Oasis: Smile for the Sun and Promised Land

Oasis was the touring group for Youth for Christ. As a result of that, their line-up was subject to frequent change, but in the course of that change they put out some pretty interesting music. The best known member of the group was the Scottish vocalist (and later co-hostess of the 700 Club) Shelia Walsh, whose own account is below.

Smile for the sun (Dovetail Dove 45, 1977)

The transient (and basically missionary) nature of the group is obvious in that all of the songs on the album (AFAIK) are covers.

In spite of these limitations, the album is better than it should be, with some credible performances and reasonable instrumental backing. (“Lovely Jesus,” for example, has much better vocals than Nancy Honeytree could manage!) “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” has an English folk rendering to it, and a very moving one at that. Most of the songs are in English.

The performers:

  • Heinz–manager, stage sound mixing
  • Fausto–guitar, banjo, flute, vocals
  • Ric–bass, vocals
  • Anke–vocals
  • Diana–vocals, percussion
  • Jürgen–drums, congas, vocals
  • John–guitars, banjo, dulcimer, harmonica, vocals
  • Hansi–Keyboards, vocals

The songs (for individual download):

  1. Teach Me To Love
  2. Who Is This Man?
  3. He Is The One
  4. Quand J’ai Vu Tes Mains
  5. Em Teu Tempo
  6. Happy Road
  7. Smile For The Sun
  8. Lovely Jesus
  9. Gott Ist Tatsächilich Da!
  10. I Heard The Voice of Jesus
  11. Dank U Heer

Promised Land (Dovetail Dove 52, 1978)

Ken Scott’s characterisation of this album as “stunning” is a bit of a stretch, but Promised Land is a major step up from the previous effort. The performances, songs and productions are generally good. Oasis managed to achieve what eluded most groups in the Jesus Music movement: retain the raw emotional appeal of the music while polishing the musicianship and production. (A good example of the contrary from the same native soil is Achor.) There are fewer covers here; one of them is Graham Kendrick’s Peter at the Breaking of the Bread, which is no better than the original (and mercifully no worse either.)

The Songs (for individual download:)

  1. Morning Sun
  2. Gevoel
  3. It Took A Carpenter
  4. As The Wind Blows
  5. Peace
  6. Promised Land
  7. Judas
  8. Smile For The Sun
  9. Peter At The Breaking Of The Bread
  10. Morning Sun (Reprise)

The one thing that makes this album really special is the presence of Shelia Walsh. Before her first husband Norman Miller turned her into Britain’s top Christian punkette, Walsh performed with Oasis for a season, and is featured prominently on this album. She is arguably the best female vocalist to come out of the UK during the “Jesus Music” era, and she is prominently featured here.

Years later she wrote of her experience with Oasis:

Friends of mine lived down in Eastborne in Sussex. They had a very successful recording studio (ICC Studios, where Smile for the sun and many of the Dove UK albums were recorded) and I popped down for a few days to see them. Andy (Kidd), the engineer (on this album), told me about a group had recorded there and were looking for a lead singer. Their name was Oasis and they worked with International Youth for Christ. I said that I’d love to know more and called them for me. The director, Ted Groat, flew over to London to audition me. I was petrified…He was a very tall, skinny man. He sat down at the piano, took my music, and began to play. I gripped the side of the piano till my knuckles were white and started to sing. When he said I’d got the job, I nearly passed out at his feet…

As I sat on a bumpy boat late and night, heading for Holland to join the rest of the group…an uneasiness crept over me. What was the Dutch for ‘I’d like to go home now, please’?…with the break of dawn the old pioneering spirit re-emerged. I met Oasis at breakfast. There were six of them, from different countries, and they had already been together for a year. I felt a bit lonely at first, as the other two girls were both Dutch and were good friends.

The vision behind Oasis was that we should travel all over Europe, singing in schools, clubs, and prisons, ministering as an effective evangelistic team. I asked who the leader was, and Ted said that we had yet to find a leader, but we wouldn’t begin touring until we had. We did! They had a lot of bookings for us and no-one emerged to lead, so we left on our own…

The style of Oasis was folk rock. I worked hard at learning all their songs. We travelled across Holland, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Belgium and England.

Our time in Denmark was really great. We were the first gospel group to be allowed to play in schools and clubs. The situation in that particular country was heartbreaking. May of the guys in the band were approached by twelve- to fourteen-year-old prostitutes. Teenage suicide and drug addiction were so common. I can clearly remember sitting in the stage wings of a Danish club, wanting to go on, and watching people smash beer bottles against our equipment. I remember thinking, ‘Lord, if you’re planning to return any time in the immediate future, this may be an opportune moment!’

It was incredible to see God change people’s lives as, night after night, we threw ourselves on his mercy. To know without a doubt that God’s word is true, that His strength is made perfect in our weakness, the written word becomes life-blood. It seems to me know that the fruit of the Spirit is always produced in a contrary environment–peace in turmoil, joy in sadness, love in a hate-filled world…

In many ways I found my time with Oasis one the hardest periods of my life, having no pastoral leader and no real home. As the months passed and our travels continued, I became very disillusioned. We were always working, so we never got to church, never really took in on a spiritual level, apart from our own hurried quiet times. We usually began our days with a morning concert in a school, another at lunchtime, evening gigs, and eventually fell into bed after midnight…

I decided that I was going to leave. I told my European YFC Director and he was furious with me, but I’d made up my mind. (Sheila Walsh, Never Give It Up. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1986, pp. 27-30)

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