Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mike Oldfield (Pt.3) Post-Tubular

Mike (with the pressure of fame from his debut album "Tubular Bells") decided to move away from the limelight.  He chose a country home in a small town of Kington, which was on the border of England and Wales.  Beside the town was a massive hillside called Hergest Ridge. It was this place that provided Mike new inspirations into his next instrumental album.

(Hergest Ridge)

Mike loved fly in gliders and enjoy the countryside, hang out at the Penrhos Court, drink, and smoke his cigarettes.  In this pub he would also enjoy the wonderful Celtic/folk music that was played there, as Mike would sometimes bring his acoustic guitar and play alongside a local musician Leslie Penning.

Within his new home, Mike built his own studio.  He gave a list of things he needed to Richard Branson, and Richard went out to by what he needed.  Branson was still pressuring Mike to write and record a follow-up to "Tubular Bells" and also to do interviews.  This is where Mike began to use his studio to start working on a new album called he simply titled "Hergest Ridge".  This studio was for rehearsing new material he was working on, but when it came time to actually record Mike went back to Manor Studios (with the assistance of Tom Newman).

Mike’s recording used different methods of his instruments and made for wonderful mood changes.  This was similar to "Tubular Bells" but was considered more of a prominent album (in my opinion).  The way he recorded superimposing guitar sounds then decreasing the volume using equipment at the Manor made his early albums a listening journey.  It felt like riding a wave of musical emotion.

For this new album Mike had assistance from his friend David Bedford, who came in to conduct the strings and do some arrangements.  David also brought in a choir from London called the Sinfonietta Voices in which he conducted them.  David was now a solo artist and was teaching at the Queen’s College where he taught (of course) music.  Mike also was introduced to an Irish vocalist Clodagh Simmonds, who was part of a group called Mellow Candle.  Personal friend of Mike named William Murray introduced Oldfield to Clodagh.  William was a percussionist who worked with Kevin Ayers when Oldfield was in the band. William played some percussion on the new album, along with a jazz percussionist Chili Charles. Mike's sister Sally provided vocals with Clodagh.  Mike recorded almost 15 instruments this time around including guitars, bass and organs.

"Hergest Ridge" was released on August 28th, 1974 and entered the British charts at #1.   The album was soon beat out by "Tubular Bells" which makes Mike Oldfield one of the few artists that have had an album knocked out of #1 spot (on the British charts) by another album of the same artist.  "Tubular Bells" was still gaining mass amounts of popularity even though Virgin Records was promoting his second album release. Many critics still wanted another "Tubular Bells" like album and so did Virgin Records in a way, but Mike just wanted to write and record what he felt at the time.

It was said by Mike, during an interview about re-recreating "Hergest Ridge" live, he said there was a piece of music [on part two] where he played about 30 guitars.  Each of those he recorded double tracked, so that was now 60 guitars!  Even the bass guitars were double tracked, so you needed around 95 guitarists with fuzz boxes to create the sound live.  This shows the complexity of how Mike recorded music.

Though Mike still refused to perform "Hergest Ridge" live, this did not stop Mike from performing with other artists.  Mike did play with other artists live including a Kevin Ayers, and Robert Wyatt.  During this time Virgin Records wanted Mike to record an orchestral album performing "Tubular Bells" with the famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  Mike once again refused, but later came around to changing his mind.  This was no doubt due to continued pressure from Richard Branson.  Mike wanted David Bedford to work on the orchestral arrangements and even conduct the orchestra.  Mike only played classical guitar on small section of Part Two.  David did end up recording with the orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London in September, 1974.  The album was produced by Mike and David Bedford collectively.

Mike had already worked with David Bedford and his solo records; playing guitar on some of his albums during this time.  One album was the amazing "Stars End", followed by the fantastic "Instructions for Angels" album.  Bedford was to perform "Stars End" at the Royal Albert Hall in November of 1974 and Mike was to appear to play guitar.  Unfortunately Mike’s mother passed away and was unable perform.

(Dave and Mike working in the studio)

Mike was set to to perform the Orchestral Tubular Bells live in December of 1974 alongside Bedford and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  Due to the loss of his mother still fresh in his head, Mike was still grieving and did not perform.  Instead, guitarist Steve Hillage (of Gong) played guitar that night.  Bedford worked with the Orchestra again to do an orchestral version of "Hergest Ridge", which Mike was not featured, so Virgin Records brought in Steve Hillage to play guitar throughout the album.  Virgin Records were also set to release this album but changed their minds at the eleventh hour. “Orchestral Tubular Bells” was finally released in August of 1975.

Mike had now started 1975 starting to record his third album. This time Mike was to record away from the Manor and start recording at his home studio, which the home was known as The Beacon. Mike recorded from January to September, and bringing in musicians to the Beacon to record and stay with him. This album, Mike wanted to blend his usual rock sound, with celtic/folk plus even African sounds as well. Mike was really experimenting more with sounds, still playing and recording many instruments and multi-layering the instruments. For this album Mike used vocals from his sister Sally and Clodagh Simmonds again. He also used William Murray again, plus his brother Terry. Mike also brought in the local musician Leslie Penning, to do some recorders. And then brought in a brass band from Herford City. To bring in the Celtic element, Mike wanted an Irish piper to play the Uilleann Pipes, and he found one of the great ones in Paddy Maloney from the great Irish Celtic bands The Chieftains.

Mike wanted African drummers for parts that were rooted in African culture and sound.  Branson found a group by the name of Jabula which had four African drummers, that were recording artists, and were travelling Britain.  Mike brought Jabula into the studio for tracking drums.  Other people on the album included another vocalist in folk singer Bridget St. John and Gong percussionist Pierre Moerlen.

The new album was called "Ommadawn" which was a Gaelic name for ‘idiot’ or ‘fool’.  It's interesting to note that Mike recorded a vocal song, which was featured at the end of part two of this album.  This was the first time Mike actually recorded a vocal song, with his own vocals.  He wrote the lyrics with William Murray and it was influenced by the horses of Hergest Ridge.  The song was called "On Horseback" (of course).  "Ommadawn" was released on October 21st, 1975 with the single being released in November.  The single featured a new song called "In Dulci Jubilo" which was the highest charted single for Mike (which reached #3).  The B-side of the single featured "On Horseback". "In Dulci Jubilo" was an instrumental of a famous Christmas carol.  See the video below:

After "Ommadawn" had ran it's course Mike disappeared again from the limelight and decided not to record any new albums.  During the period of 1976, Mike did release a few new instrumental singles, including the single "Blue Peter" which was a song he recorded for a children’s British TV show (under the same name). Mike continued to work on other artist’s records, including David Bedford and Tom Newman’s solo records. Mike and his sister Sally performed on an album by a bassist/songwriter Pekka Pohjola from Finland.  The album was not released until 1977 but the album was produced with the assistance from Mike at his new studio in Througham. At the end of 1975, Mike had moved from Kington and moved to a new home in Througham Slad in Gloucestershire, England.

Mike was enjoying his solitude and would not bow down to pressure to write and record a new album.  He was happy to record singles and work with other artists at the time.  All the while, Mike continued to suffer from anxiety attacks which prompted him to attend a seminar that changed his outlook on life and his outlook on music in 1977.


Be sure to check back next week for part four of the series.  Craig has conducted many interviews with many notable musicians.  His interviews, comments and articles can be found throughout AFGM, and two Mike Oldfield fan groups (which he also moderates):

You can contact Craig for any further information/questions at:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Album Artwork 20 Years Later

So here's a moment to make you feel quite old.  So after seeing this in my news feed, I was feeling a bit senior when seeing these album covers passing the twenty year mark!  Some of these albums were the cornerstone of my childhood and could easily sing along to mostly all the songs.  I can't recall a time where I wasn't playing the entire album of "Dookie" while working on my air guitar skills.

(Green Day - Dookie)

With that being said, it brought a big smile to my face when seeing Phillip Marsden recreated these classic album covers into something more fitting of the 2014 era we currently live in.  Do you have any fond memories of any of these?  Is this article making you fee old?

(Beastie Boys - Ill Communication)

(Hole - Live Through This)

(Machine Head - Burn My Eyes)

(Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible)

You can also check out some other work that Phillip has done for Kerrang! Magazine, including his drawings for Kerrang's "Encyclopedia of Rock"

(Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral) 

(Pantera - Far Beyond Driven)

(Therapy? - Troublegum) 

(Weezer - Weezer [The Blue Album])

"Phillip Marsden is a cartoonist, illustrator and general ink wallah from the UK, currently based in Sydney, Australia.

Clients include NME, ShortList and Kerrang! magazines in the UK, Foxtel and Woolworths in Australia. Comics self-published under the imprint Compromise Comics Enterprise."


What needs to be said here that Metal Blade Records hasn't already covered.  As I Lay Dying's future still lies in limbo and as such, the remaining band members NOT behind bars will have to find other ways for their creative outlets to take place.  While we have waited quite a bit of time regarding Tim Lambesis' future, the other four members were hard at work figuring out a game plan since they had a feeling how this was going to go down.  So the label did what they would probably do for any of their artists, sign them!

"Metal Blade Records is pleased to announce that JORDAN MANCINO (drums), NICK HIPA (guitar), PHIL SGROSSO (guitar) and JOSH GILBERT (bass) of San Diego, California based metal act As I Lay Dying, have teamed up with vocalist SHANE BLAY (previously lead guitar/clean vocals in Oh, Sleeper) to create the new band WOVENWAR." -Metal Blade Records (press release)

So when did all this go down?  Seems like they have been working at this for some time now and have launched it with precision and accuracy.  It seems that they had some good hands working with them to produce this new single and album.

"Over approximately the last year, the band completed work on new material recorded with producer Bill Stevenson (Descendents, Black Flag) with mixing duties currently being handled by Colin Richardson (Slipknot, Machine Head, Trivium)."

So below is a snippet of...well, Wovenwar!  The snippet doesn't give too much indication of how the album is going to go.  For all I know, the whole album could sound like the preview and we would have a Metal Blade version of Imagine Dragons on our hands.  Haha

Chances are though, the guys want to make a solid album and try and veer away from the negativity that surrounds As I Lay Dying currently.  They are talented, have lots of experience, and have a huge fan base to tap into.  Crossing fingers for a great debut single.  Put the best foot forward!

"On Monday April 21, fans will get their first full listen of WOVENWAR’s debut single “All Rise”. While not the final mastered version, the song will be a proper representation of what’s to come when WOVENWAR’s self titled debut drops late summer 2014."

Stay tuned to,, and the members’ personal accounts below for more information regarding album track listing, album artwork, touring, preorder info, new music, videos, social sites, etc.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

RIP Shane Gibson

While not following every move the man made, he was a well respected musician and a very talented one at that.  He was an influence to many, including myself and my music endeavours.  It's a shame to see major potential like him pass away so soon.  Going to be playing some stOrk music and Korn DVD's today for a tribute.  Cheers to the music you made Shane!

"It is with deepest sadness and regret that we must confirm that stOrk founding member and lead guitarist Shane Paul Gibson passed away at 5:45 AM on April 15th, 2014 in the UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama as a result of complications from a blood clotting disorder. He was 35 years old. He was one of the best guitar players the world has ever known and his virtuosity was matched only by his wit and generosity of spirit. He will be missed beyond measure.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all those who loved him as much as we did." -stOrk

Music Releases For April 15th, 2014

I threw on some tunes from these albums yesterday and was quite happy to find my niche with Ray Bonneville and Sevendust.  While those are only two of the albums listed for release today, I just happened to be in the mood for some mellow attitude and a stripped down version of what I am regularly used to listening to.  You know... that chugging, breakdown, down-tuned, upbeat metal!

A well rounded list I must say for this week.  Like stating before, Bonneville along with some other notable released like Ian Anderson, NEEDTOBREATHE, Strunz & Farah, and Ziggy Marley give off some great mellow vibes to sit back and relax to.  Something to feed your brain when you first wake up and in need of that slow build up to the afternoon.  Then you can move into the more erratic stuff such as Emmure, I Declare War, and Teramaze.

So be sure to show some love to the artists by purchasing their album from your local record store (yay Record Store Day this weekend) or from an online retailer.  If digital is more your thing, then be sure to purchase it from an authorized legal source.  Cheers and have a great new release Tuesday!

(Ray Bonneville - Easy Gone)

There aren't any extended guitar breaks. His pace is unhurried and deliberate, rhythm and melody parts of the same animal. Produced with Justin Douglas, Bonneville's band is small and his grooves are tight. The settings in these songs are the American highway, the road in all its seduction and fury. His traveling characters are all vulnerable to the gnawing hole of loneliness; they're hungry for connection but can only inhabit it for a moment if at all, because they're haunted -- or pursued by -- the spirits of restlessness and movement. Bonneville has always been drawn to hard-bitten characters, not for what they signify, but simply for who they are.

Bonneville skillfully strips the veneer from popular illusions about the freedom of the road. His characters choose it or are cursed by it, but either way, they accept it as the price of doing business. Easy Gone is not just another chapter in his remarkable late-blooming saga, but the finest one to date. -All Music

(NEEDTOBREATHE - Rivers In The Wasteland)

NEEDTOBREATHE have found their feet.  This is an album with soul… this is an album with heart… this is an album with history without burdening you with all the dirty details… this is an album of songs that have been crafted by experience, by pain, by laughter and by faith.

This is the most complete album that NTB have brought to the table.  There was a Reckoning (their last album) and from the ashes of that a phoenix has risen, that not only has lit a new fire and a renewed purpose for NTB but brought water into a wasteland.  NTB have had a weight lifted from their shoulders and it shows.  If you are looking for an album that encourages you to be lifted during the driest of places, then stop here for a drink. -Screaming Goose

(Ian Anderson - Homo Erraticus)

I must admit upon first listen I was not too sure about this album but after several more subsequent spins it grew on me a few notches upon the ladder of approval. This is not music you can listen to in the background; it demands your complete attention to be appreciated as an entire work of art. It’s never cut and dried with Mr. Anderson and you will find once you consume every bite of this full course meal that Homo Erraticus is yet another triumph. This is indeed a musical story that deserves repeated listens. Is this another prog rock classic? I have no doubt that it is. You must add the album to your collection if you have a place in your heart and soul for progressive music. -Prog Rock Music Talk

(Strunz & Farah - Moods and Visions)

Moods and Visions is Strunz & Farah's 20th release and 15th studio recording. With all new material, this album celebrates 35 years of the Grammy-nominated guitar duo's highly successful collaboration, continuing and evolving their original synthesis of multicultural elements into a flowing, melodic and rhythmic acoustic guitar style of high virtuosity. Spectacular improvisations flash through always colorful sonic weavings. These renowned master instrumentalists are accompanied by a top flight ensemble of rhythm section and flute. -Amazon

(Tuomas Holopainen - Music Inspired By: The Life and Times of Scrooge)

It should also be clarified The Music Inspired by the Life and Times of Scrooge is not a metal album, but a symphonic soundtrack. The orchestra heard throughout the album is The London Philharmonic Orchestra, arranged by Pip Williams, who has also arranged the orchestral portions of the last three Nightwish albums.

Music Inspired by the Life and Times of Scrooge is an album for every occasion and for every emotion felt.  The album has a tranquil effect, similar to that of Classic music, making it not only for true Nightwish fans or metal fans, but for everyone.  There is no question Tuomas Holopainen is one of the most talented musical composers of our time and this album proves it. -Cryptic Rock

(Ziggy Marley - Fly Rasta)

'Fly Rasta' finds Ziggy exploring both traditional reggae and new musical territories, often merging the two. Keen to stretch himself beyond his usual frame-of-reference, 'Fly Rasta' incorporates elements of  rock, funk, soul and pop over a broad range of lyrical content.

Along with pushing musical boundaries, the album is a call for humans to come together, support one another and treat Mother Earth with care and respect. Marley has been a strong advocate for the environment, the overall health of the planet and its inhabitants. He is a long-time supporter for the industrialization of hemp and recently launched his own line of GMO free, organic coconut oils and hemp seed snacks. -Contact Music

(Sevendust - Time Travelers & Bonfires)

Staying true to the fact that the band has never been situated in a specific genre, Sevendust’s newest album contains a combination of numerous elements from various sub-genres. There is a considerable amount of ‘space’ to the composition of these tracks allowing the rich sound of acoustic and vocal melodies a chance to breathe. More established songs such as the single “Black” - from the band’s self-titled release back in 1997 – gain a breath of fresh air as the acoustics add a rich tone to the band’s classics. Furthermore, I’d personally like to thank the band for NOT writing an album full of ballads; a habit that many other hard rock bands fall into when writing an acoustic album. Simply put, Sevendust’s ninth album is great, refreshing, and pure. -Lithium Magazine

(The Birds of Satan - The Birds of Satan)

That’s the key word with The Birds of Satan—adequate. This record certainly highlights the trio’s musical chops and their songwriting strengths, and yet the overall feeling that this record produces is nothing to write home about. And while it’s good to see a rock and roll band still trying to win fans in an era that has seemingly given the “mother of us all” the boot, The Birds of Satan is neither Nevermind or Revolver—neither groundbreaking or era-making. It is, in short, a sonic ping in a wide ocean that is no longer searching for new grit or new guts from guitar acts. -In Your Speakers

(I Declare War - We Are Violent People By Nature)

The change was from a brutal death metal type of sound, when they had Jonathan Huber as a vocalist, to a guitar chugging, overly loud and heavy, deathcore sound. The album itself is ten songs long and has roughly 35 to 40 minutes worth of listening material.

Of course, in a different light, you can say the album is quite boring with its repetitive instrumentals and lack of diversity in the vocals. This album may be for you for those reasons alone, and that's understandable, but for those who are into the kind of music, they will absolutely enjoy this album. Basically, if you like I Declare War's self-titled album that released back in 2011, you'll like (if not love) this album. If you're into chuggy deathcore, you'll also like this album. But if you're not into either of those things, you will not like this album. -Pig Squeals And Breakdowns

(Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism)

The album’s concept, while not narrative based centres around the experiential nature of deception; especially by that of governing bodies and the powers that be. I think the title of ‘Esoteric Symbolism’ is perfectly apt as this is not the viewpoint or mindset of everyone and best kept as the worldview of a particular minority of people. I think for some the lyrical approach could border on conspiracy but I like the exploratory nature of them and what is truly the harm in questioning some of the taken-for-granted “truths” we hold in this ever-changing world. Kudos to Teramaze for honestly and whole-heartedly fusing their beliefs with such hard-hitting music in a way that I see as completely lacking pretence. -Metal Obsession

(Emmure - Eternal Enemies)

In all honesty, this chance to fire back should have been the perfect platform for Emmure. Instead it emerges as one of the album’s biggest letdowns. For all the resentment and anger Palmeri and the band air out, it always seems to distill down to the same two themes: A. Palmeri could care less about the insults and disrespect lobbed his way; B. that people should try and say those comments to his face.

But after suffering through an album’s worth of banal, textbook deathcore riffs and stale nu metal leftovers, eternal damnation has already long set in. -The PRP