Sally Oldfield became well-known in the progressive rock scene because she provided the first four Mike Oldfield albums Tubular Bells (1973), Hergest Ridge (1974), Ommadawn (1975) and Incantations (1978) with vocals. Later on she did again some vocals for the re-recording of her brother's most famous album Tubular Bells (2003). However, most prog heads probably became familiar with her voice on Steve Hackett' s debut album Voyage Of The Acolyte (1975). She beautifully sang on The Lovers, one of the finest tracks of this album.
Many people aren't aware of the fact that Mike Oldfield's musical career already started in 1968. In that year he and his sister formed a folk music duo called The Sallyangie, named after Sally's name combined with a song called Angie by folk singer Bert Jansch. The duo recorded only one album at the recommendation of guitarist John Renbourn from Pentangle who met Sally at the Troubadour Folk Club at Bristol. The album Children Of The Sun was recorded in August 1968; the songs have been mainly written by Sally, but it also contains some of her brother's early guitar work. Guest musicians were Terry Cox (drums) and Ray Warleigh (flute). They both were studio musicians working for Transatlantic Records that released the album.
Children Of The Sun was reissued in 2002 with a second disc containing bonus tracks. And now in 2011 there's a second reissue and again a bonus disc has been added. The first CD contains the original album and on the second one you can enjoy bonus material of which some have never been released before on CD. The original album Children Of The Sun has its charm, but it wouldn't be half as interesting if it not had been marked the first appearance of Sally and Mike Oldfield on record of whom the latter was only fifteen years old at the time. Even by the standards of the late sixties, the album contains rather na´ve British folk with clear hints of pop music. Most of the songs are performed on the acoustic guitars by the duo. Thanks to David Palmer's arrangements - who later on did the orchestral arrangements for Jethro Tull as well - the songs sometimes get a more professional sound similar to the pop singles that hit the charts in those days. There's a kind of a fairy tale ambience noticeable on the original songs. Sally's high-pitched vocals throw her brother's guitar playing and less prominent singing in the shade. The music sometimes is rather fragile and clearly made by two yet unskilled musicians.
The second disc may be a bit more interesting because of the larger role Mike has. His vocals and playing on the acoustic guitar are now more prominent. This can be heard on Mrs. Moon And The Thatched Shop, Branches and A Sad Song For Rosie, three tracks of Mike Oldfield's guitar improvisations. These tracks were recorded during sessions for Children Of The Sun and it's clearly to hear that he had the talents to become a great artist later on. His style of playing reminded me of the way Gordon Giltrap plays the acoustic guitar. However, every now and then you'll also hear some slight mistakes. The second disc ends with Colours Of The World and Two Ships, the A- and B-side of a single released in 1969. Child Of Allah and Lady Go Lightly were also released as single. These two songs were recorded in1969, but only released in 1973. Both singles were previously unreleased on CD. All four tracks contain the pop sound of the sixties, a bit similar to the hits scored by Mary Hopkin or Sandy Shaw. The orchestral arrangements by David Palmer are for a great deal responsible for that sound.
Nowadays, Sally Oldfield calls Children Of The Sun a snapshot of where they stood music wise at the time. I guess she's right. There's nothing on this release that indicates that both musicians would record many fine albums later on. It's nice to listen to this album a couple of times, but I probably won't play it that often. I would rather choose an album of Mike Oldfield featuring Sally or listen to her wonderful voice on The Lovers by Steve Hackett.
** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013