wed 24/07/2024

CD: Mike Oldfield - Return to Ommadawn | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Mike Oldfield - Return to Ommadawn

CD: Mike Oldfield - Return to Ommadawn

Uplifting retro-reboot revisits landmark 1975 album

Return to Ommadawn: Mike Oldfield progresses back to 1975

New releases by Mike Oldfield don’t exactly grow on trees, but nor can they be deemed rarities. For the first three decades he brought out roughly half a dozen a decade. But Return to Ommadawn is only his second since 2008. As the title announces, it tours the landscape of his third album Ommadawn, which he recorded in his own studio at Hergest Ridge in 1975 and played pretty much everything that didn’t require breath (wind instruments and vocals).

It’s roughly the same story here except that Oldfield blows on his own penny whistles, which feature prominently in the mock-Celtic musical landscape he conjures up with mandolin and ambient chanting. But this is Oldfield paying a redemptive visit to his prog past, so there’s plenty of noodly bass, thoughtful guitar riffing and simple piano licks. In homage to 1970s vinyl, there are two title tracks, parts one and two, each of 21 minutes, which go about the business of building and layering in a style that is integral to Oldfield’s DNA. It’s like catching a time machine back to 1975, when War of the Worlds was but a twinkle in Jeff Wayne’s eye and Mark Knopfler was still plucking in pubs, and Tubular Bells had given Oldfield the freedom to make the music he wanted.

There’s nothing as immediately grabby or winningly pretentious as Oldfield’s indelible debut. But the quasi-symphonic Return to Ommadawn grows on you, and by the third listen it has worked its way in whether you like it or not. I do like it, with its thudding drums, Hispanic nods and shanty stylings. And Oldfield has not lost his ear for innocent, intricate, cheerful melody. Anyone of the relevant vintage whose system was colonically irrigated by the advent of punk should probably steer clear. For anyone else, this is an uplifting retro-reboot.


By the third listen 'Return to Ommadawn' has worked its way whether you like it or not


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article


In the age of Who's got talent music its extremely uplifting that there are artists who just don't care about the rest of the world and do their own thing. I think Mr Oldfield should have all the respect in the world for that. The album is amazing and I don't see myself listening to anything else for a long time.

There is no better musician or composer than Mike Oldfield. He is a genius. His music is the background to my life. I don't need a critic or anyone to tell me what to think about his work. He is the best and always will be.

In total agreement with both M and Gwen Charnock. His music is the work of pure genius. It moved me physically.

I'm immensely relived that Mike has returned to his roots and the winning formula he used for every album upto and including Tubular Bells 3. Return to Ommadawn is inspiring and uplifting. Like many of Mikes other followers his music has pretty much been with me for most of my life and I can still listen to his older material and be instantly transported back to significant events of my life. I think RTO will do the same thing in 20 yrs time. Bravo Mike bravo.

Uplifting beautifully authentic Oldfield. Your haunting melodies remain with me forever. Genius

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters