Return To Ommadawn
Mike Oldfield's Return To Ommadawn is what I’d venture to guess all true fans of the composer and instrumentalist have been waiting for. It’s a return to the to the album side-long pieces Oldfield was known for on his classic 70s albums like Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn. On Return To Ommadawn, Oldfield plays all the instruments like he used to — and a full range of them there are — pulling off some of the most passionate guitar passages you are likely to hear.
"Return To Ommadawn, Part 1" starts with a penny whistle and soft guitar plucking, then flows and builds into an expansive layering for 20 or so minutes. There are as many soft acoustic moments (spectacular as they are) as soaring electric guitar single-note epiphanies. There’s a short list of rock players who can squeeze this much feeling out of such an economy of notes, and Oldfield is at the top of this list. It’s great to hear him playing like this again after so much time away from presenting music this rich. Tribal drumming, glockenspiel, rhythmic acoustic guitar strumming, even female vocal samples from the first Ommadawn are employed, making each piece flow perfectly from one part to the next.
Eargasmed and exhausted as you might be by after the first part, you still have "Return To Ommadawn, Part 2" to contend with. If anything, Oldfield’s electric guitar phrasing and playing are even more goose-bump inducing. Yes, there are some solo acoustic guitar moments that truly show off Oldfield’s prowess and picking, but the layering of the electrics with bending, quick running up the fret board, and over-driving mounts at just the right moments. Keeping up such feel throughout leaves one breathless. The bottom line is that Return To Ommadawn is absolutely stupendous. It has been way too long since Mike Oldfield has made a record like this. Hopefully, he’ll stay with it.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.