I bought Mike Oldfield’s album Amarok many years ago. At the time when there were no streaming services or music copies on the big video site yet, just some textual reviews on the net. One bought an expensive CD and, unless listening to its samples in the shop, enjoying the surprise afterward at home. (BTW I still do this from time to time because many pieces of good music are not available online.)
When I put the Amarok CD into my player and listened to it, I told myself: WTF have I wasted my money for? But I already knew that Oldfield’s music may not sound great at the first listening and it often shows its quality only after repeated listening. During the time, I listened to Amarok repeatedly and stopped regretting spending money on it, but I still didn’t like it that much. Sure, Amarok is the weirdest one of all the Oldfield’s albums.
What I didn’t know was that there is an additional unusual pitfall with Amarok that I discovered only many years later: It requires a matching audio equipment. It’s very much about multi-instrumental sound with all its nuances, which must be presented naturally and in an adequate quality. Once I happened to hit a good match, it was like removing a curtain from the music. It sounded quite differently and I felt no longer like a cloth-eared nincompoop!
Well, the album is clearly missing something and is not at the level of the Oldfield’s best masterpieces. But as a “relax” music it’s excellent. When I start listening to it I cannot detach from it for its whole 60 minutes. It absolutely illustrates the difference between a genius and those who use electronic and other effects either because trying to hide the lack of their musical abilities or because not realizing using the effects properly is beyond their abilities.
One proof that Amarok is music that actually doesn’t rely on effects, despite being full of them, is the incredible piano and bass guitar performance by Gus Fogle and Jason Miller (warning: the link points to YouTube, which is a site better to avoid, but it’s not available elsewhere AFAIK).
It’s amazing that one never gets bored with Oldfield’s music. Even after years of repeated listening to it there is still something new in it waiting to be discovered.