Incantations (album)

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Incantations (Mike Oldfield album - cover art).jpg
Studio album by
Released24 November 1978 (1978-11-24)
RecordedDecember 1977–September 1978
StudioThrougham Slad Manor, Bisley, Gloucestershire
GenreProgressive rock, new age
ProducerMike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield chronology
Mercury Records 2011 reissue
The revised photograph artwork.
The revised photograph artwork.
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[1]

Incantations is the fourth studio album by English musician, songwriter, and producer Mike Oldfield, released as a double album on 24 November 1978 by Virgin Records.

Background and recording[edit]

After the release of his previous album Ommadawn (1975), Oldfield left his home in Kington, Herefordshire for Througham Slad Manor near Bisley, Gloucestershire.[2] For his follow-up, Oldfield later described his initial goal of an album with "real incantations to exert a benign magical influence on anybody who heard it".[3] He invited a head member of the Druids to his home for ideas. By the time the album had been sketched out, Oldfield had incorporated a running theme that included the Roman god Dianna the Huntress.[3] Incantations remained Oldfield's longest album until Light + Shade (2005).

Incantations was recorded at Througham Slad in 1977 and 1978. It was during the creation of Incantations that Oldfield underwent the assertiveness training course Exegesis, and almost immediately thereafter Oldfield went on his first solo live tour around Europe with Incantations.

Along with some other pieces of Oldfield's work, a different version of "Part Four" was used for the soundtrack of Tony Palmer's The Space Movie; the lyrics there are from Kathleen Raine's "A Spell for Creation".

When the CD version was released, due to the shorter length of the format at the time (early redbook standards only allowed for a maximum playing time of 74:33), many early pressings unnecessarily have "Part Three" shortened from 16:59 down to 13:49 by cutting from the beginning. When 80-minute CDs became the norm and quality control was increased, the full cut of "Part Three" was restored. All modern pressings have the full version of the piece.


Despite the length, much of the album can be described as being compositionally minimalist, including melodic lines played by only a few instruments at a time.

The album as a whole is unusual in that it makes extensive use of the circle of fifths as an accompaniment to many of the musical ideas. Since this musical structure requires that each idea be modulated through twelve keys, before the next is introduced, more time is required to develop each idea, so that each section unfolds more slowly than is usual in Oldfield's work. A byproduct of this musical structure is that most of the album is not in any one key, but cycles continuously through them all.

The lyrics in "Part One" simply repeat the names of the goddesses Diana, Luna, and Lucina.

The lyrics in "Part Two" are taken from the beginnings of chapter XXII and XII (in that order) of Longfellow's epic poem "The Song of Hiawatha".

The lyrics in "Part Four" are Ben Jonson's "Ode to Cynthia" from Cynthia's Revels, but adjusted again to match the music.


The cover was once again done by Trevor Key. The beach in the cover photograph is Cala Pregonda, in Menorca. The current CD sleeve has a different typeface than the original LP artwork (which is shown at the top of the page). Early copies of the album came with a poster showing a subtly different photograph from the one used on the cover.

The cover photograph used may have been altered by Key. There have been some theories about why this may have been done, although the claim that Oldfield was not actually on the beach is easily contradicted by other photographs from the shoot. It is assumed that Key simply cut and pasted the image of Oldfield onto a slightly different background for artistic reasons.

The 2011 reissue of the album was given new artwork, showing a new photograph of the same rock formation and no image of Oldfield.

2011 reissue[edit]

The album was re-released by Mercury Records on 25 July 2011 as part of a deal in which Oldfield's Virgin albums were transferred to Universal's label. Standard and Deluxe versions were available, as well as some signed vinyl copies from The standard edition contained a remastered mix of the album, as well as "Guilty". The Deluxe Edition contained the disc from the standard edition as well as a second disc containing singles and other smaller pieces, and a DVD with 5.1 mixes, promotional videos and a live version of the album.

Unlike the first three re-issues in the campaign, there was no surround mix of the album on the DVD, only of the five remixed edits on the 'bonus' CD. Oldfield explained during an interview for BBC Radio 6 Music that this was because the original multi-track tapes for the album had either badly deteriorated or been lost. Though Oldfield has also noted that some tapes containing out-takes were found.[4] The 2011 reissue of the album was given new artwork.

Track listing[edit]

All music by Mike Oldfield.

Side one
1."Incantations (Part One)"19:08
Side two
1."Incantations (Part Two)"19:36
Side three
1."Incantations (Part Three)"16:58
Side four
1."Incantations (Part Four)"17:01

Deluxe Edition track listings[edit]

Disc 1

  1. "Incantations {Part One}" (2011 remaster)
  2. "Incantations {Part Two}" (2011 remaster)
  3. "Incantations {Part Three}" (2011 remaster)
  4. "Incantations {Part Four}" (2011 remaster)
  5. "Guilty" (2011 remaster)
  • The remastered mix of "Incantations Part Four" included, in the first pressing of the disc, a glitch consisting in the accidental omission of a percussive hit, causing a rhythmic irregularity. According to Universal Music, it was due to an improperly remastered edit point in the original 1977 master tapes. This glitch occurred between 12:36 and 12:38 in the first pressing; in the second pressing, a smaller and less noticeable glitch occurs at 12:40, where both percussive hits are present, but the rhythm still shows a slight irregularity.
  • There are also problems with the remaster of "Guilty". Not only was the original master tape transferred at a slower speed than originally recorded, but the tape speed appears to slow down throughout the course of the track. As a result, the music is almost a semitone lower in pitch at the end of the track, compared to the beginning. This was not present in the original vinyl pressing of the 7-inch version.

Double Album Vinyl Edition track listing[edit]

Side A

  1. "Incantations {Part One}" (2011 remaster) – 19:11

Side B

  1. "Incantations {Part Two}" (2011 remaster) – 19:34

Side C

  1. "Incantations {Part Three}" (2011 remaster) – 16:58

Side D

  1. "Incantations {Part Four}" (2011 remaster) – 16:57
  • The glitch at 12:38 and the later one at 12:40 on "Part Four" on the CD are also featured on the vinyl, because of the same faulty remaster being used for both the CD and the vinyl release.




The album went platinum but did not enter the top 10 in the United Kingdom, unlike Oldfield's previous studio albums of the 1970s, peaking at number 14. In 2011 the reissue charted at number 70 in the UK.

Chart (1978) Peak position
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[5] 27
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[6] 41
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[7] 19
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[8] 14
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[9] 42
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[10] 32
UK Albums (OCC)[11] 14


  1. ^ McDonald, Steven. Incantations review at AllMusic
  2. ^ Dallas, Karl (25 October 1975). "Beyond the Ridge: Portrait of a Genius". Melody Maker. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  3. ^ a b Kennedy, Andrew (2 August 2011). ""If people go one way I instinctively go the other" - DiS meets Mike Oldfield". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Embracing Change: An Interview With Mike Oldfield". The Quiet Us. 2 August 2011. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  5. ^ " – Mike Oldfield – Incantations" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Phononet GmbH. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  7. ^ " – Mike Oldfield – Incantations". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  8. ^ " – Mike Oldfield – Incantations". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  9. ^ " – Mike Oldfield – Incantations". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  10. ^ " – Mike Oldfield – Incantations". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  11. ^ January 1979/7502/ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 April 2013.

External links[edit]