Thursday, 6 June 2019

Kate Bush



The Kick Inside (1978)


Moving/The Saxophone Song/Strange Phenomena/Kite/The Man With The Child In His Eyes/Wuthering Heights/James And The Cold Gun/Feel It/Oh To Be In Love/L'Amour Looks Something Like You/Them Heavy People/Room For The Life/The Kick Inside     

Firstly, before progressing to discuss the album - regarding this latest remaster. Personally, I have never had a problem with the sound on this album. It has always been sharp as a tack in its treble passages (cymbals etc) and resonantly bassy and thumping in the drum and bass backing. This latest remaster makes those parts even more sharp and even more pulsating. Check out the first three tracks for evidence. I now have both masterings and am happy with both. I would say that the new one is certainly not essential, but that is from someone who was happy with the previous one, so maybe I am not the best person to give advice.

Anyway, obviously I want to assess the album as well, so here we go. 

Released at the height of punk/new wave, this completely beguiling, winsome debut from Kate Bush took everyone by surprise, largely on the back of her deliciously bonkers performance on Top Of The Pops of the equally unhinged and totally irresistible single, Wuthering Heights. The album was an extension of that track - adventurous, creative, poetic, musical, slightly proggy in places, slightly Lene Lovich in others.

                               
The lead-off track, Moving, is excellent, all perplexing lyrics, crystal clear backing, and some great drum/percussion work from ex-Cockney Rebel drummer Stuart Elliott, as indeed is the appealing, lively The Saxophone Song, featuring, unsurprisingly, some excellent saxophone. Both these tracks are utterly entrancing. There was clearly a special artist on our hands here. She was still only nineteen, remember.

Strange Phenomena uses the madcap, high-pitched Wuthering Heights vocal style and has some melodic and uplifting piano cadences. 

Kite explores a slightly reggae-style backing underpinning more quirky vocals. There is a lovely deep bass on the track, enhanced even more by the new remaster.

The Man With The Child In His Eyes was a surprising choice for a single, being a beautiful, captivating, plaintive piano and strings-backed ballad, written by Kate aged sixteen. It was a success, though, and is a remarkably mature song dating from one so young. 

The Emily Brönte-inspired Wuthering Heights is just kookily wonderful, of course. I loved it in 1977 and I love it today. Get a load of the guitar solo at the end too. It was a magnificently unique song. 

James And The Cold Gun is the heaviest rock number on the album, with a big punchy beat and a slightly punky squeaky, jumpy vocal. 

Feel It is an incredibly sexually aware song, loved by young men of a similar age back then, like me. Kate sings of her "stockings falling to the floor". I need a lie down. 

Similarly mature is Oh To Be In Love with its Beatles-esque backing in places. L'Amour Looks Something Like You continues the dreamy love theme on a haunting, piano-driven number. taking Kate's voice out of it, there is something vaguely Elton John-like about the melody.

Them Heavy People was a single, and has a clunky reggae beat and another now typical Bush vocal. It has a catchy refrain and some odd lyrics about "Gurdjieff and a-Jesu...". As with most of her songs, the meaning is pretty oblique. I have always found it an irresistible track, though. Just something about it. 

Room For The Life is an infectious, slowly rhythmic number with excellent percussion and bass and a swirling vocal. This really was very creative, almost ground-breaking stuff for a debut album. The title track, The Kick Inside, is another piano and strings ballad packed with more atmosphere. 

This really was an impossible album to categorise from an artist who was similarly difficult to pigeonhole. What was not difficult was to realise just what a great album this was.























Lionheart (1978)


Symphony In Blue/In Search Of Peter Pan/Wow/Don't Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake/Oh England My Lionheart/Full House/In The Warm Room/Kashka From Baghdad/Coffee Homeground/Hammer Horror


November 1978. What was around? All Mod Cons, Give 'Em Enough Rope, This Year's Model, Power In The Darkness - punky new wave glory dominating my listening, that was for sure, as it did for many of the cognoscenti. Kate Bush had not become their darling as yet, as she is now. 


Consequently, this underrated second album from the precocious nineteen year-old Bush was not given much of a critical reception. At the time it was felt that there was much better stuff around. That was probably the case, but I feel this slipped under the radar somewhat. That said, it still produced a hit single, so there was a market for a mysterious ingenue's work.


Bush's ethereal, floating, soaring, swooping, waving, quavering voice is all over the album but it seems far more appealing today than it did back in 1978.


Symphony In Blue opens with a nice, gentle jazzy bass and piano rhythm before Kate's utterly distinctive voice kicks in and the song breaks out in to a mid-pace soft rock vibe. "The more I think about sex the better it gets" sings Kate, getting many young men hot under the collar at the time. It was always a frustration to me that such often sexually mature themes were delivered by Bush in her odd bleating voice. It always seemed somewhat incongruous. 


The latest remaster has a lovely, subtle and warm bass timbre to it. This is continued on the beguiling In Search Of Peter Pan, another track that, after a low-key beginning has a delicious middle section. Some Wuthering Heights-style piano features heavily on this track and there is a very vague reggae underbeat on occasions.


The album's big hit single was Wow, with its big chorus that was tailor-made for Kate to windmill her arms theatrically around again as she had done on Wuthering Heights. It is a fine, captivating song. As too is the quirky Elton John-ish rock of Don't Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake. Kate gets quite lively, even defiantly punky at one point on the vocals. 


Oh England My Lionheart is a haunting piano and strings plaintive number. Full House once more features that sumptuous bass and some infectious passages as Kate swooped and darted vocally up and down the scales. In The Warm Room is typical Bush fare - just her voice over a lone piano. 


Similarly laid-back is the truly intoxicating Kashka From Baghdad before we get the odd, staccato and slightly grating Teutonic strains of Coffee Homeground. Kate sounds like Lene Lovich in 1930's Berlin on this innovative composition. Her voice and mannerisms were certainly more influential on the post punk and new wave milieu that was admitted at the time. 


Hammer Horror was a minor hit but it was not really single material, being again hauntingly attractive. It reminds me a bit of Them Heavy People from the previous album. and is full of Gothic atmosphere.


"Proper" Kate Bush fans (unlike me) don't seem to rate this album, feeling her work improved a lot into the eighties but I have to say that I quite like it. It is a most enjoyable, unusual offering.

































Never For Ever (1980)


Babooshka/Delius/Blow Away/All We Ever Look For/Egypt/The Wedding List/Violin/The Infant Kiss/Night Scented Stock/Army Dreamers/Breathing


Nearly two years after her previous album, Kate Bush returned in September 1980 with this accomplished piece of work that saw her sounding more mature and slightly less quirky, but without losing her trademark innovative oddness. She was developing into a sort of female Peter Gabriel. 


Music trends were moving from punk, via post punk, to new romantic and eventually electro-synth pop, so there was considerable scope for Bush to remain popular, carving her own unique niche in an era of burgeoning personal expression and creativity. She was ideally suited to being one of the inventive, clever personalities to be found within the indulgent, self-obsessed eighties - "Yeah, the eighties were rubbish, but there was Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel...".


This was an innovative, boundary-pushing and cerebral creation to be found as Kate moved on from being a weird voice and jerky piano merchant to something more intriguing and less of a novelty. It is, as was becoming the norm, a challenging listen, but that was certainly no surprise. Bush was at the vanguard of Bowie-esque early eighties creativity. 


Babooshka was a musically changeable, vaguely waltz-like and chunkily catchy hit single with one hell of a catchy chorus.

 

Delius was a very Peter Gabriel-esque piece of subtly rhythmic weirdness enhanced by some odd demonic Mike Oldfield-style backing vocals and an infectious beat box rhythm.


Blow Away has some more of the delicious bass that served the previous album so well, backing a jumpy, dare I say quirky (again!) vocal. There was often something of Steve Harley in Bush's delivery. The song referenced several departed music figures and has Kate saying that she wants to stay here, not blow away. 


There was often considerable Teutonic and East European influence to be found in Bush's music and All We Ever Look For is decidedly Russian in its sombre and heavy industrial slow beat and deep backing vocals. Another mystical classical atmosphere can be found on the ethereal Egypt. The drum part near the end is particularly captivating. 


The Wedding List is an interesting track that is virtually impossible to categorise, so I won't, other than it both rocks and floats airily. 


Kate always had the ability to surprise and she certainly does that on the frantic, squealing punk of Violin. It even references The Banshees as she rocks considerably harder than she had done thus far in her career. Quite a few people don't rate this one - personally, I find it insanely appealing. 


The Infant Kiss sees a return to tinkling piano and haughty, up and down portentous vocals. Kate didn't ever write a song that failed to mystify and fascinate, did she? 


Some vocal indulgence on the short Night Scented Stock merge into the perplexing single Army Dreamers, an acoustic-backed song that you wouldn't think would catch on, but it did, to an extent. 


Breathing was also a single and again it was a decidedly avant-garde one. Its distinctive "out-in" vocal refrain was one of its selling points but it was still extremely uncommercial. These tracks - and indeed the whole album - were fascinating but, as I said, challenging. Therein lay their strength.






















The Dreaming (1982)



Sat In Your Lap/There Goes A Tenner/Pull Out A Pin/Suspended In Gaffa/Leave It Open/The Dreaming/Night Of The Swallow/All The Love/Houdini/Get Out Of My House


1982 saw the deliciously abstract Kate Bush return with her fourth album, which was successful but blatantly uncommercial. It is quite dense, mystifying and pensive and, as was the norm with her work, it does not fully reveal itself to you until you have listened to it over and over. As with the previous albums, but even more so, listening to it is a difficult task and one that demands patience and fortitude. For many aficionados, it is her best work but it is not an album that should ever be recommended as an entry point to her music. If anything, it should be saved until you have "got her". I'm not sure I ever have got her, as it happens, but I have always been willing to dabble in this remarkable artist's unique work. This is definitely a difficult album to instantly like, though. It should be noted that Kate herself described it as "my going mad album". 


It has become fashionable amongst many to claim that this is Kate Bush's best album. As is often the way, artists' most inaccessible, adventurous albums get declared a work of genius and achieve cult status. I understand why this album is popular, but give me the previous three albums any day. For me, Lionheart is much better, although I know I am in a minority with that opinion.


Sonically, it is also a difficult album to appreciate. Its sound is dense, murky and indistinct at times. Kate’s advice to listeners was to turn it up loud - well, you need to turn it up considerably louder than other albums, because its volume is set very low. 


Sat In Your Lap is a vibrant, drum-powered number to open with - those old Lene Lovich-Siouxsie Sioux vocals appearing again. Actually, Kate probably influenced those artists far more than the other way around. As with so much of her material, it is a grower of a track that demands several listens. There is a bit of David Bowie from the same period in there too - I'm thinking of the Lodger album and African Night Flight in particular. It was actually a number 11 hit single, despite being hook-free and not at all instant. 


Post punk jerkiness mixed with a sombre ambience was very much de rigeur for several artists at the time, and Kate Bush led the way, this being exemplified on the musically changeable and lyrically perplexing (to me, anyway) There Goes A Tenner. As with so many of Bush’s songs, it is totally impossible to analyse. Apparently, it is about a bank robbery, (I always thought an odd subject for the arty Kate) but her vocal delivery is so strange that it more often than not totally overshadows any meaning the song has (in comparison with a more traditionally-delivered narrative song). It certainly does here, thus leaving me somewhat perplexed. Others may find it all crystal clear, of course. There is a wry wittiness to it, however, that even I can detect. 


The same applied to Blow Away from the previous album, for me. Its emotion was lost in its delivery.  


The equally strange Pull Out A Pin is seductive in a slightly disturbed, heavily orchestrated off the wall fashion. I swore I would not use the word quirky in this review, but I cannot think of a better one. Kate was the quirkmistress, often as bizarre and Gothic as any contemporary Siouxsie clone. 


Another beguilingly insane number is Suspended In Gaffa, which features Bush's vaguely demented vocals ranting over a waltz-like beat. It actually reminds me a lot of Yoko Ono's work, especially on the shrieking vocals. 


Leave It Open is full of post punk Gothic ambience and its madness is intensified by all manner of distorted vocals and tape loops all over the place. Kate created most of this album's sounds herself. Similar sonic experimentation is found as Kate goes all Rolf Harris on Sun Arise on the bizarre didgeridoo-backed The Dreaming, even attempting an Australian accent. Apparently Harris himself played the didgeridoo on the recording. What inspired this utterly madcap piece of work is unclear. Amazingly, it was released as a single, but unsurprisingly it only reached number 44.


Her trademark plaintive piano balladry returns on the more recognisable (in relation to her previous work) Night Of The Swallow. Even this track, though, breaks out into innovative weirdness half way through. By the end, it has turned into an orchestrated shriek-fest. 


All The Love has a great bass line together with some ethereal, ghostly, almost classical-choral vocals and it is a subtly evocative song. Again, though, it is very much a grower - one of the album’s diamonds in the rough.


Houdini has some sumptuous strings which merge beautifully with a deep, rubbery bass line on what is probably the album's most deceptively beautiful track. 


This mightily strange album ends with the Public Image Ltd-esque Get Out Of My House. You get the impression by the end of this one that Kate was just throwing in whatever sound she came across. It is a veritable cacophony by the finish. 


I have compared Bush to Peter Gabriel before and a lot of the material on here reminds me of some of his more inaccessible, oddball material. As for this album being a work of genius, my personal jury is out on that one.

















Hounds Of Love (1985)



Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)/Hounds Of Love/The Big Sky/Mother Stands For Comfort/Cloudbusting/And Dream Of Sheep/Under Ice/Waking The Witch/Watching You Without Me/Jig Of Life/Hello Earth/The Morning Fog


After a break of three years, Kate Bush returned in 1985 with this, her most successful album, commercially. It was largely far more accessible than her dense, off the wall, experimental previous offering, The Dreaming. 


The albums is divided into two suites - the first five tracks are The Hounds Of Love and the last seven are collated under the title The Ninth Wave. They are two very distinctive passages of music. The first half is far more poppy and the second much more abstract. God knows what the eighties pop fans who bought the album on the back of the singles made of the second half - one play of it I should imagine. 


Anyway, on to the songs from what many consider to be Kate Bush's finest album. Her Sgt. Pepper. Her Imperial Bedroom. 


Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) was a catchy, drum-driven and very Peter Gabriel-esque song that became one of Bush's biggest hits. It was also used as the theme tune for a BBC children's TV drama called Running Scared, from 1986. Talking of Gabriel, I have often felt that this album was Bush's equivalent of Gabriel's So (which she appeared on, of course). After several inventive, oddball albums, both artists managed to combine their eccentricity with a pop sensibility to attract more than just cult followers. 


Hounds Of Love is also very infectious, having another distinctive pounding drum rhythm, insistent string orchestration and a much deeper, more resonant vocal than usual. It was a fine piece of mid-eighties pop-rock, dominated by keyboards, drums and haughty vocals. It is, for me, one of her most appealing numbers. 


The Big Sky is also an extremely attractive and attention-grabbing number, once again powered by a huge drum sound and some soaring vocals. Grab yourself a bit of the guitar solo, mid-track. 


After a lively, upbeat first three tracks, which was as poppy a run of songs that Bush had released, we return, on Mother Stands For Comfort, to a more recognisable breathy, ethereal slow sound, backed by that lovely rubbery bass sound that Bush used so well and this is continued, albeit in a bit more punchier style, on Cloudbusting. This is a pleasingly orchestrated, winsome song that reminds me of Deacon Blue in many ways, particularly in those marching-style insistent strings. 


The natural dividing point of the old 'side one' and 'side two' is lost on CD or digital versions of the album. The second side begins with the evocative, plaintive piano and vocal strains of And Dream Of Sheep. Some crystal clear acoustic guitar arrives later to enhance what is a thoroughly lovely track. Under Ice also features some deep, slightly sombre orchestration and Kate delivers a strong but seductive vocal. 


This second side is a bit of an Abbey Road thing. The largely experimental tracks sort of flow into each other and it plays as a whole more than the first suite did, which is more obviously five different, separate songs. 


Waking The Witch harks back to the sonic experimentation of the previous album and, although it features some interesting musical bits - the guitar and the odd keyboard sounds - it is largely a bit of a discordant irritation. My least favourite Kate Bush material is when she dabbles in prog rock, as she does here. It sounds as if Mike Oldfield has wandered into the studio.


The sensual Watching You Without Me has a beguiling, bassy rhythm and a haunting vocal while Jig Of Life is a highly unusual piece of proggy folk, featuring some madcap violin and a decidedly odd vocal. 


Hello Earth is hauntingly sombre, with backing vocal that sounds like monks. Indeed it was lifted from Gregorian chant. 


This side, which asks a great deal of its listeners, finishes with the pleasant, rhythmic and sensual The Morning Fog. To be honest, I am one of those who has been asked a lot of, and I am still not sure that the second side really does it for me. I am not convinced it is a complete thing of genius but I understand why those claims are made. It is certainly one of music's most inventive and unusual creations. You can listen to it endlessly and still find more - maybe it is there that its genius lies. Or maybe it is just indulgent guff. You decide. Most seem to opt for the former. 












Aerial (2005)



King Of The Mountain/Pi/Bertie/Mrs. Bartolozzi/How To Be Invisible/Joanni/A Coral Room/Prelude/Prologue/An Architect's Dream/The Painter's Link/Sunset/Aerial Tal/Somewhere In Between/Nocturn/Aerial


This was Kate Bush's first album for twelve years, since 1993's The Red Shoes. It was an adventurous double album that divides clearly into two parts - A Sea Of Honey and A Sky Of Honey - and dated from 2005. By then, her late seventies/eighties success seemed a long time away and she had achieved the status of 'respected elder stateswoman', someone for who it was fashionable for the current generation to say they liked. 


Despite possible accusations of sprawling pretentiousness, it is actually a very good album - mature, cohesive, well played and produced and, if anything, as accessible and appealing as anything she had done previously. I am particularly impressed by the first section of the album. I shall deal with that part of it separately to the second part. You could almost listen to it as a short one-off album in its own right and I sometimes do. 


King Of The Mountain is an infectious and atmospheric opener, backed by Talking Heads-style 'world music'-ish slow, intoxicating rhythms and an eventual powerful but slow-paced drum sound. Some fine guitar interjections arrive too and Bush's voice is older now, and considerably deeper and adult-sounding. Bleating no more. This is as seductive and solidly rocking in a slow but industrial-sounding way that she had ever been. 


Pi continues with some fine bassy programmed backing and almost Won't Get Fooled Again-style organ riffage. Kate sings seductively about her fascination with the number Pi, even reciting the calculus. She always could come up with a totally bizarre lyric. couldn't she? Mathematicians everywhere must have gone all unnecessary upon hearing this. Never mind the maths, just treat yourself to that lovely rubbery bass line as the song progresses.


Bertie is a tender, gentle, acoustic song written to her son, with some attractive, almost Elizabethan folky middle and end passages. Mrs. Bartolozzi, however softly melodic its piano and vocal delivery may be, is a lyrically odd song concerning a woman watching her clothes entwine with those of a lover (or maybe her husband) as they spin in her washing machine. An interesting erotic concept, sure, but when Kate starts singing 'washing machine, washing machine' near the end it just sounds ludicrous to me. In fact the whole song is silly. I seem to be in a minority here, though, because most opinions I have read praise it to the heavens as as a work of inspirational, sensual genius. Oh well. It sounds nice anyway.


The tempo and robustness ups for the next track, the excellent How To Be Invisible, which almost sounds like The Doors in places. It is an excellent track, one of my favourites of hers. There is a slight feel of swampy blues at times too with touches of Patti Smith on the vocals and U2 in the guitar sound. A further U2 influence can be found on the insistent drum sound of the equally admirable Joanni. The sound and the overall punch is most appealing on these two tracks. It is as confident as Bush has possible ever sounded and these are two of the tracks I admire the most of hers. 


This first part of the album ends with the piano-driven plaintive and haunting strains of A Coral Room. It probably runs a minute or so longer than it should, though.


So that was the first half of the album. As I said, it could stand on its own as a pretty good offering. 


Now for the second half. It follows the concept of a single day in the summer. 


The short Prelude has the recognisable sound of doves cooing eventually taking on the track's melody, which is quite clever. Prologue is a quiet piano and subtle backing number anticipating a beautiful day ahead which is enhanced by some attractive drums near the end. 


An Architect's Dream has a nice percussion sound similar to that used on December Will Be Magic Again and features some typically seductive vocals from Kate. 


The brief The Painter's Link merges seamlessly into the beautifully jazzy and laid-back Sunset, which features a simply sumptuous bass line and seriously subtle percussion. It ends with some deliciously lively and melodic Spanish guitar and handclapping that was highly unexpected but none the less enjoyable. 


Aerial Tal is a short birdsong interlude that leads into the slow, captivating sound of Somewhere In Between which is once again enhanced by an absolutely beautiful bass and cymbals interplay. It is quite lovely. There is a huge difference between the material on this album and the experimental stuff on Never For Ever or The Dreaming. Yes this stuff is innovative and unusual but it is restrained and beautiful as opposed to being wilfully bizarre. There is certainly nothing discordant on here at all. 


Nocturn is a supremely chilled-out number, with a nice deep bass and an ethereal overall ambience which suits the vibe of 2005 perfectly, as too does the surprisingly dance beat-backed thump of Aerial. These final two tracks are both excellent, subtly utilising some contemporary sounds. 


There is a strong case for saying that this is Kate Bush's most accomplished and satisfying album. It is a case I can strongly support myself. 




7 comments:

  1. The ones I like best on the first album are Them Heavy People and Oh To Be in Love. I don't know why. I guess I just think they're the catchiest ones and the funnest ones to sing. I like Wuthering Heights but I like the re-recorded version on her greatest hits album better.

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  2. I gotta agree with you about the second side of Hounds of Love. Actually I don't even entirely like the first side. But it does have three great ones and my favorite is Big Sky. Running and Cloudbusting are the other 2. I think The Dreaning has more good ones on it. The slow songs on it are kind of clunckers though. I didn't much like the Sensual World very much. There's 3 or 4 really good ones on The Red Shoes even though I don't think it's very popular with her fans. That Director's Cut album I liked too kinda. The one with the remakes or reworks or whatever the hell they were.

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  3. I don't think There Goes a Tenner is very perplexing. Its about a bank robbery. But I gotta say, the one where she imitates a goat is kind of perplexing. ha ha

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  4. I have always liked Them Heavy People too, right back from 1979. The re-recorded version of Wuthering Heights is a pointless abomination! The original was fine.

    There Goes A Tenner is perplexing to me - I haven't got a clue what it's about! That goes for all her songs.

    She is certainly a very odd artist.

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  5. I've tried to re-express my feelings about There Goes A Tenner on the review, without much success.

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  6. Sometimes I think I just imagine what her songs are about because like you said, you really can't be sure. I just take certain phrases that she says and try to put it all together into a story. But that's what makes her songs interesting. And makes you want to pay attention to the lyrics. To see if you can find clues as to what it's all about.

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  7. She certainly is a most thought-provoking lyricist. No doubt about that. Very clever indeed. Sometimes I just like a good old Bob Dylan "Hurricane" type narrative song, though.

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