Mike Oldfield - The millennium bell - 1999
When M. Oldfield presented "Tubular Bells III" in September of 1998 at the Houseguards Parade, he coincided the use of the bells in its music with the sound of the strokes of a bell of the Big Ben.
"If I made coincide the strokes of a bell with the Big Ben at ten o'clock, why not to make them coincide with twelve in the new year´s eve"?
This plan began to take form in his brain -that place where he has composed from the greatest to the most commercial things; that place where, in the same way, he have given us compositions that have made us cry, and songs those that we have felt embarrassed - the millennium-mania that has taken to so many musicians to justify their existence, their "to be or not to be", if they were capable that somebody contract them to a new year´s eve show.
"There is something special in the new millennium. When I was a child I thought how far the year 2.000 was. ´How will it be?´, he said." "That was in the year 65 and the end of the century was still very far. But as the time has passed, you have seen that it comes closer and perhaps people have lost interest for it. I am satisfied of being a musician in this time, at this moment, and it satisfies me to be able to make the concert of Berlin. It is an important landmark that maybe means the start point of a new beginning"
Oldfield commented in its last visit to Spain. The elected place: Brandeburgo´s Door. The selected material: "The Millenium Bell". Neither the bells sounded when Mike Oldfield wanted, neither TMB is a landmark in the History of the music. What´s the CD about? They are main moments of the humanity's History, but let the own Mike to tell us what´s TMB about:
"It has not been difficult. In fact it was the easiest thing. I am not a historian. I only know about history what I learned in the school or what I have read, but, if I didn't know about something concrete, I think I´ve traveled enough like to find out more". (at least it is sincere). "Peace on earth" is about Jesus' birth, something that was good although then there have been things like the Inquisition". (for heaven's sake, will always Spain live under that thought?). "Pacha Mama", even knowing that the Inca civilization was razed, it´s about a culture that gave us very beautiful things". "Santa María" represents a moment in which humanity was trying to discover things in the world ... Even in the tracks about of of topics as the Second World War they are about the human spirit, of the desires of surviving, of the anger..."
Musically speaking, since this is not a place to discuss of the simplistic visions of the History, the CD doesn't overcome the 45 minutes, I don't know if it is a Wea contract term or it is that Mike wants to go dosing the efforts, and the 11 tracks go from the 2:38 to 7:37 (you don't make yourselves illusions it is not a suite neither anything resemblance. It is more, it is the worst in the songs of the album). In general, he moves relatively away from the disastrous TBIII although, unfortunately, there are disco rhythms in a less aggressive way. I suppose that it should be difficult to live in Ibiza, going out of spree with relative easiness and that you don't have left rhythmically deformed the brain. In the same way, TMB has so much of the pleasant Guitars, a well composed CD, but that it doesn't transmit any feeling, as of "The Voyager", something more complete than Guitars, with great production, good recording, but too simplistic in their conception. Maybe the most similar CD were the conceptual "The Songs of Distant Earth", in my opinion the best CD that Mike has made in Wea.
In that way the CD begins with a simply correct carol in which a voice of a children takes us peacefully for some courses Adiemus wants to convince us that they own, but that M. Oldfield declare his paternity with four guitar riffs, as our dear Alfonso Algora would say, trademarks.
"Pacha Mama" is the next track, of which we will be able to discuss if it is more or less commercial, but it´s clear it´s a track that it doesn't let the listener insensitive. In fact it starts calm until a choir intones a leiv motiv that grows in a great crescendo,... but it is forced to conclude before one had wanted, opening the way to "Santa María", where the angelical voice of the first track appears again and a melody begins with the sole error of remaining too much to main track of splendid Vangelis' soundtrack "1492 - The conquest of Paradise".
"Sunlight shining through cloud", it is based on the fight by the abolition of the slavery, carried out by Captain John Newton (1725-1807), old foreman of a ship of slaves' trade. Inevitably it has to be a song of clearly marked rhythms. The most interesting thing, the beautiful interpretation of the choir The Grant Gospel Choir who take to the outcome of the track with a typical church track. "The Doge´s Palace", it is centered in a palatine vision of the Venice of wigs and elegant disguises. It is a laboratory track: what would happen if we give a Michael Nyman's composition to Luis Cobos?
After that we can listen to the most interesting track Mike has composed for a lot of time. A simple melody a la Memories of Africa, dedicated to the Romanticism. Only orchestra and guitar, do you remember that end of the Orchestral Tubular Bells?. Wonderful. But the happiness don´t last and the meeting with the reality is hard. "Mastermind", the alcoholic prohibition of 1920 (a great historical landmark :). Totally dispensable. Thanks to God the good things have not finished. "Broad sunlit uplands", it is inspired by one of the speeches of Churchill. A piano recreating a nostalgic melody accompanied by an atmosphere that Mark Isham could have signed in its sound tracks of the 80´s. Magnificent.
"Liberation", has the charm of wrapping the reading that makes its daughter Greta musically (fruit of the marriage with the brilliant Anita Hegerland, that we will always remember for the wonderful "Pictures in the Dark") of fragments of Ana Frank's Diary. They relax the rhythms of the end of "Amarok" with synthesized atmospheres, choirs, floydian touches,... to conclude, "Amber Light", it begins with a beautiful melody almost a capella to finish becoming a song-hymn of tints ethnic plurals. Not too bad well.
"The Millennium Bell" is not more than a dance-oriented composition in which collides all the melodies of the CD. Desires of crying? Well, the good thing is that I prefer to hear this tracks in a disco than... Oops! Which kind of music sound at the discos nowadays? In summary, this in not an album for prog fans, this is a work for people who are happy with a blink, a smile.