Album review: Mike Oldfield (3) – Ommadawn (1975)

Even if “Hergest ridge” inspired his second album it was the third one, “Ommadawn” that was actually recorded there at The beacon. Most often I name this one as my favorite Mike Oldfield album ever. My connection with it is the strongest and I get the deepest nostalgia when listening to it. I go into a trance like state every time I listen to it. For me “Ommadawn” is about more than bringing up memories or being a bookmark to a certain period in my life; this album goes so deep that points of reference change and instead of me remembering something or someone I become the one being remembered… There’s no way normal words could fit the magnitude and perfection of this album so instead I wrote a little story….

…imagine a room full of memories, where a girl and a guy had spent quite some magical moments… the second he left she felt a short shiver pass through her body, and she moved farther away from the door, towards a warmer spot. She soon felt a strange pressure over her, the pressure of a room, of the weather outside. It was the kind of sensation which settled right on her heart, like a bookmark of a certain space and time. She felt a little dizzy and got close to the window. The lights were already turned on. The warmth inside was giving her a feverish state, but it was something good this time. It was like she was in a strangely lit box, looking out at the people walking in and out of the building, bothered by the freezing cold outside, while she was warm and cozy in her room, in her territory, in her own space…The natural light in the big hallway and the artificial light where she was enhanced this sensation. She had never felt a more poignant sentiment of belonging as during those seconds. It was as if she was home, in that building, in that room, and she wished to remain there forever. She wanted late autumn and winter to last, she felt comfortable in this environment, and suddenly she heard music. Loud, clear, covering the room, the hallway, the building, it was the most beautiful instrumental piece she had ever heard…it breathed winter, the cold, the white, the emptiness of winter and the comfort of a warm room with artificial light…A warm, crowded, agitated room…the raw and soothing sounds were filling her up with joy, sweetness, longing, all in the same time…the flute was caressing her…a few minutes into the song, the mood changed, evoking wider spaces, larger spaces, darker space and the girl truly felt like a memory;she felt like that song was taking her somewhere at the beginning, in a dark, dusty basement, from which she could only climb…it looked like the basement of this old building she was in.

She felt as if that room where she was now was a place and time someone was looking back at after years and years, listening to that divine music, and the girl felt smaller and smaller…The bliss of belonging, the sorrow of longing, they were all mixing inside her to the point where she felt choked…Someone, something greater was looking at her now, at that beginning, after having seen the end…She was part of something, an important and undividable part of a whole, of a setting, of a time, of a space, and she couldn’t control anything…She was a face on a painting that someone loved to look at every now and then…A few violins whaled in her ears, then she heard the most beautiful bell sounds, and the song went on on a higher tone…  it was as if the girl was a track on a vinyl disc which was being recorded with that song that very moment. Everything had changed, no, she wasn’t a face on a painting, she wasn’t a track on a disc, she was what was being recorded…she was the song, she was a part of that superb musical piece, she was being recorded, painted, carved during those very minutes. That song was the knife, and it was carving her image, her soul, her being, in this setting, in this time, and she was feeling everything, she was feeling herself being embedded into every piece of stone, wood and wall in this building, into every memory from this building, and the song was going on an on…

Distant voices were chanting something, embracing the girl and she was now the dusty, raw and innocent beginning of something. She wasn’t in control of anything that regarded her, the painter was, the one playing the song, the one who wanted the girl to be stuck there eternally. The tone of the song was climbing towards its climax, towards its end, it must have taken some 20 minutes, until it stopped!! And the bliss of belonging, the surreal feeling of it, vanished; leaving her with the biggest void she had ever felt inside her. She could still taste the sweetness, but there was something missing…It wasn’t the emptiness of having been drained of something, it wasn’t the emptiness of having lost something, it was the terrible emptiness of missing something, of wishing for something she didn’t know, of feeling that something should have gone differently, that something didn’t go right, the emptiness of “too late”…still, it was the sweetest sting she could ever feel.

“Ommadawn” is one of those albums that transcend music. “Ommadawn” is a soul exposed and a superb confession from a unique musician.

Track rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 37 / 37

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:

Part 1

Part 2

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2 Comments

  1. Many of the things in your review resonate with me. I also have that sense of deep nostalgia.

    It’s a strange thing; Ommadawn takes me to a very specific place: my backyard, late summer, around sunset, and I’m maybe seven or eight years old. I can kind of live there again for a moment or two.

    I don’t really know why that is, although I would have been around five or six when this was released. There was always music in the house (including Tubular Bells, which my parents had, part of my earliest memories), but this is one that I know for sure we didn’t have. I didn’t even know it existed until maybe 10 years ago.

    I’ve tried to analyze it, but can’t put a finger on it. There are probably similarities with Tubular Bells admittedly, but there’s just something about it that reminds me of that time in my life. For me, the mid to late 70’s was a time of childhood curiosity, and the music speaks to that. Some kind of innocent adventure, like lying on the floor reading Omni magazine. It’s very powerful, and those voices are calling back to me in some way – that may be the most moving aspect. There is also a sadness, a sense of loss somehow.

    Part of me doesn’t want to overanalyze it; I don’t want to deconstruct it and ruin it for myself – it’s nice to have something that just takes you back once in a while.

    • This is what it’s all about…the music I mean, and Mike’s music especially…this is why I have this site. Thank you for sharing and I hope you’ll find more memories here! 🙂 There’s no better time machine that Mike’s music for me.

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