I own nearly all of Oldfield's albums, and some are better than others. I'm sure Oldfield fans have their favorites (which aren't necessarily my favorites--like 1990's "Amarok"). I'll say that "Light + Shade" offers some of the best music Mike has produced since 1994's "Songs Of Distant Earth". There are actual memorable melodies here like "Sunset", "Pres De Toi", "Lakme (Fruity Loops)", "Surfing", "Angelique", "First Steps", "Quicksilver" and others.
Mike Oldfield, along with Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, was one of the first pioneers of New Age/Classical music, and he's proven himself a talent. However, the creativity department has been lacking in the past decade. "Light + Shade" is a step in the right direction.
The album is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Oldfield re-utilizes "Tubuluar Bells" segments mixed strategically into some of the songs. While some might be harsh in criticizing this albums, I found that it's one of his better instrumental albums. I was disappointed with "Tres Lunas", "Guitars", "Tubular Bells 3" and "Millenium Bell", and I really wish Mike would do away with "Tubular Bells altogether because I've had enough of the different interpretations of that piece of music.
Even though "Light + Shade" is a return to form, I'd still like to see him try something new--especially after being around for 33 years. There's nothing to lose, Mike, and why not return to what you do best which is electronic pop songs. Set aside the intrumental background music and return to "Five Miles Out", "Crises", "Discovery", "Islands" and "Earth Moving" territory for a little while.