Mike Oldfield – Man on the Rocks (Rating 3.5 out of 5)
If your only exposure to Mike Oldfield is through Tubular Bells, the iconic soundtrack to the The Exorcist, you probably are missing out. Over the years he has released many records of note including Tubular Bells II, The Orchestral Tubular Bells, Tubular Bells III, The Millennium Bell, and Tubular Bells 2003. You get the picture. This Tubular Bells thing was a pretty big deal.
And now, in 2014 Oldfield is using his immense musical powers for good instead of Progressive Rock, avant-garde classical evil with Man on the Rocks, a rock record that delivers a serious nod to the Pop bands of the 70’s and 80’s including Toto, Queen, and Steve Miller with a bit of a Pink Floyd vibe thrown in for good measure.
With vocal assistance from Luke Spiller of the Struts, the band is more than top-notch and includes Leland Sklar on bass, and Mike Rollings on keyboards with Oldfield himself playing most of the guitar parts. But make no mistake, this is no thrown together project. Every tune is thoughtfully written and impeccably produced with a Pop sheen that is loud and proud. “Moonshine” directly snatches the opening licks from the Edge and U2, and is one of the best Irish immigration anthems you will hear this side of The Waterboys with a vocal turn that is very Freddie Mercury-esque, where on “Chariots” the synths are turned up almost Rock opera style creating a sound that would be killer in concert if the band chooses to tour in the near future.
The Queen influences creep in on the opening track “Sailing” and on the beautiful title cut that features The Struts front man out front and center showing that given the classic rock feel of his band The Struts he is a hand in glove perfect fit for the sound that Mike Oldfield was looking for with this project. After enjoying this record, you might want to resist going back into the deeper albums of which there have been dozens, you probably will be disappointed. Man on the Rocks is clearly a one-off labor of love project, bot none the less it is one to be savored and enjoyed.