Tubular World – Tubular Bells

Tubular World – Tubular Bells

Robert Reed’s fascination with Mike Oldfield’s music is well known. It resulted in a number of very enjoyable albums under the Sanctuary moniker. Beautiful works, made with great respect and taste, that contain their own interpretation of the work of the legendary Englishman so admired by Welshman Reed. But it doesn’t stop there. The passion for Oldfield’s work has now gone so far that Robert Reed, known from Magenta, Kompendium, Kiama and Chimpan A, among others, started a new project some time ago: Tubular World. The starting point was a very comprehensive portrait of the creation of Oldfield’s iconic debut album from 1973, Tubular Bells.

In a four-hour (!!) documentary entitled From The Manor Born, various people who were (closely) involved in the birth of this masterpiece, such as producers and engineers Tom Newman and Simon Heyworth, have their say, but also musicians who have collaborated with Oldfield, including Steve Hillage, Les Penning and Rick Fenn, who also play on this album. Four hours is a long time – a very long time in fact, especially if there has been excellent footage before, particularly from the BBC, featuring the very same people. Remarkably, neither the main character himself nor Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Records, appear in the documentary. Not invited, not interested, no approval or permission?

To frame the whole musically, Reed naturally thought of playing the original album. However, that was not allowed. Then the idea gradually arose to have the soundtrack played by others, in parts, connecting the whole together and having original Oldfield producer Tom Newman mix it. No sooner said than done.

It’s nice to hear this legendary album again after a long time. And once again I am surprised and moved by the beauty of the music with the glockenspiel that was entrusted to vinyl 48 years ago. The beautiful melodies, the minimalistic structure based on Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, the way in which all those small musical mosaics are interwoven into one large coherent masterpiece/tapestry. Brilliant, masterful, unique, enchanting, ground-breaking – only the highest superlatives apply.

There are two audio CDs in the package that I have at my disposal. CD 1, mixed by Newman, concerns the two original album sides. CD 2, the parts mixed by the artists themselves, although of course one whole, cut into 17 pieces, each of which has been given its own label. This resulted in names such as Fast Guitars, Basses, Latin, A Minor Tune and Caveman to name just a few. This is not impractical, it makes it possible to recognise the individual pieces and compare them with the original. That does actually bode well for the ladies and gentlemen who participate in this Tubular World project. Most of them know each other from their participation in the various Tubular Bells events in England, where, you guessed right, one Robert Reed is the trigger/organiser. In total, about 35 musicians have a share in this soundtrack.

What is particularly striking is the relatively high number of participants with a Spanish background. Master guitarist Ruben Alvarez as well as his Tubular Tribute band, the extended collective Faladack and guitarist Manu Herrera all come from the Iberian Peninsula. What is in the water that attracts so many to Oldfield’s special music? Or is it the melancholy character of his work that attracts especially sensitive people like Spaniards? We’ll probably never find out. The fact remains that the aforementioned contributions in particular belong to the best moments within the multitude of musicians who have ventured into Oldfield’s complex music. Also, an honourable mention to Australian duo Tubular Bells For Two, Messrs Daniel Holdsworth (no relation to Allan) and Chris Kimber. Just look it up on YouTube, it’s phenomenal what those two do on stage.

The two versions of the music, one with versions by the artists with their own mix and the other with old faithful Tom Newman behind the controls. The point of this escapes me, to be honest, although Rob Reed has done this trick before on his Sanctuary albums. The only thing I can say is that I have a slight preference for the artist version: they develop their own focus, which sometimes surprises you and reveals details that had already been forgotten. Or never really heard. Quite a revelation, coming from someone with some expertise when it comes to Mike Oldfield’s body of work, especially the older albums, if I may be so bold.

I haven’t seen the documentary (yet), at most some short video clips. Maybe there will come a time when I have to make time to watch a series of interviews for four hours straight. For now I have to make do with the two audio CDs that Reed has put in a box. An ambitious, courageous, but largely superfluous exercise and only truly interesting to Oldfield aficionados. Including myself.

CD 1
[Mixed by Tom Newman]
Tubular Bells – Part One (27:15)
Tubular Bells – Part Two (23:40)

Time – 50:55

CD 2 [Mixed by the artists]
Tubular Bells – Part One
01. Introduction (5:32)
02. Fast Guitars (2:21)
03. Basses (0:44)
04. Latin (2:35)
05. A Minor Tune (1:47)
06. Blues (2:50)
07. Thrash (0:35)
08. Jazz (0:49)
09. Ghost Bells (0:31)
10. Russian (0:51)
11. Finale (8:09)
Tubular Bells – Part Two
12. Harmonics (5:17)
13. Peace (3:27)
14. Bagpipe Guitars (2:49)
15. Caveman (4:47)
16. Ambient Guitars (5:18)
17. The Sailor’s Hornpipe (1:57)

Time – 50:25

Total Time – 111:20

Performing Tubular Bells – Part One

01. Tubular Bells For Two – Introduction
02. Ruben Alvarez, Robert Reed & Les Penning – Fast Guitars
03. Tubular Bells Live – Basses
04. Hubert Razack – Latin
05. Robert Reed & Les Penning – A Minor Tune
06. Phil Spalding, Jay Stapley & Robert Reed – Blues
07. Phil Spalding, Jay Stapley & Robert Reed – Thrash
08. Phil Spalding, Jay Stapley & Robert Reed – Jazz
09. Chris Kimber – Ghost Bells
10. Tubular Bells Live – Russian
11. Tubular World – Finale
Performing Tubular Bells Part Two
12. Tubular Tribute – Harmonics
13. Les Penning, Robert Reed & Tubular Tribute – Peace
14. Ryan Yard – Bagpipe Guitars
15. Fadalack – Caveman
16. Manu Herrera & Alvaro Rodríguez Barroso – Ambient Guitars
17. Tubular Bells For Two, Manu Herrera & Chris Kimber – The Sailor’s Hornpipe

Tubular Bells For Two
Daniel Holdsworth – Guitars, Percussion
Chris Kimber – Percussion

Silverio Carmona – Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar
Pablo Egio – Drums
Cayetano Ruiz – Guitars
Nacho Soto – Guitars, Vocal
Luis Suria – Piano, Organ
Marcial Picó – Flute
Juan Garcia – Piano

Tubular Tribute
Ruben Alvarez – Guitars
Richard Garcia – Organ, Piano
Ariane Valdivié – Vocals

Tubular Bells Live
James Stirling – Acoustic Guitar
Phil Toms – Bass Guitar
Rich Nolan – Drums
Steve Smith – Guitars, Bass Guitar
Brenda Stewart – Viola
Steve Bingham – Violin

Hubert Razack – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Stefano Fasce – Flute
Robert Reed – Keyboards, Guitars, Vibraphone
Les Penning – Flutes
Phil Spalding – Bass Guitar
Jay Stapley- Guitars
Jon Field – Flute
Alasdair Malloy – Glockenspiel
Miguel Engel Arcengelus – Mandolin
Ryan Yard – Guitars
Rick Fenn – Guitars
Steve Hillage – Guitars
Manu Herrera – Guitars
Alvaro Rodríguez Barroso – Bass Guitar, Keys
Tom Newman – Vocals, Percussion

Record Label: Tigermoth Records
Catalogue#: TMRCD1220
Date of Release: 14th December 2020

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