(All Album Reviews by Rickenbacker)
After years of noticing this album in the stores & only being vaguely curious about it, I finally went & got it recently & am wondering now why the hell I took so long! Like most, I discovered Mike Oldfield through Tubular Bells (via 'The Exorcist', for that matter).
The liner notes on the most recent remaster of Hergest Ridge quote Oldfield: "HR is a completely different kind of record from TB; more folky & orchestral." Here's where I'd have to disagree. I hear nearly identical structure in both pieces & nearly the same atmosphere. Oldfield didn't stray very far from the formula that made TB so successful with this one. Having said that, those traits are precisely why I enjoyed HR so much! I was looking for a "TB 2" and in effect, that's what you get on HR.
I think what separates HR from TB is that it stands out on it's own without it being associated with a movie and also it lacks TB's somewhat dark aura. Part One has a "healing" ambience about it. The first few minutes of Part Two almost sounds like the background music for a fairy tale story being read aloud. It then shortly turns to an "impending evil" feel and then we get the 6-odd minutes of chaos at around the 9:40 minute mark. This is the part of it I think could've been much shorter. Goes on a *bit* too long as it's repetitive. But it comes to a beautiful resolution with the "fantasy language" being sung, yet with a hint of uncertainty on the lingering minor chord. "Does good triumph?"
This album is a must-have if all you own is TB.