29th May 2021
I did a mini-feature about Wendy Oldfield in August last year and have been inspired to write another by the release of her new album. Salt, her 7th album was released at the end of April and I spent a very happy evening last night immersed in it. Two singles were pre-released earlier this year and received airplay, but the whole album deserves a hearing.
I’ve mentioned before that I first saw her band, Sweatband, at the Dros in Stellenbosch in 1983 shortly after they had formed, and to see how this special lady’s talent has grown over the years brings a happy smile to my face. Wendy was only 19-years-old when she formed Sweatband and they made waves in a very turbulent period of our local history with their special style of pop. Hits like This Boy and Shape of Her Body cemented Sweatband’s name in the lexicon of SA music.
Wendy decided to pursue a solo career in 1988, and after a two-year involvement with the band Mondetta, launched her first solo album, Beautiful World and the memorable hit, Acid Rain.
Wendy doesn’t only write for adults. Few know that she is also the talent behind the African Cream Kidz children’s music range. A mother of three herself, she realized the shortage of homegrown music that was available for kids. Under the African Cream Kidz banner, Oldfield has produced Under African Skies – traditional children’s stories set to catchy melodies that celebrate the heritage of oral storytelling, which has won numerous awards.
But back to the new album. Salt draws from songs that she created over the past five years, and what a creative five-years they must have been. Her songwriting prowess is on show in each track. Lyrics that play with wonderful and memorable allegories and intricate melodies that combine in a musical journey that is authentically Wendy Oldfield. Here’s the title track, ‘Salt’.
Wendy’s voice is unmistakable and Matthew Fink’s production skills brings quality to a highly polished final product. The album was recorded at Peace of Eden Studio in the Wilderness and Just Music Studio in Johannesburg. Matthew Fink is well known in the music industry and has produced numerous artists and acts over 16-years in the business, as well as performing with the likes of Ashton Nyte and the Accused, The Black Hotels and Jim Neversink. Here he is supported by a top production team.
Mention must be made of some of the musicians as well. Drummer, Cedric Samson is a legend. He formed The Fireflies as a teen in the 60s and become the youngest signed band in the country, and won South Africa’s heart as the drummer for the band Rabbit in the 70s. He has received numerous awards both locally and internationally, as well as two Grammy nominations. Martin Schofield (Band of Gypsies, Wonderboom) is a master of his art and lends his magic on guitar.
Another legend, Cindy Alter, brings backing vocals to my second choice for today, the track ‘One of the Girls’. It’s an up-tempo, reggae-influenced song of empowerment and manages to get you bopping around the kitchen while still delivering the message. Wendy genius.
Wendy is on a tour promoting the new album at the moment and if you get a chance to see her, do so. Her touring support band alone is worth seeing. Multi-instrumentalist Keenan Scott takes guitar duty while the rhythm section is in the capable hands of Nick and Matt Catto of Hatchetman of the Blundell Family, a name that stretches far back in South Africa’s musical history. It promises to be a night to remember.
I was happily surprised that Wendy included a version of her beautiful song about our planet, Pale Blue Dot, on the alum. I featured a clip of Wendy and Lionel Bastos performing it live in my previous Wendy Oldfield article, and it remains one of my favourite songs of hers.
I’m closing this feature with another of Wendy’s powerful songs, ‘Warrior’. I feel that there is something ‘Dave Matthewsish’ in the arrangement and melody. It is intricate a builds up beautifully throughout the track. It’s another of the tracks from an exceptional album that I found myself taking a few listens to.
Thanks for taking a listen to a few magical tracks from a local legend with me today. Catch you soon.
The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music’s Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that does more than just share a song.
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Words © Andrew Knapp 2021