Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells

Don’t worry, I’m not going to do another review of this album. Many of us have read too many of them by now and my conclusion is that it’s something that one either “gets” or doesn’t. Instead I’d like to offer an insight on my experience of the album as a musical piece.

It’s an album I’ve always wanted to understand, and perhaps even grow to like, yet until this evening I had never heard it in a context or from a source that does it justice. I’ve owned a copy on CD since around 1990 I think, when I first became sentient and started to realise I love music. I remember getting that CD home and trying to listen to it on headphones and just… hated every moment of it. It wasn’t that the music itself was uninspiring, or that it needed concentration to really get the most out of, it was more that I felt I simply couldn’t hear enough of what it was made of for it to make sense. Perhaps this then was the start of my interest in audio?

Fast-forwarding through memories of several life stages accompanied by several audio playback systems through the last 20 years or so, up to the present moment. I find I have on the shelf a “well-loved” 1980’s pressing of the album on 12″ vinyl. My head hurts, life is what I might call “full” right now and some escapism is most welcome. So I put this on the deck and let it play out.

And I’m absolutely gobsmacked. For the first time I feel like I’m actually hearing the work. I can hear the timbre of the instruments and the arrangements. I can feel moods change, and I can appreciate the random non sequiturs that actually add to the intended mood rather than distracting away from it. The work feels right. And so I shut my eyes, listen, and am taken on an obscure journey that has completely set me to rights. Just wonderful.

Companies making me happy

Despite how things look to anyone following my blog or Twitter/Facebook updates, there are some things that are going right. Many in fact.

So to help balance things out, I feel it fair that I should give a shout out to the guys at LMC Audio and Allen and Heath, two of the best companies I’ve yet dealt with in their fields.

LMC excelled themselves when we started investigating the possibility of purchasing our digital mixing desk. All their staff have been very helpful, and have consistently gone the extra mile to make sure we and our purchase are happy as can be. Arranging a demo of the kit was very easy, and the way they pulled out the stops to arrange a second demo at the very last minute earlier in the summer was a really good example of how things should work. JP, their head of sales i think, has been wonderful in both his honesty when things don’t go to plan, and his cheerfulness throughout. I’d highly recommend LMC to anyone looking to do the same kind of purchase and installation we’ve just done.

As for Allen & Heath… Not only do they offer great products, but their tech-support team seems very active and this shows both in the firmware updates made so regularly to add or fix features on their iLive series, and in their extremely pro-active and helpful approach to dealing with queries or requests via telephone, email or the iLive discussion boards.

Well there we have it – five gold stars to both. Other companies (regardless of their work) could learn a lot from you guys – I know I have!