Music Reviews

Popular Music - Part 35 - May, 2000

Graham Vine




"Tubular Bells III

Mike Oldfield

WEA; 39842-43492

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The sounds of a dark and stormy night are the first we hear on Mike Oldfield's latest working of his "Tubular Bells" theme. That said, the album is generally a fairly light, breezy set of tunes. Many of the sounds are carried forward from the previous albums, though to me, the most striking differences are the increase in vocals and a greater emphasis on a beat.

This third "Tubular Bells" is definitely a product from the very end of the 20th Century. The 'groove' that's in there could equally belong in any one of dozens of Top 10 hits, so Mike Oldfield must have the knack of tuning-in to the current sounds. When beat-less, the tracks have an ambience about them - I even hear elements of George Harrison's "Wonderwall" in places. And with the current variation on the simple piano repeated solo, the whole lot is held together as a concept like the earlier albums.

Track 7, "Man In The Rain", is the only true vocal track. Whereas there is plenty of humming and lah-ing along with the other tracks, this one has a lyric and a song-structure. It is very familiar-sounding, familiarity bred from 1983's "Moonlight Shadow". I kept wanting to sing along those words to this track! In fact Heather Burnett features on vocals in place of Maggie Reilly, but how similar their voices are. "The Top Of The Morning" has a Michael Nyman sound to it, making a nice link with The Piano that runs through the album. This one factor could point the way to Mike's next move, following in the footsteps of Paul McCartney, and maybe turning out a classical work or two.

So no disappointment from this reviewer on hearing "Tubular Bells III". And anyone for whom 'three' is their first, then numbers one and two are also recommended.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. The Source Of Secrets

2. The Watchful Eye

3. Jewel In The Crown

4. Outcast

5. Serpent Dream

6. The Inner Child

7. Man In The Rain

8. The Top Of The Morning

9. Moonwatch

10. Secrets

11. Far Above The Clouds

- GV -


"Assorted Chocolates"

Paul Cote

Two Shes; PC-CD-01

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Paul Cote is the name of the band and of its founding member. Currently a three-piece group, Paul Cote makes a full sound: rich in vocal harmonies, drumming which is always 'on the go' and some guitar-work which is interesting but never over-fussy.

The recording quality has much to commend it. This CD sounds as if it was recorded in a single run-through, capturing some of the freshness of a live recording. If, on the other hand, this CD was actually recorded in several sessions with multiple layered dubs, then many of us would like to know the trick.

The band is happy to acknowledge its influences in late '60s Brit-rock, and as a convenience, I note here some like-examples as a point of reference for this New York rock. For instance, track 6 has its similarity to "Tomorrow Never Knows" from "Revolver" with its unison and parallel octaves, and "Lobuine"/"Taxman" from the same era. And "Jet Fighters" shares elements of "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand" by The Who. Others have heard echoes of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters.

Instrumentally, guitar, bass, and drums seems plenty. After all, Hendrix made do, though where his approach relied on sheer dots-per-inch, Paul Cote uses a fatter sound to ensure a gap-free performance. Instrumental breaks are there when needed but are not intrusive. There is some inconsistency in the bass; track 3 sounds great, but other tracks come across as a bit muddy.

The funky sequence in the middle of track 2 owes much to the bassist - the skill is clearly there in all three players. All in all a most enjoyable listening experience. I found I wanted to return to it more and more - as much to study its music-making as to get drawn along in the flow. It is very involving, and I imagine their live gigs are a treat. Maybe next time I am in New York I can check this out.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Lobuine

2. Jet Fighter

3. Wax Divine

4. Refrigerator Syndrome

5. Chinese Pictures

6. Refresh

- GV -


"Deserter's Songs

Mercury Rev

V2; VVR-100-2772

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Sometimes an album has an immediate attraction. Others need some more perseverance. In this case Jonathan Donahue's vocal formed a two-track barrier that took most of the rest of the tracks to win me over. His voice is like a cross between Lou Reed's and Jon Anderson's, though rather more unsteady than either, and I had formed this opinion within the first 5 notes of the album.

A couple of tracks are 'throwaway' items. Track 4 has the phonograph-crackling we hear from time to time on CDs, but this time the effect is taken to its extreme with an accurate rendition of the 'honking' audio that accompanied horn acoustic gramophones, complete with cabinet vibration. Luckily the track is only 25 seconds long. The other nonsense track is 'The Happy End (The Drunk Room)' and maybe the clue is in the title. It is a collection of sounds that may have some artistic merit, but I have yet to find it.

These criticisms aside, there are some magical moments on this highly original album. Without being derivative, there is some likeness to Yes, and even early Steve Miller Band, but where do you factor-in a genuine woodworker's saw, bowed 'cello-style? And the audacity to include the melody of "Sleep in Heavenly Peace" from "Silent Night" on track 3. Neither the melody nor lyric of the track has a link, but it does seem to fit. Opus 40 has yet another interpretation of Bach's 'Air On A G-string' as the theme for its verse and (as far as I can tell) a completely original chorus.

A wide range of support musicians are at hand, yielding additional evidence that this album was put together with considerable intellect and creativity. At its best, I found the album stimulating and enjoyable. The few tracks which left me cold will grow on me . . . maybe . . . and you also.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Holes

2. Tonite It Shows

3. Endlessly

4. I Collect Coins

5. Opus 40

6. Hudson Line

7. The Happy End (The Drunk Room)

8. Goddess On A Hiway

9. The Funny Bird

10. Pick Up If You're There

11. Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp

 - GV -


Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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