Gilding the lily?
When one thinks of a master returning to a past work of genius to 'tidy' and 'fix' aspects that they were unhappy or unsatisfied with, it is common to think now of the mixed results of George Lucas's fiddling with the original 3 Star Wars movies in the 90's.
Similarly, i can understand Oldfield's desire to attend to the various tuning, tempo and flubbed note issues in the original, once he was contractually able to.
However, it is text book that given the means to go beyond the remit of 'fixing' and enter into 'reinterpreting' or 'reimagining' his own work, the results will not be to everyone's taste.
Tubular Bells 2003 is technically wonderful, and benefits (in my opinion) from a modern bright overall sound, but for those of us who grew up listening to the 1973 original and have absorbed every note, every nuance, every little accent of the original performance. The slight changes in phrasing or sounds clash with our mental image of what should be occurring at each point, as we cannot help but reference the original.
This is an unavoidable thing, as the original rendition is so melded to any Oldfield fan's subconscious.
The only part of TB2003 that really jarrs in a way beyond that of simple comparrison with the original is the presence of John Cleese as the master of ceremonies during the Finale.
I believe that it was not possible to isolate and paste the original MC vocals (Vivian Stanshall) into the new version and that sadly Mr Stanshall had passed away by the time TB2003 was in production.
Obviously then, Oldfield had to find someone else to perform the MC role, however i think the choice of Cleese is completely bizarre unless the original was also supposed to be funny.
Personally i never interpreted the vocals on the original as comedic, yet Cleese's voice is so well known it is impossible not to think of Basil Fawlty, the Ministry of Funny Walks or Dead Parrots while listening to him over-pronounce everrrrry instrrrrrrument.
Grrrrrrrrrrand Piano! - Please, this aspect alone takes the album review down to 4 Stars for this listener.
Anyway, that aside, i think Tubular Bells remains a piece of sublime genius from a wonderful composer
In my opinion, it did not need fixing but i understand a father's desire to make his favourite child perfect. It's just a shame that in some places he has gone a little too far off brief.
If you buy this version, do me a favour and make sure you already have the original too.