Design By Humans
Published On: Fri, Apr 4th, 2014

Mike Oldfield: Man On the Rocks

mike oMike Oldfield
Man On the Rocks
(Mercury Records)

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A big acoustic guitar and John Robinson’s drums begin the floaty, almost sea shanty-like opener, “Sailing,” from Mike Oldfield’s new album, Man On the Rocks. (The second disc in this deluxe set includes instrumental versions of the tunes. With this first tune, we get an even clearer read of Oldfield’s slide playing). This 25th studio release from Oldfield sees him with his distinctive guitar playing with a “band” dare I say it, most notably Luke Spiller from The Struts.

Matt Rollings’ organ pushes the beginning of “Castaway,” a tune with a great lyric seemingly about mental health. The lead here is simply fantastic, as is Spiller’s rough and ready dramatic shouting. (The second disc version truly puts the lead out front). The title track is another Spiller showcase with Oldfield’s wonderful touches, cleaner this time. “Nuclear” reveals a biting Spiller, nice swirly organ and again Oldfield’s precise runs and bends though the lyric is a little trite. “Chariots” blurbs and bleeps with a synth beat, an almost danceable little ditty (the bass from Leland Sklar is excellent here) and once again a great Oldfield lead. Spiller is at his soft sweet best on “Following the Angels” (it’s very pretty and soft on the second disc with light Oldfield’s touches truly upfront) with simple piano lines from Matt Rollings and then a clean, chill-inspiring Oldfield lead.

A cover of William McDowell’s gospel, “I Give Myself Away,” ends the collection. Oldfield is on fire really with pull-off clean lead playing and Spiller turning in what might be his best ballad vocal here.

I can’t express in these few words how wonderful it is to hear Mike Oldfield at it again.

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Mike Oldfield: Man On the Rocks