CD: Tubular Bells

Tubular Brass
Mike Oldfield arranged and conducted by Sandy Smith

It’s a strange yet wonderful thing that many of us can place music and the context of that music within particular phases of our youth and adult lives. For those of us of a certain generation, Mike Oldfield’s iconic, groundbreaking concept album, Tubular Bells, is one such landmark. It’s a story that arranger, conductor and innovator, Sandy Smith, relates in the liner notes accompanying this new CD, which detail the impact and his fascination with Tubular Bells when first released, coupled with the birth of an idea that was not to be realised until many years later.

With occasionally quirky titles to the often fleeting, continuously played movements including Fast Guitars, Blues, Thrash, Ghost Bells and Caveman, Oldfield traverses a multiplicity of rapidly shifting moods and styles in his music, all of which are faithfully reproduced in Sandy Smith’s colourful and skilful arrangement.

If there is a criticism, it is that the recorded sound is somewhat compressed, but it’s little surprise that the quality of the playing is exemplary, given that this is a hand-picked, all-star band featuring such luminaries as Owen Farr, Rob Richardson, Andy Berryman and Mark Frost. The reality remains, however, that despite that quality of performance, the concept as a whole still has to work. And it does so in impressive fashion.

Any adaptations to the original have been thought through carefully and changed for practical reasons only. For instance in the finale of Part One, where in the original Oldfield introduces each instrument in turn, Sandy Smith turns to celebrity chef and band fan, Brian Turner, who introduces each section of the slightly modified and augmented brass band in a similar manner, whilst the only real concession to electronics is in Ambient Guitars of Part Two, which features an extended, improvised synthesizer solo.  

Whether you are a fan of Oldfield’s original album or not, one has to admire the innovation that has brought this project to fruition, along with the fact that the concert tour, prior to the release of the CD, has taken the brass band into new musical territory - no doubt simultaneously winning over Oldfield enthusiasts new to the brass band medium.

The music is immensely enjoyable, but for the foregoing reasons alone, this is a CD that is amply worthy of our support and exploration.




Read more reviews, interviews and features from June 2017’s BBW, by subscribing to BBW Digital. Alternatively, subscribe to the printed magazine delivered by post: £40 (UK); £68 (Europe); £81 (Rest of the World)

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