Mike Oldfield Man on the Rocks Review

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I’m so superficial: I love the blue vinyl

First a disclaimer: I’m an enormous Mike Oldfield fan, who in conjunction with my wife had an excerpt from Tattoo on Tubular Bells II as our bridal march.

Like the majority of Oldfield fans, I was drawn to him through his instrumental work. That said, I’ve always really liked his rock work – Discovery and Islands are two favourites. So it was with a fan-based, but open mind in regard to genre that I’ve come to review Man on the Rocks.

This is an album from a man who has nothing to prove artistically – his reputation has been established for decades and if you’ve listened to many interviews, Oldfield will regularly emphasise it’s about creating the music he feels he needs to. That’s exactly what he’s delivered here – eleven songs that are infused with his current living situation (The Bahamas) and his semi-recent personal life (divorce).

If you’ve heard or seen much about this album, it’s hard to escape the Bahamas imagery. Combined with Sailing as the opener, it creates the strong perception of a relaxed / AOR approach, and I think it does the album a disservice. There’s a range of themes on here, but it takes a couple of listens to put the whole album into context.

Sailing is the lead song of the album and its obvious why – it’s upbeat and has a hook that’s hard to move on from. Moonshine and title track Man on the Rocks build the momentum nicely. Castaway is a slow burner that delivers a punch in Oldfield’s guitar solo toward the end. Minutes is a four to the floor soft rock classic as good as anything Oldfield has delivered previously. Nuclear and Chariots are the two most introspective songs, and it only takes one listen to work out it’s not a happy look inwards – Chariots instrumentally seems to be one from the vault. Following the Angels made little impression on me, but Irene is a nice rocker with some brass swagger added. I Give Myself Away is the final track and the only one not penned by Oldfield. It’s a mellow finish to the album and one that sits nicely.

Is Man on the Rocks one of Mike Oldfield’s better albums? It’s too early to tell, but it certainly can sit proud amongst his other rock albums. As far as replayability goes, I can see Sailing, Minutes, Irene and Castaway being on regular rotation, with the others pleasant surprises as they come up on a playlist.

The best compliment I can give this album is that it’s honest – and that honesty delivers a number of high points that will keep me coming back for a long time to come.

Oh and Mike: please tour Australia sometime – we’re just like The Bahamas but with even more flora and fauna.

Comments

  1. Anthony Kunkel says:

    Hey David – fellow Aussie MO fan
    Nice review; and I don’t often read reviews. Just a general warning though: MOTR gets into your head so you find yourself ‘listening’ to Minutes while mowing the lawn (for hours!), or waking up at 2.00am and ‘playing’ random ‘bits’ when you can’t get back to sleep (could be worse things on your mind when you’ve got a bout of insomnia). Your brain seems to choose the tracks like some kind of shuffle – and it can either be the song or the instrumental version. I’m sure that MOTR will implant itself in your brain too – even Following the Angels, especially if you listen to the instrumental version too and really hear the music underneath the song. I found your review on Mike Oldfield Personal Facebook Group, otherwise I would never have found you.
    You can find me by Googling ‘coffee shop office’…
    Anthony Kunkel

  2. Hi Anthony – thanks for the comment and glad you liked the review – I look forward to many months of MOTR ear-worms for sure 🙂

  3. Carson Rhodes Thaler says:

    I’ve been a fan of MO since 1999. My intro was Ommadawn and it was sometime before I found opus 1, (Tubular Bells)… Amarok always stands out, though we are talking about his pop-works, of which I find MOTR to be of greater impact and significance. Luke Spiller and MO have a strangely bi-polar effect that is quite encompassing though I didn’t even see this coming. But then, that’s Mike for you 🙂 So a quick run down. “Sailing” should be played on yachts in any sub-tropical area in the western hemisphere. When I saw the title “Moonshine”, I thought it was going to be a remake of the TB2 version, which I couldn’t imagine how it could be doesn’t any better. It was something else quite differently.. I can imagine “Moonshine” being played in any western Irish pub to great delight. It’s mainstream, but still a bit Irish Folk-jigg as well. “Man on the Rocks” is quite a good stance on addiction. For those who have been there, it’s an epic piece, reminiscent of Pink Floyd. “Castaway” is has a white atoll feel to it, and the solo is quite choppy and clean at the same time. “Minutes” has a “Tom Petty” feel to it that is also combined with a 50’s Greaser effect. It’s quite mesmerizing for it. The guitar solo here is quite nice. As is the Guitar solo in “Dreaming in the Wind”, a piece that is quite a jazz grunge with a trance island feel. I like the Instrumental version of Nuclear, though is great with the lyrics or not. I was on the fence with the CCM song “I give myself away”, though with a pure Oldfield solo, how could I not give myself away?
    Overall, I give this album a 7.0 to start. Mike’s music always requires to bend our ears a bit from the status quo, but it’s for good cause. this is one of his better pop albums, but I don’t see him getting the recognition he deserves for sometime. This stuff could really take off in the US. Why don’t we see Mike marketed here?

  4. why was this so difficult to buyin the shops with it’s distribution.? Sailing was played on Radio 2 a lot and yet none of major supermarkets stoked. Sainsburys was and then cancelled. feel a little cheated as his fans got him to no12 for 1 week and then album dropped from charts almost like make a quick buck. why is his publicity etc always so bad unless it a Tubular album? positive review to follow

  5. It’s a great point Gavin – any lack of distribution can be pointed squarely at the record company. It’s a sad but true state of the industry now.

  6. Carson Rhodes Thaler says:

    I’ve even noticed it here in the States.. M.O. is practically unheard of… This album would rock if it were promoted here… MO probably doesn’t fit in the standard consumer marketing psychology that the US relies on to drive it’s economy, so I figure that keeps his music undercover here. Every person I intro his works to becomes hooked, so why the silence? Is it all over his falling out with Virgin? That’s my guess…

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