With Guitars CD Review
On June 2nd Tubular Brass Recordings present ‘Tubular Bells’ by Tubular Brass – an expertly and beautifully crafted rendition of Mike Oldfield’s chart smashing, highly influential prog masterpiece. The album is preceded by a limited edition 7” vinyl via Static Caravan on May 22nd, which features two individual single edits of the Tubular Bells introduction ‘Theme’.
The grandeur, wonder and wide spectrum of moods from the original are lovingly preserved yet radically different, whilst also adding a fresh clarity, sparkle and deeply rich hues. The majestic euphony created by this 28-piece ensemble has far more in common with an orchestra (in sonics and scope), than with what one might perceive as traditional brass band sounds. Following the original’s perfect synergy in William Freidkin’s classic movie The Exorcist, the album’s cinematic quality is made all the more apparent in this new guise.
Tubular Brass is a new brass band created to perform contemporary music and develop collaborations with artists from across the musical spectrum. Whilst firmly rooted in the brass tradition and featuring some of the UK’s finest players, Tubular Brass aims to bring brass band music to a new audience, by creating extraordinary projects. The players are drawn from both the brass band and orchestral fields, and are helmed by the award winning horn player, arranger and professor Sandy Smith, who had the following to say on the project:
“There are, in the musical lives of all of us, certain special albums that we remember and listen to again and again with true fondness. These landmark recordings delineate with a startling clarity certain moments in our lives, bringing back full memories of who we were, where we were, and what we were doing.
For me, Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ was one such album. I can easily remember when it hit the charts, and I listened, utterly amazed, as it stayed there far longer than any instrumental album had any right doing.
It was an album which captured my imagination and remains a pillar of my musical explorations. As a brass player and arranger it has been a long-held ambition to re-cast the work in brass. The opportunity to do that was kindled by a conversion with Jeremy Davies on the way to a gig with the Unthanks and Brighouse & Rastrick Band, which we were both involved in.
The re-working uses elements of the original version, the orchestral arrangement made by David Bedford and Oldfield’s 2003 re-recording – all re-imagined in a brass landscape. It is pointless trying to re-create the sounds of the original. My thoughts were always to create a version which sounds as if it was conceived for the instruments now being used. The size and flexibility of the ensemble allows us to hear ‘Tubular Bells’ in a new light.
In September 1974, ‘The Orchestral Tubular Bells’ – arranged by David Bedford – was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Oldfield subsequently added his own contribution to the album, in the form of an acoustic guitar overdubbed at Worcester Cathedral, and since then he has released several sequels to the original record: ‘Tubular Bells II’ (1992), ‘Tubular Bells III’ (1998), ‘The Millennium Bell’ (1999) and ‘Tubular Bells 2003’, which was a digital re-recording of the original.
Oldfield performed extracts from ‘Tubular Bells’ at The London Olympics Opening Ceremony in 2012, an event which, coincidentally, I was fortunate to be involved in as a music arranger and conductor.”
Tubular Bells features a guest cameo by acclaimed solo artist, Magnetic North member, Beyond The Wizards Sleeve and John Foxx collaborator Hannah Peel, who contributes an improvised synthesizer solo. Last year In Manchester Peel premiered her new space age, analogue synth-based alter-ego Mary Casio, with an experimental piece accompanied by Tubular Brass.