Amarok (album)

Amarok (album)
Studio album by Mike Oldfield
Released 14 June 1990 (1990-06-14)
Recorded September 1989 – March 1990
Genre World/Progressive rock
Length 1:00:02
Label Virgin
Producer Tom Newman
Mike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield chronology
Earth Moving
Heaven's Open
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[1]

Amarok is the 13th record album by Mike Oldfield, released in 1990. It is considered by fans to be his most distinctive work: a single sixty-minute track of continuous, uninterrupted but constantly-changing music.



Disagreements with Virgin and marketing

Virgin Records had been trying to convince Oldfield to release a sequel to Tubular Bells, though probably more for the name recognition than anything else, particularly as Oldfield's contract was due to expire. Instead, he created an album that seems to have been designed to be as much a delight to his fans as it was a frustration to Virgin.

It is next to impossible to isolate any one short, radio-friendly section of Amarok without it seeming out of place, and thus no single could be cut and released separately, nor could the album ever be played on popular radio. Similarly, Amarok has never been performed live in its entirety, though Oldfield has played excerpts from time to time. Oldfield had expressed many times his displeasure at Virgin's lack of promotion of his works, and Amarok might have been his revenge: a completely unmarketable album that still showcased his talent as a composer and performer. Oldfield did attempt to circumvent Virgin and create publicity for the album by offering a prize of £1000 of his own money to the first person to find the "secret message" hidden within it,[2] although the competition received little coverage and consequently its impact on sales was negligible. The message was actually a piece of Morse code found 48 minutes into the piece and spelling out "FUCK OFF RB", a direct statement to Virgin chief Richard Branson.

Both Amarok, along with Heaven's Open (Oldfield's final album for Virgin) can be seen as a definite "farewell" to the company, and not an overly polite one, either. Along with the aforementioned Morse code message, the album's back cover reads: " HEALTH WARNING - This record could be hazardous to the health of cloth-eared nincompoops. If you suffer from this condition, consult your Doctor immediately ". This message could also be interpreted as a skit on the spoof listening instructions on the sleeve of Tubular Bells.

In Australia the album was released in a double pack with Tubular Bells.[3]


In addition to his usual impressive list of instruments, Oldfield also employed a number of items in Amarok's creation such as shoes, spoons, a Hoover vacuum cleaner and "contents of aeromodeller's toolbox".

Though tubular bells are used on the album, they are ambiguously listed in the liner notes as "long thin metallic hanging tubes," possibly a humorous way for Oldfield to avoid bringing to mind his first work. This may also have been one more snub at Virgin. Oldfield did not release the much-desired sequel to Tubular Bells until he was with Warner Bros. Records.

Comparison to Ommadawn

Many fans do claim that Amarok is to be considered "Ommadawn II", and certainly, Oldfield seems to have involved many of the same people that were a part of Ommadawn: Jabula, Clodagh Simmonds, Bridget St John and Paddy Moloney performed on both. Also, William Murray, who co-wrote the song "On Horseback" for Ommadawn, took the Amarok cover photo and wrote the short story included in the liner notes. Murray used David Bailey's Ommadawn cover photograph as inspiration and Tom Newman created the metal lettering. Oldfield himself reportedly said in an interview, "It's not Tubular Bells II; if anything, it's Ommadawn II."[4]

Oldfield noted that Amarok was an experiment to see if he could create this album without the aid of computers, which he had used on some of his previous albums. He focussed more on the musicianship, playing all of the instruments by hand.[5][6]

Meanings of the title

The origin of the name has always been a point of contention. Oldfield has said in the past that it was chosen for its sound rather than any particular meaning, but numerous theories abound:

  • "Amaroq" is Inuktitut for "wolf" - in particular, Amarok is the name of a giant wolf in Inuit mythology, reputed to hunt down lone travellers, and used by parents to frighten children.
  • "Amárach" is Irish for "tomorrow." It is pronounced with a long second 'a'.
  • The words "amarok" and "amadán" (the origin of Ommadawn) begin with roughly the same "ama" sound, and there is sufficient evidence that Amarok is a sequel of sorts to Ommadawn.
  • It could also be that since this was the next to last album that Oldfield did for Virgin Records, it may have been a pun on "(I) am a rock" that is, that Oldfield was stating that he was capable of standing on his own without Virgin.
  • The final part, "Africa", has the "Sondela" chorus sung in Xhosa. In this prefix-based African language, the language itself is isiXhosa, and the nation is amaXhosa (prefix ama- for many people). Hence, "amaRok" could also be pig Xhosa for "the people of Rock" or "the rock people".
  • Speaking to a Dutch journalist soon after Amarok's release, Mike Oldfield commented on the title: "It doesn't have a real meaning but it's similar to many Gaelic words, like those for morning or happy. And if you split the letters up, you get Am-a-rok... it could mean: am a rock. Maybe that implies I don't want to change anything by following trends."[5]


I am told that when men hear its voice, it stays in their ears, they cannot be rid of it. It has many different voices: some happy, but others sad. It roars like a baboon, murmurs like a child, drums like the blazing arms of one thousand drummers, rustles like water in a glass, sings like a lover and laments like a priest...

From the short story included in the liner notes.[7]

Lyrics excerpts

  • The "Sondela" finale of "Africa III" (from 58:44 to 60:02, the end), sung in the Xhosa language:
" Sondela / uSomandla / sukuma / wena / obengezela. "
Come closer / the Almighty / arise / you / shining one.
(Come closer to us, o Almighty: arise, you who shines.)

It can be noted how this asks the godhead, assimilable to the Sun, to stand up and come to us, instead of the reverse.

Track listing

The album-long track and its 'movement' names:

  1. "Amarok" – 60:02
  • 0:00 - Fast Riff Intro
  • 2:32 - Intro
  • 5:46 - Climax I - 12 Strings
  • 6:18 - Soft Bodhran
  • 7:20 - Rachmaninov I
  • 8:35 - Soft Bodhran 2
  • 9:29 - Rachmaninov II
  • 9:56 - Roses
  • 10:42 - Reprise I - Intro
  • 12:45 - Scot
  • 13:16 - Didlybom
  • 15:00 - Mad Bit
  • 15:56 - Run In
  • 16:11 - Hoover
  • 18:00 - Fast Riff
  • 19:57 - Lion
  • 21:57 - Fast Waltz
  • 23:42 - Stop
  • 24:33 - Mad Bit 2
  • 24:46 - Fast Waltz 2
  • 25:06 - Mandolin
  • 26:07 - Intermission
  • 26:23 - Boat
  • 29:27 - Intro Reprise 2
  • 32:07 - Big Roses
  • 33:13 - Green Green
  • 34:24 - Slow Waltz
  • 36:04 - Lion Reprise
  • 37:05 - Mandolin Reprise
  • 37:47 - TV am/Hoover/Scot
  • 39:50 - Fast Riff Reprise
  • 42:22 - Boat Reprise
  • 43:32 - 12 Rep / Intro Waltz
  • 44:12 - Green Reprise
  • 44:46 - Africa I: Far Build
  • 48:00 - Africa I: Far Dip
  • 48:46 - Africa I: Pre Climax
  • 49:32 - Africa I: 12 Climax
  • 50:24 - Africa I: Climax I
  • 51:00 - Africa II: Bridge
  • 51:17 - Africa II: Riff
  • 51:34 - Africa II: Boats
  • 51:52 - Africa II: Bridge II
  • 52:10 - Africa II: Climax II
  • 54:22 - Africa III: Baker


Album samplers

Amarok Sampler

Amarok Sampler is a promotional CD-Maxi released in Germany in May 1990 including 5 excerpts from the album, with catalogue number 663 271 000.

  1. "Amarok" (3:09) excerpt I
  2. "Amarok" (3:22) excerpt II
  3. "Amarok" (9:30) excerpt III
  4. "Amarok" (1:53) excerpt IV
  5. "Amarok" (2:29) excerpt V

Amarok X-Trax

Amarok X-Trax 3 track promo CD from W H Smith's in-store magazine Insight.

Amarok X-Trax is the name of two promotional CD-Maxis, one was issued in UK with catalogue number AMACD 1DJ, and one was given away free with W H Smith's in-store magazine Insight, with catalogue number AMACD 1. The WH Smith version included I, II & V from AMACD 1DJ.

  1. "Amarok" (3:05) excerpt I
  2. "Amarok" (4:16) excerpt II
  3. "Amarok" (3:47) excerpt III
  4. "Amarok" (5:18) excerpt IV
  5. "Amarok" (5:38) excerpt V


The album did not chart very highly, but managed to enter the top 50 in various European countries.

Chart (1990) Position
Switzerland 30
Austria 26
Sweden 50


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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