Sound & Color
Something of a British institution, Mike Oldfield's still a hard man to pin down.
For those who've not been paying enough attention these last 30 years, it might come as a surprise that Man On The Rocks is a pretty straightforward rock album, no pioneering electronics here. But Oldfield's been – largely – ploughing that furrow since the late 70s, not exactly lighting up the singles chart but keeping devoted album buyers onside.
He's fairly decent at the mature rock star thing too. What he's found here is a comfortable middle ground between The Traveling Wilburys – the slide guitar-adorned chug of Sailing; the relaxed singalong of Minutes – and U2 – those echoing chimes of guitar on Moonshine and Following The Angels. When he lets go, screaming and soloing on the closing minutes of Castaway, he even takes a leaf out of Queen's book, coming on like a terrifying amalgam of Freddie Mercury and Brian May.
There's an absence of anything truly challenging – only Chariots betrays signs of Oldfield's experimental past in its synths and crunching industrial beats – but Man On The Rocks has more than enough vitality for an elder statesman. Maybe it'll get some attention.