reverb which does kill the beauty of how Stirling’s acoustic guitar sounds and I do feel that this video gives the best overall representation of the piece and not the CD.
Track 11. Finale.
This is another of Rob Reed’s mixes that features him on grand piano, organ and electric guitar and he’s got quite a guitar army behind him on this one including Steve Hillage on double speed guitar, Jay Stapley on one slightly distorted guitar, Manu Herrera acoustic & Spanish guitars, Rick Fenn acoustic guitars and once again Phil Spalding on bass. It also has the other credited mandolin player Miguel Engel Arcengelus, John Field on flutes and Oldfield’s long time live percussionist Alasdair Malloy on Glockenspiel plus Tubular Bells and Jim Carter as the Master of Ceremonies who gets to introduce all the instruments.
The Finale is the longest track on the album weighing in at 8 minutes, 10 seconds and ends off side one of the album it could also be seen as the pivotal section of the album. I have to admit over the many years of hearing many different people introduce the instruments playing the part of the Master of Ceremonies. It’s the first time I have ever heard the words “reed and pipe organ” pronounced so clearly and even on the original album with Vivian Stanshall playing the part I always thought it was “reedon pipe organ” as if it was referring to a brand name of the organ that was used on the album 😁😁😁.
Track 12. Harmonics.
Another of Rubén Alvarez’s mixes and on this he’s playing electric and Spanish guitars and no mention of a mandolin to which it does very much sound like one was used. It also features Richard García on Philicorda organ and piano and the chanting voice of Ariane Valdivié and it is her voice that I do feel has been slightly better treated with Newman’s mix. However, regarding everything else I think this mix does bring the instruments out better.
Track 13. Peace.
This has to be my favourite section of the second side of the album and it was brought even more to life when Oldfield reworked the piece back in 2003. This is another of Rob Reed’s mixes to which features him on electric and acoustic guitars, bass and keyboards. Though I also think he’s playing mandolin on this too and it is more evident in this mix that this is a real mandolin. It also features Les Penning on recorders, Rubén Alvarez on electric and Spanish guitars and the chanting voice of Ariane Valdivié.
Regarding Reed’s and Newman’s mixes I do feel both mixes are very good though I do feel that it even seats well with the reverb Newman has added to it. But it’s not all he has added either and he’s also threw some tubular bells in the mandolin section which are a nice addition.
Track 14. Bagpipe Guitars.
No guitars were harmed or even used on this piece and it’s all the work of one-man Ryan Yard using soft synths from Garageband, Korg Gadget 2, Kontakt 6 and Ravenscroft 275. On Newman’s mix he has added some brass to beef it up a bit more and threw in some sleigh bells and other additives to effect.
Track 15. Caveman.
Next up we have what I believe is a band from Spain who go by the name of Fadalack who are also totally NUTS! on Oldfield’s music and they can have 20 musicians in their line-up but here we have 7 of them who are as follows: Luis Suria (electric piano & organ). Juam García (acoustic piano). Nacho Soto (electric guitar & voices). Silverio Carmona (acoustic & bass guitars). Cayetano Ruiz (electric guitar). Marcial Picó (flutes). Pablo Egío (drums) and they also have Tom Newman doing the voice of The Piltdown Man.
Fadalack are very much a Mike Oldfield tribute band and I have to say they are very good too and you do need a lot of musicians on stage to pull off Oldfield’s music. I found this amateur shot video of them on the Tube performing this live with Tom Newman from a few years back and even Newman himself is having a ball here 😁😁😁.
Track 16. Ambient Guitars.
This next soothing section is played and mixed by Manu Herrera (Guitars) and Álvaro Rodríguez Barroso (Bass & Keyboards) and is played more or less spot on to the original. I do personally think their mix gives it more of the original sound too whereas Newman has mixed it with even more ambient presence and altered the sound to give more of an arranged feel sort of thing.
Track 17. The Sailor’s Hornpipe.
The final mix is by Daniel Holdsworth and it features him on acoustic & electric guitars and percussion and playing alongside him this time, we have Manu Herrera on electric guitar and Chris Kimber also on percussion. There is not much difference between this mix and Newman’s mix and both sound more of a bland arrangement in comparison to the original though all is well here and it rounds off the album in the same spirit sort of thing.
From The Manor Born In Review…
Like I mentioned earlier it was the documentary that comes in this package that was my personal interest in buying it, especially when I read that it was four hours long. I love documentaries myself and spend a lot of my time on Youtube watching them and even though Mike Oldfield and Richard Branson are very much integral to the story of Tubular Bells this is still quite a good one and I only wish the Mike Oldfield Story that was made earlier and first shown on the BBC back in 2013 was this long, an hour was never long enough in my opinion.
Many of the original cast that was in the Mike Oldfield Story are also here and some parts of the footage does even look like it’s been lifted from that older documentary though these are all new interviews and they have all been captured very well on film. The original producers of the iconic album Tom Newman, Simon Heyworth and Philip Newell are all present and so to is the head of Virgin Records, Simon Draper. You also get interviews with musicians Jon Field and Steve Broughton who played on the original studio album and the first couple of live performances along with Mike’s brother Terry Oldfield and Steve Hillage who also played on the first couple of live performances.
According to my research the idea of putting this documentary together came about from both Rob Reed and Paul Harris being disappointed with the Mike Oldfield Story BBC documentary because it never really asked the questions, they wanted answering. So, the pair of them set about making their own version of the Mike Oldfield story and the album that launched the Virgin empire and roped in Reed’s long-time cameraman Andrew Lawson to capture it all with Harris doing the interviewing and posing the questions and Reed pitching in with a few of his own.
Over 12 hours of film footage was captured to which Reed had the painstaking job of editing it down to 4 hours and by the promotional video (below) that he put out on his Tube Channel its quite evident that the team have done a professional job of it. Four hours may seem like a long time but it was interesting enough for me to sit and watch it in one sitting. I never even made a cup of tea whilst changing the DVD’s and was quite enthralled by it all and a TOP JOB! has been done of it I will say.
The documentary very much portrays the story of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and the birth of Virgin Records by the people who were behind it. One of the good things about the DVD menu’s in particular is that each chapter has been titled in relation to what they are discussing. This makes it easier for you to go back too should you have forgotten something and makes a very good reference point.
As you can see by the DVD’s main menu’s each chapter contains a reference point to the story which is something I was pleased to see and along with the navigation it’s plain and simple to navigate yourself along and all you really need for a documentary such as this. Personally, I would have used the photograph they chose for the cover of them standing outside the manor for the background.
Like I mentioned earlier there was a bit of a surround mix and it’s unfortunate that they only decided to mix the “Finale” section. As you can see by the menu on the 2nd DVD you have the choice of Dolby Digital and DTS and the mix was done by Simon Heyworth. Both mixes are 48K and 448kbps & 1.5mbps respectively. The documentary is in Dolby Digital 2.0 48K stereo to be expected. Heyworth’s done quite a good job of the surround mix and it’s a shame that rest of the album was not done rather than give you one track from it.
I think overall the documentary raises some good issues and points about the iconic album, many of which I never knew myself and I feel the right questions were posed to all those being interviewed. For example although I knew Oldfield used a vacuum cleaner on another of his iconic albums Amarok. I was not aware one was used on Tubular Bells. Some of the other recording techniques can also be seen in this out-take that Reed also posted on his Tube Channel.
It’s all fascinating stuff and Tom Newman really is a right character to watch and can be quite funny. Looking at Simon Draper these days reminds me a lot of how Ian Gillan looks today and the sound of his voice is also reminiscent of him as well. I think it would of been GREAT! if they could of got hold of Mike Oldfield and Richard Branson but they are not missed with how it’s all been presented and put together and I certainly don’t think any Oldfield fans or those into his music will not be one bit disappointed with what has been done.
Summary & Conclusion…
It was the Documentary that enticed me to purchase this release and not another version of Oldfield’s iconic album. Tubular Bells is an album that can make my eyes well up with tears of joy whilst listening to it especially Mike Oldfield’s 2003 version of it because I do truly believe that album contains the best ever mix of it and is by far more superior to the original and the mixes we have here. I am not saying that the mixes here are inferior by any standards and they are quite good. But a tribute album like this is hardly gonna get the time of day on my turntable so to speak in relation to the original artist and in general it is not the thing I would spend my money on no matter how good it was.
Some people might also see this album as plagiarism and cashing in on another artist’s work. Personally, I don’t see it like that and there is more of a passionate thing that relates to the biggest majority of the musicians we have here. You only have to look at Rob Reed’s solo career to see where his passion lies for Oldfield’s music, but in all due respect that is where is real creative skill lies not in something like this.
In many respects listening to what he has done on all 3 of his Sanctuary albums is like listening to Oldfield but he’s playing his own music that has been sculptured by rearranging some of Oldfield’s original melodies just like Oldfield did himself when he done Tubular Bells II. That is something I do have the time of day for and admire and respect and speaks to me a damn site more than this album I can assure you. Like I also mentioned I don’t mind spending a bit of money going to see a tribute band. But the chances of me buying an album of them playing the other artists music leans mostly towards ZILCH!
There is only one Mike Oldfield and has gifted and talented he is himself I cannot take nothing away from all the musicians who are on this tribute album. What I will say about Tubular Bells by Tubular World is that it’s far from disappointing and can be quite enjoyable to listen to. But in some respects, I don’t think its alternative enough with its arrangement and some of the musicians have more or less played it to form or to the norm so to speak. I do feel that Tom Newman’s mix does at least try and give you that more of an alternative version and it’s easy enough to spot the differential differences from the mixes on the 2 CDs.
Whether there has been enough done here to float your boat is really down to you and your perception of how you view tribute albums such as this. I have nothing against covers like I already mentioned, but would rather have the odd one or two tracks on an album that also contains original material. Or even something like this example I came across on the Tube as a bonus video put on a DVD or Blu Ray.
These two chaps are not even on this tribute album and even though they are playing many different melodies from some of Oldfield’s classic albums. I do feel they are lending a bit more to the arrangement with how they are playing the melodies than what some of the musicians are doing on this tribute album.
The documentary From The Manor Born on the other hand in this package is what my money was on even though I had to fork out the extra expense to obtain it which does reflect in my price point rating. It’s also a shame that it is no longer available to purchase and I do feel it should have been sold separately. But despite the extra expense I am glad I did purchase it and I am sure if there is enough interest more copies may very well become available. Who knows it might also be shown on the BBC or Sky Arts in the future and its certainly worth watching?
The CD Track Listing is as follows:
01. Tubular Bells (Part One) 27:14.
02. Tubular Bells (Part Two) 23:39.
01. Introduction. 5:32.
02. Fast Guitars. 2:22.
03. Basses. 0:44.
04. Latin. 2:35.
05. A Minor Tune. 1:47.
06. Blues. 2:50.
07. Thrash. 0:36.
08. Jazz. 0:49.
09. Ghost Bells. 0:31.
10. Russian. 0:51.
11. Finale. 8:10.
12. Harmonics. 5:18.
13. Peace. 3:28.
14. Bagpipe Guitars. 2:49.
15. Caveman. 4:47.
16. Ambient Guitars. 5:18.
17. The Sailor’s Hornpipe. 1:58.