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Kate Bush

The works of British singer/composer/dancer/genius Kate Bush

Source: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/kate-bush-mn0000855423

The Kick Inside

Kate Bush's first album, The Kick Inside, released when the singer/songwriter was only 19 years old (but featuring some songs written at 15 and recorded at 16), is her most unabashedly romantic, the sound of an impressionable and highly precocious teenager spreading her wings for the first time. The centerpiece is "Wuthering Heights," which was a hit everywhere except the United States (and propelled the Emily Brontë novel back onto the best-seller lists in England), but there is a lot else here to enjoy: The disturbing "Man with the Child in His Eyes," the catchy rocker "James and the Cold Gun," and "Feel It," an early manifestation of Bush's explorations of sexual experience in song, which would culminate with "Hounds of Love." As those familiar with the latter well know, she would do better work in the future, but this is still a mightily impressive debut.

Lionheart

Proving that the English admired Kate Bush's work, 1978's Lionheart album managed to reach the number six spot in her homeland while failing to make a substantial impact in North America. The single "Hammer Horror" went to number 44 on the U.K. singles chart, but the remaining tracks from the album spin, leap, and pirouette with Bush's vocal dramatics, most of them dissipating into a mist rather than hovering around long enough to be memorable. Her fairytale essence wraps itself around tracks like "In Search of Peter Pan," "Kashka From Baghdad," and "Oh England My Lionheart," but unravels before any substance can be heard. "Wow" does the best job at expressing her voice as it waves and flutters through the chorus, with a melody that shimmers in a peculiar but compatible manner. Some of the tracks, such as "Coffee Homeground" or "In the Warm Room," bask in their own subtle obscurity, a trait that Bush improved upon later in her career but couldn't secure on this album. Lionheart acts as a gauge more than a complete album, as Bush is trying to see how many different ways she can sound vocally colorful, even enigmatic, rather than focus on her material's content and fluidity. Hearing Lionheart after listening to Never for Ever or The Dreaming album, it's apparent how quickly Bush had progressed both vocally and in her writing in such a short time.

Never for Ever

Never for Ever has Kate Bush sounding vocally stable and more confident, taking what she had put into her debut single "Wuthering Heights" from 1978 and administering those facets into most of the album's content. Never for Ever went to number one in the U.K., on the strength of three singles that made her country's Top 20. Both "Breathing" and "Army Dreamers" went to number 16, while "Babooshka" was her first Top Five single since "Wuthering Heights." Bush's dramatics and theatrical approach to singing begin to solidify on Never for Ever, and her style brandishes avid seriousness without sounding flighty or absurd. "Breathing," about the repercussions of nuclear war, conveys enough passion and vocal curvatures to make her concern sound convincing, while "Army Dreamers" bounces her voice up and down without getting out of hand. "Babooshka"'s motherly charm and flexible chorus make it one of her best tracks, proving that she can make the simplest of lyrics work for her through her tailored vocal acrobatics. The rest of the album isn't quite as firm as her singles, but they all sport a more appeasing and accustomed sound than some of her past works, and she does manage to keep her identity and characteristics intact. She bettered this formula for 1985's Hounds of Love, making that album's "Running Up That Hill" her only Top 40 single in the U.S., peaking at number 30.

The Dreaming

Four albums into her burgeoning career, Kate Bush's The Dreaming is a theatrical and abstract piece of work, as well as Bush's first effort in the production seat. She throws herself in head first, incorporating various vocal loops, sometimes campy, but always romantic and inquisitive of emotion. She's angry and pensive throughout the entire album, typically poetic while pushing around the notions of a male-dominated world. However, Kate Bush is a daydreamer. Unfortunately, The Dreaming, with all it's intricate mystical beauty, isn't fully embraced compared to her later work. Album opener "Sat in Your Lap" is a frightening slight on individual intellect, with a booming chorus echoing over throbbing percussion and a butchered brass section. "Leave It Open" is goth-like with Bush's dark brooding, which is a suspending scale of vocalic laments, but it's the vivacious and moody "Get Out of My House" that truly brings Bush's many talents for art and music to the forefront. It prances with dripping piano drops and gritty guitar, and the violent rage felt as she screams "Slamming," sparking a fury similar to what Tori Amos ignited during her inception throughout the 1990s. Not one to be in fear of fear, The Dreaming is one of Kate Bush's underrated achievements in depicting her own visions of love, relationships, and role play, not to mention a brilliant predecessor to the charming beauty of 1985's Hounds of Love.

Hounds of Love

Kate Bush's strongest album to date also marked her breakthrough into the American charts, and yielded a set of dazzling videos as well as an enviable body of hits, spearheaded by "Running Up That Hill," her biggest single since "Wuthering Heights." Strangely enough, Hounds of Love was no less complicated in its structure, imagery, and extra-musical references (even lifting a line of dialogue from Jacques Tourneur's Curse of the Demon for the intro of the title song) than The Dreaming, which had been roundly criticized for being too ambitious and complex. But Hounds of Love was more carefully crafted as a pop record, and it abounded in memorable melodies and arrangements, the latter reflecting idioms ranging from orchestrated progressive pop to high-wattage traditional folk; and at the center of it all was Bush in the best album-length vocal performance of her career, extending her range and also drawing expressiveness from deep inside of herself, so much so that one almost feels as though he's eavesdropping at moments during "Running Up That Hill." Hounds of Love is actually a two-part album (the two sides of the original LP release being the now-lost natural dividing line), consisting of the suites "Hounds of Love" and "The Ninth Wave." The former is steeped in lyrical and sonic sensuality that tends to wash over the listener, while the latter is about the experiences of birth and rebirth. If this sounds like heady stuff, it could be, but Bush never lets the material get too far from its pop trappings and purpose. In some respects, this was also Bush's first fully realized album, done completely on her own terms, made entirely at her own 48-track home studio, to her schedule and preferences, and delivered whole to EMI as a finished work; that history is important, helping to explain the sheer presence of the album's most striking element -- the spirit of experimentation at every turn, in the little details of the sound. That vastly divergent grasp, from the minutiae of each song to the broad sweeping arc of the two suites, all heavily ornamented with layered instrumentation, makes this record wonderfully overpowering as a piece of pop music. Indeed, this reviewer hadn't had so much fun and such a challenge listening to a new album from the U.K. since Abbey Road, and it's pretty plain that Bush listened to (and learned from) a lot of the Beatles' output in her youth. [Those seeking to hear the full, exquisite sonic range of Hounds of Love (or any of Bush's pre-1990s albums, for that matter) should ignore the U.S.-made EMI America CDs and go for any of the British CD editions, either individually or in the This Woman's Work set; or, better still on Hounds of Love, the boxed edition with bonus tracks released in conjunction with EMI's 100th anniversary in 1997.]

The Sensual World

This was the first U.S.-released CD-5 from Kate Bush, assembled from parts of three prior U.K. CD single releases (the additional tracks can also be found on This Woman's Work). It includes the album mix of "The Sensual World," as well as an instrumental version (she's avoided the extended remixes and rethinks this time), which, the video and other work considered, comes off as a wonderful pagan ditty, despite the rather flat and slightly muddy mixing job. In addition, there's also "Be Kind to My Mistakes" from the Nicholas Roeg-directed Castaway (an otherwise dull and disappointing film, despite Oliver Reed and the lead actress spending most of her onscreen time in a state of undress), "Ken" (from the mini-movie G.L.C., released only in the U.K.; she also contributed the incidental score), and "I'm Still Waiting," which, with "Be Kind to My Mistakes," graced the CD-5 release of the U.K. remix of "This Woman's Work." "Be Kind to My Mistakes" and "I'm Still Waiting" are good examples of a Kate Bush song -- full tilt percussion, almost jazzy vocal arrangements that sometimes seem unconnected to the rhythm, and other times seem part of it; "I'm Still Waiting," unfortunately, also has a little of Bush's tendency to shriek histrionically for emphasis. "Ken" is an outright crowd-pleasing stomp of a piece, not so much arranged as bashed together -- basically a theme for one of the major characters of G.L.C., and performed with unabashed enjoyment with drums, bass, voice, and Fairlight strings. The only real negative here is that Columbia chose to leave out two other tracks released in the U.K.: "The Confrontation" and "One Last Look Around the House Before We Go...," both on the U.K. 12" version of "Love & Anger."

The Red Shoes

The album is a continuation of Bush's multi-layered and multiple musical pursuits and interests. If not her strongest work -- a number of songs sound okay without being particularly stellar, especially given Bush's past heights -- Red Shoes is still an enjoyable listen with a number of diversions. The guest performer list is worthy of note alone, ranging from Procol Harum pianist Gary Brooker and Eric Clapton to Prince, but this is very much a Kate Bush album straight up as opposed to a collaborative work like, say, Santana's Supernatural. Opening song "Rubberband Girl" is actually one of her strongest singles in years, a big and punchy song served well with a horn section, though slightly let down by the stiff percussion. "Eat the Music," another smart choice for a single, mixes calypso and other Caribbean musical touches with a great, classically Bush lyric mixing up sexuality, romance, and various earthy food-based metaphors. Another highlight of Bush's frank embrace of the lustier side of life is "The Song of Solomon," a celebratory piece about the Bible's openly erotic piece. Those who prefer her predominantly piano and vocal pieces will enjoy "Moments of Pleasure" with a strong string arrangement courtesy of Michael Kamen. Other standouts include "Why Should I Love You?" with Prince creating a very Prince-like arrangement and backing chorus for Bush (and doing quite well at that) and the concluding "You're the One," featuring Brooker.

8

Aerial

Aerial

Fierce Kate Bush fans who are expecting revelation in Aerial, her first new work since The Red Shoes in 1993, will no doubt scour lyrics, instrumental trills, and interludes until they find them. For everyone else, those who purchased much of Bush's earlier catalog because of its depth, quality, and vision, Aerial will sound exactly like what it is, a new Kate Bush record: full of her obsessions, lushly romantic paeans to things mundane and cosmic, and her ability to add dimension and transfer emotion though song. The set is spread over two discs. The first, A Sea of Honey, is a collection of songs, arranged for everything from full-on rock band to solo piano. The second, A Sky of Honey, is a conceptual suite. It was produced by Bush with engineering and mixing by longtime collaborator Del Palmer.

A Sea of Honey is a deeply interior look at domesticity, with the exception of its opening track, "King of the Mountain," the first single and video. Bush does an acceptable impersonation of Elvis Presley in which she examines his past life on earth and present incarnation as spectral enigma. Juxtaposing the Elvis myth, Wagnerian mystery, and the image of Rosebud, the sled from Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, Bush's synthesizer, sequencer, and voice weigh in ethereally from the margins before a full-on rock band playing edgy and funky reggae enters on the second verse. Wind whispers and then howls across the cut's backdrop as she searches for the rainbow body of the disappeared one through his clothes and the tabloid tales of his apocryphal sightings, looking for a certain resurrection of his physical body. The rest of the disc focuses on more interior and domestic matters, but it's no less startling. A tune called "Pi" looks at a mathematician's poetic and romantic love of numbers. "Bertie" is a hymn to her son orchestrated by piano, Renaissance guitar, percussion, and viols.

But disc one's strangest and most lovely moment is in "Mrs. Bartolozzi," scored for piano and voice. It revives Bush's obsessive eroticism through an ordinary woman's ecstatic experience of cleaning after a rainstorm, and placing the clothing of her beloved and her own into the washing machine and observing in rapt sexual attention. She sings "My blouse wrapping itself around your trousers/Oh the waves are going out/My skirt floating up around your waist...Washing machine/Washing machine." Then there's "How to Be Invisible," and the mysticism of domestic life as the interior reaches out into the universe and touches its magic: "Hem of anorak/Stem of a wall flower/Hair of doormat?/Is that autumn leaf falling?/Or is that you walking home?/Is that a storm in the swimming pool?"

A Sky of Honey is 42 minutes in length. It's lushly romantic as it meditates on the passing of 24 hours. Its prelude is a short deeply atmospheric piece with the sounds of birds singing, and her son (who is "the Sun" according to the credits) intones, "Mummy...Daddy/The day is full of birds/Sounds like they're saying words." And "Prologue" begins with her piano, a chanted viol, and Bush crooning to romantic love, the joy of marriage and nature communing, and the deep romance of everyday life. There's drama, stillness, joy, and quiet as its goes on, but it's all held within, as in "An Architect's Dream," where the protagonist encounters a working street painter going about his work in changing light: "The flick of a wrist/Twisting down to the hips/So the lovers begin with a kiss...." Loops, Eberhard Weber's fretless bass, drifting keyboards, and a relaxed delivery create an erotic tension, in beauty and in casual voyeurism.

"Sunset" has Bush approaching jazz, but it doesn't swing so much as it engages the form. Her voice digging into her piano alternates between lower-register enunciation and a near falsetto in the choruses. There is a sense of utter fascination with the world as it moves toward darkness, and the singer is enthralled as the sun climbs into bed, before it streams into "Sunset," a gorgeous flamenco guitar and percussion-driven call-and-response choral piece -- it's literally enthralling. It is followed by a piece of evening called "Somewhere Between," in which lovers take in the beginning of night. As "Nocturne" commences, shadows, stars, the beach, and the ocean accompany two lovers who dive down deep into one another and the surf. Rhythms assert themselves as the divers go deeper and the band kicks up: funky electric guitars pulse along with the layers of keyboards, journeying until just before sunup. But it is on the title track that Bush gives listeners her greatest surprise. Dawn is breaking and she greets the day with a vengeance. Manic, crunchy guitars play power chords as sequencers and synths make the dynamics shift and swirl. In her higher register, Bush shouts, croons, and trills against and above the band's force.

Nothing much happens on Aerial except the passing of a day, as noted by the one who engages it in the process of being witnessed, yet it reveals much about the interior and natural worlds and expresses spiritual gratitude for everyday life. Musically, this is what listeners have come to expect from Bush at her best -- a finely constructed set of songs that engage without regard for anything else happening in the world of pop music. There's no pushing of the envelope because there doesn't need to be. Aerial is rooted in Kate Bush's oeuvre, with grace, flair, elegance, and an obsessive, stubborn attention to detail. What gets created for the listener is an ordinary world, full of magic; it lies inside one's dwelling in overlooked and inhabited spaces, and outside, from the backyard and out through the gate into wonder.

Director's Cut

During her early career, Kate Bush released albums regularly despite her reputation as a perfectionist in the studio. Her first five were released within seven years. After The Hounds of Love in 1985, however, the breaks between got longer: The Sensual World appeared in 1989 and The Red Shoes in 1993. Then, nothing before Aerial, a double album issued in 2005. It's taken six more years to get The Director's Cut, an album whose material isn't new, though its presentation is. Four of this set's 11 tracks first appeared on The Sensual World, while the other seven come from The Red Shoes. Bush's reasons for re-recording these songs is a mystery. She does have her own world-class recording studio, and given the sounds here, she's kept up with technology. Some of these songs are merely tweaked, and pleasantly so, while others are radically altered. The two most glaring examples are "Flower of the Mountain" (previously known as "The Sensual World") and "This Woman's Work." The former intended to use Molly Bloom's soliloquy from James Joyce's novel Ulysses as its lyric; Bush was refused permission by his estate. That decision was eventually reversed; hence she re-recorded the originally intended lyrics. And while the arrangement is similar, there are added layers of synth and percussion. Her voice is absent the wails and hiccupy gasps of her youthful incarnation. These have been replaced by somewhat huskier, even more luxuriant and elegant tones. On the latter song, the arrangement of a full band and Michael Nyman's strings are replaced by a sparse, reverbed electric piano which pans between speakers. This skeletal arrangement frames Bush's more prominent vocal which has grown into these lyrics and inhabits them in full: their regrets, disappointments, and heartbreaks with real acceptance. She lets that voice rip on "Lilly," supported by a tougher, punchier bassline, skittering guitar efx, and a hypnotic drum loop. Bush's son Bertie makes an appearance as the voice of the computer (with Auto-Tune) on "Deeper Understanding." On "RubberBand Girl," Bush pays homage to the Rolling Stones' opening riff from "Street Fighting Man" in all its garagey glory (which one suspects was always there and has now been uncovered). The experience of The Director's Cut, encountering all this familiar material in its new dressing, is more than occasionally unsettling, but simultaneously, it is deeply engaging and satisfying.

50 Words for Snow

Kate Bush's 50 Words for Snow follows Director's Cut, a dramatically reworked collection of catalog material, by six months. This set is all new, her first such venture since 2005's Aerial. The are only seven songs here, but the album clocks in at an hour. Despite the length of the songs, and perhaps because of them, it is easily the most spacious, sparsely recorded offering in her catalog. Its most prominent sounds are Bush's voice, her acoustic piano, and Steve Gadd's gorgeous drumming -- though other instruments appear (as do some minimal classical orchestrations). With songs centered on winter, 50 Words for Snow engages the natural world and myth -- both Eastern and Western -- and fantasy. It is abstract, without being the least bit difficult to embrace. It commences with "Snowflake," with lead vocals handled by her son Bertie. Bush's piano, crystalline and shimmering in the lower middle register, establishes a harmonic pattern to carry the narrative: the journey of a snowflake from the heavens to a single human being's hand, and in its refrain (sung by Bush), the equal anticipation of the receiver. "Lake Tahoe" features choir singers Luke Roberts and Michael Wood in a Michael Nyman-esque arrangement, introducing Bush's slippery vocal as it relates the tale of a female who drowned in the icy lake and whose spirit now haunts it. Bush's piano and Gadd's kit are the only instruments. "Misty," the set's longest -- and strangest -- cut, is about a woman's very physical amorous tryst with, bizarrely, a snowman. Despite its unlikely premise, the grain of longing expressed in Bush's voice -- with bassist Danny Thompson underscoring it -- is convincing. Her jazz piano touches on Vince Guaraldi in its vamp. The subject is so possessed by the object of her desire, the morning's soaked but empty sheets propel her to a window ledge to seek her melted lover in the winter landscape.

"Wild Man," introduced by the sounds of whipping winds, is one of two uptempo tracks here, an electronically pulse-driven, synth-swept paean to the Tibetan Kangchenjunga Demon, or "Yeti." Assisted by the voice of Andy Fairweather Low, its protagonist relates fragments of expedition legends and alleged encounters with the elusive creature. Her subject possesses the gift of wildness itself; she seeks to protect it from the death wish of a world which, through its ignorance, fears it. On "Snowed in at Wheeler Street," Bush is joined in duet by Elton John. Together they deliver a compelling tale of would-be lovers encountering one other in various (re)incarnations through time, only to miss connection at the moment of, or just previous to, contact. Tasteful, elastic electronics and Gadd's tom-toms add texture and drama to the frustration in the singers' voices, creating twinned senses: of urgency and frustration. The title track -- the other uptempo number -- is orchestrated by loops, guitars, basses, and organic rhythms that push the irrepressible Stephen Fry to narrate 50 words associated with snow in various languages, urgently prodded by Bush. Whether it works as a "song" is an open question. The album closes with "Among Angels," a skeletal ballad populated only by Bush's syncopated piano and voice. 50 Words for Snow is such a strange pop record, it's all but impossible to find peers. While it shares sheer ambition with Scott Walker's The Drift and PJ Harvey's Let England Shake, it sounds like neither; Bush's album is equally startling because its will toward the mysterious and elliptical is balanced by its beguiling accessibility.