Mike Oldfield Man on the Rocks Review


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.

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