Tubular Bells, Pt. I - Mike Oldfield (1973)
Want to know why we have Virgin Megastores, Airlines and Galactic space flights? One little album. A modern symphony using guitars, synthesizers and percussion, Tubular Bells is much more than just the opening few minutes, used to great extent in The Exorcist. It is instrumental prog, the beginning of New Age music back before it was a cliche. Mike Oldfield played virtually every instrument on this piece, setting up a career of making album length masterpieces by himself, overlaying track upon track, fiercely satisfying his muse. It has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide, and single-handedly bankrolled the fledgling Virgin Records, which issued it as its first release. Richard Branson even named one of his first Virgin Airline planes Tubular Belle. Yet, all of this aside, the first part of this piece is simply breathtaking, especially when listening to the 2008 reissue. A headphone masterpiece of the highest order, listening to it in 5.1 is also a massive treat (A DVD of which was included in said reissue). From the stark opening that builds and builds to Vivian Stanshall's introduction of the instruments, part one is a mercurial work form a singular talent, whose recent special edition releases of later works should stand him up as one the greatest composers the world has ever known.
This performance of Part One is the best available, featuring Steve Hillage of Gong and Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones.
And this cover is breathtaking in its undertaking and musicianship!