Review - Mike Oldfield’s ‘Ommadawn’


In this review, I’m going to be delving into ‘Ommadawn,’ the bizarre masterpiece and junior studio endeavor from Mike Oldfield. The 1975 release further concreted a case for Oldfield’s relevance in an experimental music scene. Prior to the release of ‘Ommadawn,’ the artist got his big break during the launch of Virgin Records and his subsequent placement in an ‘Exorcist’ film. Nowadays, Oldfield’s music making victory laps with a series of deluxe and remastered collections of his records. Let’s dig into ‘Ommadown’ and discover why it’s such an intriguing effort.

When recording ‘Ommadawn,’ Oldfield remarked about how he was more interested in creating unique sounds rather than forming poetic lyricism or comprehensible vocals. For the purpose of this review, we’ll be digging into the two long form segments that open up the record, the first of which is ‘Ommadown Part One.’ The eclectic track is the very definition of experimentalism. Clocking in at nearly twenty minutes, the epic is broken down into movement-like sections. The opening, for example, has a very ethnic, Asian influence. The instrumentation, however, quickly evolves into a synthesizer-lead romp through rock and roll guitar musings.

As you descend deeper into the track, you’re met with even more peculiarities. Oldfield’s composition plays out like a dozen different sonic ideas compiled into one surprisingly coherent endeavor. The flute dominated middle is one of the most endearing pursuits on ‘Ommadown Part One,’ followed closely by the African influence on the latter half of the track with tribal drums and vocal harmonies. Toward the end of the track, all of these worlds explode in a cacophony of sound that is delightfully well designed.

‘Ommadown Part One / On Horseback’ follows, offering a much darker experience. The opening movement is a cataclysmic escapade through dynamic organs as they rise and fall like ocean waves of musical intricacy. Eventually, the moody mentality of this passes, and enters some Celtic territory before exploding into another rock-oriented, anthemic finale.

The beauty of ‘Ommadown’ isn’t that it is exceptional world music - though it is. The beauty of the ‘Ommadown’ is that it’s world music that defies classification into any specific sub-genre. Typically, world music hails from a specific place - African music, Asian music, etc. ‘Ommadown’ effortlessly moves through a myriad of these ethnic musings, however, showcasing that one can actually combine them all in a coherent manner. That’s the true excellence of the album, something best exhibited on those two tracks.

Author B. Stewart
Published Mar 21, 2019
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