Album which simultaneously launched Virgin Records, the career of Mike Oldfield, and the commercial success of New Age music. Released in 1973, Tubular Bells received the Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition in 1974 and spent months at number one on the UK charts. In the States, the album was launched into the Top Ten due to its haunting effect in the motion picture The Exorcist.

Tubular Bells is essentially one 49-minute conceptual piece, fusing many different genres into a breathtaking and accessible whole. Oldfield's main talent here, in addition to playing almost 30 different instruments himself and mixing the tracks together seamlessly, was combining the exciting experimental aspects of bands such as Can, the Soft Machine, Tangerine Dream, and early Kraftwerk with excellent songwriting and a tightly focused conceptual vision. From jazz to classical to rock, Oldfield utilizes all his musical knowledge to achieve a distinctive sound which even he has not been able to truly, successfully reproduce (although there certainly have been enough attempts).

Though certainly a triumphant work, the piece is not without flaws. The second side is slightly overshadowed by the magnificent first side... and what's the deal with the Piltdown Man? In addition, Vivian Stanshall's persistent announcements of the instruments Oldfield's playing at the end of the first side are quite obtrusive, especially at first listen, although it it may have been necessary in order to lead up to the glorious final exclamation of "Tubular Bells!"

In order to buy this album, I had to wander into the deserted "New Age/Country/Jazz" section of a local Tower Records. They keep a glass partition between this section and the well-selling rock/pop stuff... I guess it's to prevent contamination by the so-called "lame" music. Although I received glares of disgust from people twice my age with Kid Rock CDs in their hands, I assure you rock fans that there is no shame in owning this record. More than 16 million people worldwide already own it, and the overall sound of the record is actually "harder" than much of what is considered out-and-out rock and roll, complete with electric guitars, rock drumming, and some pretty sweet chords. In any case, you can see by the softlinks that this album is held in high regard."

List of Instruments from the liner notes

Mike Oldfield plays:

Grand Piano
Farfisa Organ
Bass Guitar
Electric Guitar
Speed Guitar
Taped motor drive amplifier organ chord
Mandolin-like guitar
Fuzz Guitars
Assorted Percussion
Acoustic Guitar
Honky Tonk
Lowrey Organ
Tubular Bells
Master of Ceremonies: Viv Stanshall
Flutes: John Field
String Basses: Lindsay Cooper
Nasal Chorus: Nasal Choir
Girlie Chorus: Mundy Ellis, Sally Oldfield

Mike Oldfield plays:

Electric Guitars
Farfisa Organ
Bass Guitar
Acoustic Guitar
Speed Elec. Guitars
Lowrey Organ
Concert Tympani
Guitars sounding like Bagpipes
Piltdown Man
Hammond Organ
Spanish Guitar
Moribund Chorus
Girlie Chorus: Sally Oldfield, Mundy Ellis
Bootleg Chorus: Manor Choir conducted by Mike Oldfield
Drums: Steve Broughton