Mike Oldfield

Two Sides: The Very Best of Mike Oldfield

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Mike Oldfield, the self-taught guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and producer, is chiefly remembered for his album-length "Tubular Bells" composition, an eerie, fascinating, and conceptual piece that did so much to set the tone for the movie The Exorcist. Oldfield played most of the instruments himself on "Tubular Bells" and it remains, and undoubtedly always will remain, his signature piece, but he's done a lot more than that, exploring styles and musical forms from progressive rock and folk to jazz, ambient, world, pop, and even disco and beyond throughout his maverick recording career. This two-disc set, selected and sequenced by Oldfield himself, provides a nice survey of his shifts and turns, and illustrates the restless and often brilliant way he produces a sound and style that manages to be expansive and insular, popular and eccentric, and sometimes all of these at once. Excerpts from "Tubular Bells" are here, naturally, along with the African section of "Amarok," "Ommadawn," and shorter pieces like "Ascension," "Supernova," and "The Tempest," and there's even a message in Morse code for Richard Branson woven in here. Now 60, and making his home in the Bahamas, Oldfield continues to do his own thing, combining the avant-garde with classical composition techniques, prog rock dynamics, and his own restless sense of pop music. This self-chosen set makes a great introduction to his life's work, although ardent fans will no doubt have everything here in their longer forms.

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