Friday, November 23, 2012


YEAR:  1974
LABEL:  Virgin
TRACK LISTING:  Hergest Ridge Part One,  Hergest Ridge Part Two
IMPRESSIONS:  TUBULAR BELLS was the big commercial monster hit; even before THE EXORCIST utilized it, the album was a blockbuster.  Naturally, a follow-up was demanded and HERGEST RIDGE was it.  Also a commercial and critical success, Mike Oldfield's second album was much more "quiet" than his previous; I might actually go so far as to call it Mike Oldfield's "pastoral album".  After all, the album cover (which Oldfield says he was "never entirely sold on" for some reason) features as it's four major images:  sky, grass, doggie and model airplane.  And the very name of the album derives from the Hergest Ridge summit nearby Oldfield's house at the time.  The album, of course, follows much of the previous pattern; it's a piece broken into two movements (to fascillitate vinyl's side one and side two) and features building, interweaving instrumentals and melodies; however, like I said this is a more "lyrical" and quite "medieval" sounding album to my ears, quieter, less fireworks (in fact, for the first re-release in 1976 as part of the 4 LP vinyl box set "BOXED", Oldfield remixed and removed some of the "bells and whistles" that made the original release more "Tubular Bells-like" and announced his preference for the remixed version.  I have the original vinyl LP, the vinyl "BOXED" set as well as the cd of this album and I still don't know if I can speak to the differences between them -- I haven't heard the original vinyl for years.  However, I waver back and forth as to whether HERGEST RIDGE or its follow-up OMMADAWN is my favourite Mike Oldfield album; OMMADAWN being something of a melding between the commercial blockbuster TUBULAR BELLS and the mellower HERGEST RIDGE.  The building up of textures seems more seamless here than on TUBULAR BELLS making the entire work feel more "organic".  While OMMADAWN usually pips this album to the post as my favourite Oldfield work, HERGEST RIDGE is always closely nipping at its heels.  
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  It's all one track, folks.
FACT SHEET:  HERGEST RIDGE is Mike Oldfield's second album.  The album is named after the hill Hergest Ridge summit near Kington, Herefordshire close to the English/Welsh border; Oldfield lived there at the time in a house called "The Beacon" (now a guest house and popular tourist destination for Oldfield fans) wherein Oldfield wrote the album.  The album itself was recorded at Branson's The Manor as was its predecessor TUBULAR BELLS.  HERGEST RIDGE entered the UK album charts at number one; it was displaced by TUBULAR BELLS(!); this making Mike Oldfield among the select company of artists (like The Beatles and Bob Dylan) who knocked themselves off the number one spot.  The album was produced by Tom Newman and features choral vocals by the London Sinfonietta.  The original vinyl mix has been released on cd in 2010 along with a new remix and different cover art.     

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