Why Mike Oldfield's returning to Ommadawn

Portrait of Oldfield pointing at the camera
(Image credit: Ian Wilten)

Mike Oldfield releases new album Return To Ommadawn through Virgin EMI on January 20 – and this sees him bowing to popular demand.

“When I first began to think of what I should do for my new album, I went on social media and asked the fans for their opinion. And so many of them seemed to want me to go back to the acoustic style of the first three albums, and of these it’s Ommadawn that appears to be their favourite one.”

What also clinched his decision was a comment from synth pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre.

“I saw that Jean-Michel was doing a live Facebook chat with his fans, and I went online to follow what was being said. One person asked him whether he might ever collaborate with me, and his answer was interesting, because he said that he loved my music but that I was too acoustic for him. This got me thinking. If someone like him believes I’m an acoustic musician, then it showed how important that part of my career has been. So with all this overwhelming evidence, I felt it would be very exciting to do a project again along those lines.”

Work on the new album began last December, and was only concluded in November this year. And Oldfield is keen to stress that this is a pure solo work. “I’m the only musician who is involved. I play everything. There are no guest appearances whatsoever.”

Well, that’s not strictly true, because those with keen ears will notice a very brief choral burst from the Penrhos Kids at the end of the second track, titled Part II. But this isn’t quite what it seems.

“I did wonder if people might be disappointed that the album doesn’t have a follow-up to On Horseback, which was the final song on Ommadawn. So, I took one line from the children’s choir who sang on that track and inserted it here. This is a way of linking these two albums across more than 40 years. It’s not a new recording.”

Oldfield readily admits that he’s specifically designed the album for vinyl. There are just two tracks here, titled Part I and Part II, each of which is around 20 minutes long.

“I tend to think of them as being Side One and Side Two of an LP. This was deliberately done because I love vinyl and the way it brings people closer to music. As far as I’m concerned, if you listen to downloads, that has the same impact as what you hear in a lift! Of course, the album will be made available in all the usual formats. But for me it’s the vinyl one that matters. The cover is very elaborate, and there will be a gatefold sleeve. This will have hundreds of photos I’ve taken of all the instruments I’ve used in the recording sessions. The aim is to give everyone hours of enjoyment as they try to identify all of these, and what roles they might have played in the making of the record.”

However, Oldfield doesn’t have any plans to perform Ommadawn and Return To Ommadawn live.

“It would just be too difficult to organise. I’d have to find musicians who could play the parts in the way that I believe fits best, and that would be almost impossible to achieve. Yes, there are very talented people around who could duplicate what I’ve done, but it could never have the same emotional connection. The only way I could see this working is if you have 15 or more clones of me onstage!”

See www.mikeoldfieldofficial.com.

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Malcolm Dome

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica, published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009. He died in 2021