In the words of her Christmas track found on this boxed set, December will be magic again, if you're lucky enough to find this under the tree. The companion to Part 1, released and reviewed earlier this month, Part 2 features the later Kate Bush albums, her recent live collection, and a further four CDs that collect 12-inch remixes, assorted b-sides and bonus cuts, and cover versions for charities and the like. For those who've been buying all her albums over the years, those are the big finds in this box, but I'm betting there are lots who have let their interest slide, especially after her long career break from 1993 to 2005. For them, there are more revelations, including full fantastic albums.
Box 2 starts where Bush reappeared, 2005 and the album Aerial. This quirky, playful and sometimes goofy set was split into two discs, the first a series of wildly imaginative tracks, the second devoted to a story about bird songs and nature. As a much-awaited return, it was probably too out there for North America, but proved a smash in England, with the cut King Of The Mountain a hit single. Eccentricity goes over better in her homeland, while here people were scratching their heads over a song about the washing machine (Mrs. Bartolozzi), imitating bird calls with laughter, and then there's Pi, where she sings it to a few dozen decimal places. Once you get used to that, the album is a revelation of beauty and intricate composition, from bare piano to orchestral to flamenco to progressive rock. It's definitely one you need to go back to again and again to capture the whole journey.
Next came another break, not as long, but still six years. However, then came whole mountain of work, at least in her terms, two full albums in 2011. The first was another intriguing surprise, called Director's Cut. Bush chose to revisit songs from two of her old albums, The Red Shoes and Sensual World, to strip them back, add brand-new vocals and in some cases completely redo them. One of the main reasons was because she had initially been refused permission to use James Joyce text in the song Sensual World, but had since been allowed, so it was redone as Flower Of The Mountain. As well, her voice had lowered in the years since, so she changed keys, added new parts and players, and went for it. In most cases, the songs retain and even improve on the originals, with only Rubberband Girl failing to match the bouncy original. Why do it? Why not?
Sadly, the other album from that year, 50 Words For Snow, was a letdown. Once again fixing on a story, and again on nature, this time Bush's long meditations on winter were more dull than intriguing, despite her usual rich production and instrumentation. A lengthy duet with Elton John just plods along, while the title track is an odd piece featuring actor Stephen Fry reading the fifty words Bush made up for snow (stellatundra?) while she goads him on from the side.
The biggest surprise of her career came in 2014, when Bush returned to the stage for her first full shows in 35 years. Instead of touring, she set up in one place, the Hammersmith Apollo in London, and played 22 nights. A huge triumph, the show was released in full two years later, a brilliant collection. Bush didn't do any songs from before Hounds Of Love, but performed most of that landmark set. The show was split in three parts, opening with a set of favourites (Running Up That Hill, King Of The Mountain, Hounds Of Love). Then came the entire second half of the Hounds album, the Ninth Wave suite, featuring dialogue and staging. The show was filmed, but hasn't appeared yet, still it is a remarkable audio experience. The third act featured the complete second disc of Aerial, called A Sky Of Honey, that one with the bird calls/laughs, and again it's a beautiful, dynamic performance, wrapped up with an encore of Cloudbusting.
That's it for her albums, but with all the stray cuts in her career, it took four CD's to wrap things up. The remixes disc doesn't include the many variations, but certainly has interesting ones, including the very different Orgonon Mix of Cloudbusting. There are two discs of B-sides, and several of these are among her very best tracks, including the beautiful Under The Ivy, the clever single Experiment IV and the very early rocker Passing Through Air, from 1975. The final disc, called In Other's Words, has her doing covers such as Elton John's Rocket Man and Candle In The Wind, Donovan's Lord Of The Reedy River, and most surprisingly, Sexual Healing. A little more detail on where these all appeared would have been nice, as there are no liner notes for the box, but Google works too.