Thursday, June 2, 2011


Bob Dylan said "She's got everything she needs, she's an artist, she don't look back." Some artists are perfectionists however, and Kate Bush obviously felt she didn't get everything she needed from two of her past albums. So her "new" work is actually a reworking of some of her old music, with some of the old parts saved, others scrabbed, and much recorded new. Plus she took some cuts from one album, some from another, and created a third, distinct piece. I can't really recall any other project remotely similar to this.

The albums is question are two of her later, less popular works, post-Hounds Of Love success, at a time when she could do anything she wanted and was certainly following her muse instead of market forces. The Sensual World came out in 1989, and The Red Shoes followed in 1993, and then she disappeared until 2005's Aerial. Bush has been troubled by several different elements from the two collections, most notably the digital technology used at the time for the recordings, so she's gone back at 'em. There may not be an overal theme to the new disc, but it doesn't seem like she intended there to be. It's more that she wants some of these songs to sound better, and the arrangements and performances to be closer to what she wanted. Like many artists, she finds the digital recordings too sterile, and the new parts and mixes were done on analogue gear. In some cases, these are radically different, with the vocals seemingly new throughout, and the keys lowered to accomodate her changed, mature voice. Vet studio pro Steve Gadd has replaced the drums on every cut. And some seem to be completely new, such as the version of This Woman's Work, which has gone from a Michael Kamen-orchestrated production to a Kate and her keyboard small ballad.

So, is this success or just a finicky and obsessive exercise? A little bit of both. Some of the songs are better, some of them just weren't that great to begin with. Hearing Rubberband Girl redone with a Rolling Stones guitar and harmonica, funkier and fun, is quite a hoot, even if she never lets the new vocal get saucy enough. The most different track is the new take of The Sensual World, now called Flower Of The Mountain. Originally, Bush had asked permission from the estate of James Joyce to use a portion of Ulysses for the lyric, but was refused, so she wrote her own take on it. Now that she has the permission, we get Molly Bloom's famous soliloquy ("yes I said yes I will Yes"), which takes it to a whole different place. I wonder had she had that permission in the first place, if the whole project would have come out differently, more succesful? It's the weaker of the two originals, with The Red Shoes actually standing up quite well these days, worthy of reexamining.

If you want to get deep into the project, you can get the Collector's Edition, which includes the original The Sensual World, and a remastered version of The Red Shoes, done from back-up analogue masters rather than the digital copy. If you already have the two albums, just go for the single disc Director's Cut, there's no need to upgrade. Ultimately this is an interesting side-project that won't change the fortunes of these discs, but if it sparks Bush onto more recording, great. Supposedly that is happening, with an album's worth of new songs already written.

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