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Sally Oldfield - Water Bearer CD (album) cover

WATER BEARER

Sally Oldfield

Crossover Prog


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Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Sally Oldfield had already had years of experience singing, adding numerous backing vocals to brother Mike Oldfield's works such as Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn and Tubular Bells. She had also done a one album wonder with her brother Mike, the SallyAngie folk duo. Her voice is befitting to progressive music, ethereal, folky and popular, take your pick. Waterbearer is her first solo release and is also an excellent debut too. There is something quite madrigal to her, she reminds me of the chraracter, The river maiden out of The Old Forest from Tolkien's world, Ethereal, almost elvish. It is no surprise then that the Waterbearer continues with Tolkienesque themes with the wonderfully progressive " Songs of The Quendi" The song having four parts providing rich tapestry of sounds. The title song is equally beautiful. " Mirrors" although now sounding a bit dated still evokes that madrigal touch and perhaps her most commercially succesful song ever released.

The album generally holds up well, ironically to this reviewer the highlight to the album is " Night Of The Hunter's Moon", which was the flip side to the single Mirrors. Great keyboards, shifting time signatures and booming vocals from Sally. " Child Of Allah" is also great laying the prescedent that SO is universally spiritual and respective of all religions. An excellent album and a perfect starting point ( debuts normally are ) for anyone wanting to invest in her discography. Four stars.

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Send comments to Chris S (BETA) | Report this review (#294773)
Posted Monday, August 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
5 stars I remember where I was when I first heard this unfairly overlooked album, and when it was. Suffice to say it was 1984 and, amidst the excitement of such a significant discovery crept in feelings of disillusionment with a music scene that would allow such a project to go unnoticed, at least in North America. I felt cheated that, although I clearly knew of Sally through her sibling association and her work with STEVE HACKETT, I had been deprived of this classic for the first 6 years of its existence.

For fans of the pastoral, woodsy aspects of MIKE OLDFIELD's discography, as surely all his followers must be (!), SALLY OLDFIELD's debut is an easy sell. Sure, she actually pens spiritual lyrics and her voice is ubiquitous, but the Oldfield spirit conveyed succinctly in the main theme of "Hergest Ridge" and pervading whole cycles of "Ommadawn", on which she sang, is as intertwined with his elder sister's DNA as with his. Of course, he returns the favour by picking up the mandolin here, and other guests like Herbie Flowers and Frank Ricotti do more than add progressive credentials, but that they do too.

Even though Sally's pop sensibilities are barely apparent on this British Isles progressive folk rock album, it did yield her only hit, the UK #19 anthem "Mirrors". Unfortunately, as with the RENAISSANCE chart smash "Northern Lights" of the same year, the singles' success did not endow the artist with any staying power, so out of fashion was her style. Still, we are here to analyze this album virtually devoid of missteps or the sort of out of character forays that could make the difference between a 4 and 5 star disk.

Side 1 is a no brainer, with the bubbly chanting of "Water Bearer" exploiting the power of repetitive suggestion, giving way seamlessly to the monumental medley of the Quendi, a suite that suddenly springs to life on the wings of a Dave Lawson synth figure and slowly and resignedly consumes itself a dozen odd minutes later. If a more musically coherent Tolkien tribute exists I surely have not heard it. I feel myself in an enchanted forest attending stealthily to the sounds of the natives lest they discover my presence and dissolve self consciously into silence.

Side 2 is perhaps somewhat less flashy but also more of a personal statement along the lines of "Mirrors". It explores a variety of spirituality, mostly earth centered as in "Night of the Hunter's Moon" and the "Tubular Bells" like "Weaver", but also Islam in the jangly "Child of Allah". "Fire and Honey" holds the spirit of Gaia again, enhanced by piano that is reminiscent of John Hawken's work with ILLUSION. Everywhere is Oldfield's sultry, expressive voice that should rightly have taken its place along with KATE BUSH and other contemporaries, but one should be content that she helped shaped many of the more celtic flavoured female artists now known as new age, from NIGHTNOISE to LOREENA MCKENNITT, to name a few of the more respectable proponents.

For the sister of a mega star like Mike Oldfield, the task of distinguishing herself must have been daunting for Sally, but she possessed a gift of authentic self expression at least the equal of his own. As a result, "Water Bearer" is one of the more uniquely rooted releases of the 70s, and one of the most refreshing examples of nature oriented progressive music of any era. So drink up.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#295351)
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I was quite surprised to find Sally Oldfield here in PA. And much more when I had the chance to listen to her debut album Waterbearer. I used to think of Sally as the sister of her more famous brother Mike. Yes, like most people who were alive on earth in the late 70´s I had heard her biggest (and only) hit single Mirrors. As much as I liked this song, I never felt really moved enough to actually go and get the CD. Maybe I was afraid of another big, prog related, disappointment like so many I had at the time.

So I was glad to see what a big surprise this work turned out to be when I finally gave it a shot so many years after it was released. Her music was a (then) very original mixture of celtic folk, ambient and what became to be known as ethinic or world music. In other words, she was at least some ten years ahead of her time. Small wonder it was so hard to label her work (and market it). No one had come up with the new age label at that period yet. If Waterbearer was released in the late 80´s or early 90´s she would probably enjoy a much better midia exposure and maybe commercial success like Enya, Loreena McKennitt, Clannad, etc.

There is a lot of Mike Oldfield´s music influence here, but she already had proved she had a sound of her own. I loved the clever use of percussion, acoustic instruments and synthesizers. Her multi tracked vocals are another great feature: Sally Oldfield has a real beautiful voice and she knows how to use it to maximum effect. Add some fine songwriting skills, excellent production and tasteful arrangements and, voilá!, a remarkable album was born in a time when most things progressive were going downhill. Fast!

Conclusion: maybe today her music does not sound as groundbreaking as it might had been in 1978, due to so many imitators that came after it. But it did stand well the test of time after all these years, it still feels fresh and exciting. if you like bands like Renaissance or Fairport Convention, then this is a must have. Waterbearer, to my delight, proved to be much stronger than just a bunch Mirrors look alike tunes. Rating: 4,5 stars.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#296716)
Posted Monday, August 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Middle Earth music

Sally Oldfield began her career with brother Mike in a duet call The Sallyangie back in the 60s. Her first solo work "Water Bearer" was recorded in the spring of 1978 at the Roundhouse and at Chipping Norton Studios. It was her most progressive work in a long career that veered much more into mainstream music, though I've heard "Celebration" has nice moments as well. Oldfield is an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist just like her brother and this album was completely written, arranged, and produced by her.

This highly sophisticated vocal showcase is just so impressive. Impeccable arrangements and many layers of beautifully played instrumental accompaniments grace each track. There are lots of hand percussions and exotic sounding instruments. The sound quality is crisp and clear, one reviewer I read noted her album had better sound than brother Mike's work from this period. The songs features Oldfield's beautiful "Annie Haslam-like" voice as the material delves straight into the fantasy worlds inspired by Tolkien. Truly this music is the soundtrack for your next Elven get-together at Rivendell. It can get a bit repetitive and a bit cheesy to be frank, but mostly it should please fans of prog-folk or crossover.

I enjoy "Water Bearer" on occasion and while quite pleasant and technically top-notch, I don't feel it is the important progressive work that many others do. 3 stars.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#302481)
Posted Wednesday, October 06, 2010 | Review Permalink
Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars An album that isn't particularly complex musically, but is very rich.

Sort of proto new age. But some things that can fit under that umbrella aren't the same. I get the feeling that Sally was on a bit of progressive rush after her part in Voyage Of The Apocalypse. This is a drastic improvement over The Sallyangie. There is still a quaintness to the music and yet a sophistication to it. Very much a Sally project as she does many of the instruments as well as the vocals.

Mike may have been the proggier sibling, but Sally really shines on this. And Mike's influence is apparent even though he's not here. She does have a little Flowers.

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Send comments to Slartibartfast (BETA) | Report this review (#302562)
Posted Wednesday, October 06, 2010 | Review Permalink

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