Thursday, 10 June 2021

Bite-sized Kate

These are Kate Bush's studio albums, together with introductions from my longer reviews (which can be accessed here) :-

The Kick Inside (1978)

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. Her slightly hippy progginess was forgiven by the punks, maybe due to her avant-garde quirkiness, or maybe just because she had big tits.

Lionheart (1978)

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.

Never For Ever (1980)

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. 

The Dreaming (1982)

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.

Hounds Of Love (1985)

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. 

The Sensual World (1989)

Four years since her successful Hounds Of Love, Kate Bush returned with her most romantically appealing album. As was now the case with Bush's work, it fitted in with no genre or "scene". It stood alone as yet another intriguing piece of work from an artist who never failed to create something different. It is album of maturity, peace of mind, confidence and contentment which also means that it lacks a little in the excitement department but no matter, sometimes a relaxing, gentle album is a good thing. It certainly is here. Take it for what is is, play it on a dark, winter's evening or indeed a misty, rainy morning in the same season.

The Red Shoes (1993)

This 1993 album from Kate Bush is one that many do not rate as highly as some of her other work, but, as is often the case, I really like it. It has a lovely, warm sound quality, is full of atmosphere and contains a variety of different-sounding songs. For me, it is one of her best albums. When did I ever go along with perceived second-hand opinions? Some have had a problem with the guest appearances (Santana-Supernatural fashion) on the album, but again, do I care? No - they enhance it. The album is a pleasure from beginning to end.

Aerial (2005)

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. 

Fifty Words For Snow (2011)

This is an album that takes several listens to get into, as indeed, do all of Kate Bush's albums, but this one more than any of them. As its title would suggest, it is a wintry album. Its very soundscape carries with it a bitter, grey-skied chill that makes this most definitely not an album to play in summer. I am playing it on a cold January morning, however, so it is perfect. I read someone describe it as "winter matins" and the are dead right. It has a ghostly, frozen feel to it, both in its bleak, piano-driven backing, its sombre vocal delivery and the length of most of its songs, which somehow seem to represent a snow that will never melt. The first three songs are very long and incredibly bleak but they contain a quiet sensitivity that gets into your system over time. 

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