Hergest Ridge

Mike Oldfield

Virgin Records, 1974


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Mike Oldfield has been recording music now for about 25 years, but he is still known in America for only one work: Tubular Bells. Its inclusion on the soundtrack for The Exorcist assured Oldfield some level of fame in the States, but most of the rest of his body of work has been criminally ignored.

In England, they know a good thing when they hear it. When Oldfield's second album Hergest Ridge came out in 1974, it knocked Tubular Bells off the top of the charts. And people wonder why I'm fond of Britain.

Oldfield was faced with the unenviable task of repeating the success he had with my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Tubular Bells without repeating himself. How does one top a monumental piece of work - ironically, one that was rejected by almost every single record label?

For Oldfield, the solution was rather simple: keep the concept of one song on the album, but make the overall feel of the piece more gentle, as if you can feel the spring breezes while looking over the countryside on a cliff. Not nearly as threatening as Tubular Bells was, Hergest Ridge is a more approachable piece of music in many senses.

You can tell this is a special piece of music from the opening moments of the first movement. The friendlier, more relaxed atmosphere of the music seems to pre-date any of the New Age that came to pass in the '80s. In fact, Hergest Ridge is a very relaxing disc to listen to, and is one I've occasionally turned to in order to relieve the stresses of the day.

Also more noticeable on this album is a smoother transition from concept to concept on the part of Oldfield. While Tubular Bells, a great piece of work in my mind, seemed a little choppy, Hergest Ridge appears to be seamless. It is almost as if Oldfield learned how to create such monumental pieces from his whole Tubular Bells experience, and used Hergest Ridge as a refinement of his skills.

Complaints? At times, the atmosphere on this album seems a little too relaxed. As much as I like this album, I often found myself wishing for a little more of an edge at times, if only to balance the calm demeanor of the heart of the piece. And as much as Oldfield tries not to mimic ideas from Tubular Bells, a bass solo around the halfway portion of the piece almost feels like it is a copy of the prelude to the "Master Of Ceremonies" portion at the end of part one of Tubular Bells. (To Oldfield's credit, that's where the mimicing stops, and the bass part here takes on its own unique timbre.)

Hergest Ridge is not an album you'll easily find, but it is most definitely worth the search. If you liked Tubular Bells, odds are you're going to enjoy Hergest Ridge just as much.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.