Wednesday, March 3, 1999

Nurturing the Afterglow

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Legendary guitarist-composer Mike Oldfield was out tripping the light fantastic one evening in Ibiza, where he now makes his home. What should he hear booming out of the speakers but a blatant, third-rate ripoff/remix of his signature work, Tubular Bells. At first intrigued and then vexed, Oldfield scurried back to his private studio to begin work on a reply.

The result, "The Source of Secrets," is the opening track on this energetic and, might I say, occult production. It begins with the telltale pattern of piano notes and then spirals out into a hypnotic storm of intricate bass lines and ravishing acoustic guitar licks. Then, Oldfield plugs in his axe and, for the next 30 minutes, the music growls and gallops its way to heaven. On "Inner Child," a quiet aria climaxes in a sonic airshow, Oldfield’s super-compressed, polyflanged guitar locking claws with a Eurosexy diva as they scream across the fiery twilight sky. "Man in the Rain" is the only bona fide pop number, an anachronistic throwaway that might have been left out were it not for more lovely guitar work, seemingly played with a diamond for a pick.

The final 20 minutes rival the very best of Oldfield’s career – combining his compositional audacity with his taste for Ibiza’s mystic vibrations. "Secrets" returns as a coda, stripped down and far darker, preparing the way for the grand finale, "Far Above the Clouds." As a satanic bell peals relentlessly in the background, a stampede of African polyrhythms, reminiscent of the classic "Ommadawn," thunders through a heat haze of wailing guitar and tribal chant.

Jesus Christ, what a finish. Here is the perfect music for the perfect afterglow – nourishment for body and spirit, in exquisite balance.

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