Wednesday, September 02, 2009

10 albums a day #33

Kate Bush
- The Kick Inside (1978, CD)
- Lionheart (1978, CD)
- Never for Ever (1980, CD)
- The Dreaming (1982, CD)
- Hounds of Love (1985, CD)
- The Whole Story (1986, LP)
- The Sensual World (1989, CD)
- Aspects of the Sensual World (1990, EP-length CD)
- The Red Shoes (1993, CD)

No, I don't yet have Aerial.

Kate Bush is my favorite female musician by far, yes I think I can say favorite "solo" artist of either gender. Wikipedia says it was in 1979 that she performed on Saturday Night Live. I had never before watched SNL when I was 15 years old, but that was the summer that my family took a vacation to Montana to visit some friends who had moved there. We stopped for one night with some other friends in Abilene, and it was there that I watched SNL for the first time with the son of the family who was my age. I suppose "the first time I ever saw SNL" is probably not a memorable experience for most people, and I'm sure it wouldn't have been too memorable for me, either (I don't remember anything else about the show), except that it was the first time I ever saw or heard of Kate Bush.

I was half asleep when I saw her, and although the memory of that performance along with vague snatches of music haunted my memories for years afterward, I forgot her name and the name of the song, although I could still remember the hook, "rolling the me."

In the mid-80s I heard a new song on the radio several times that I liked, although I never managed to catch the name of the artist. I later discovered it was "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush. Not long after this, the LP of The Whole Story showed up at Hastings and it was one of those records that trigged my instincts--I was sure I should buy it. But for some reason I put off buying it, but looked it over every time I went into Hastings to kill some time or buy something else. One night at work I asked a co-worker about her--he was one in a long line of co-workers whose interest in music was great enough for me to respect his opinion on the matter (named Eric--the same guy who turned me on to Husker Du)--and he said she was good. So finally I bought the record.

The Whole Story is a compilation album--essentially a "greatest hits," but with two new tracks: a re-made version of her first hit, "Wuthering Heights," and a completely new track that had never before been released, "Experiment IV." I listened to the album over and over (first making a dupe tape so I wouldn't have to keep playing the record), and wondering what all her other stuff sounded like. Somewhere around then I started getting a mail order CD catalog from a company called Compact Discounters, Inc. Their pricing was set up so that the more CDs you bought at once, the cheaper they were. Remember that this was back when CDs cost around $18 for a new release, and often not much cheaper for older releases. With CDI, I could buy 10 CDs for $100, or $10 each. I abstained from shopping at Hastings for a while and finally placed an order for 10 CDs. I don't remember what the other five were, but five of them were Kate Bush's first five albums.

So I got hit with a lot of Kate Bush all at once, but I did at least go so far as to listen to them chronologically on that first day.

Now we come to the part where I must indulge my own subjectivity. So feel free to disagree with anything from this point on.

To me, Kate Bush has essentially three different voices, which of course I've made up names for: the girl, the woman and the demon.

The girl is very prominent on her first album, The Kick Inside, although not exclusively so. The woman also makes notable appearances, especially in "The Man With the Child in His Eyes." Her first hit, "Wuthering Heights," was done in the girl voice. Her later remake of this song on The Whole Story is done in the woman's voice (the backing music is also different, but the voice is the biggest difference). By the way, "Wuthering Heights" went to #1 almost everywhere in the world except the U.S., where it only reached #108 (via Wikipedia). Another by-the-way: that cover art above is from the U.K. release, which is the version I received from CDI; click here to see the U.S. cover. She released this album when she was 19, but she had written some of the songs when she was as young as 13.

Both the girl and the woman appeared on the next album, released in the same year, Lionheart, as well as the next album after that, Never For Ever, although the demon starts coming out on that last one. It isn't until The Dreaming that the girl pretty much disappears and we get to hear the demon in her full roaring glory. The Dreaming is an album that holds up for repeated listenings, never gets old, and always seems to present something new. It was the first album that Bush produced all on her own, and it was the first album that she primarily used, instead of the piano, the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument. The Fairlight was totally cutting-edge in electronic music technology in 1982, and some of the songs she produced might be better described as "soundscapes." It isn't surprising to me that this album generated no big hits. My favorite from this album, "Suspended in Gaffa," was released as a single but didn't even chart.

Perhaps she expunged all the darkness with that album, because with The Hounds of Love, the woman moves to the fore and we never really hear the girl or the demon again--she seems to have finally found her true voice. On the next album, The Sensual World, she goes so far as to state, "you see...I'm all grown up now" in the song "The Fog." David Gilmour discovered her and gave her her first big push to get into the music biz, and he can be heard playing a guitar solo on this album on the song "Rocket's Tail."

Aspects of the Sensual World is a short EP-length CD that repeats the title track of The Sensual World, along with an instrumental-only version of that song, plus three more songs that were previously unreleased.

I kept only the two new tracks from The Whole Story because the rest of the album is redundant with all the previous albums. The Red Shoes explores more new ground and is even more lush and mysterious than The Sensual World. You can look her up on Wikipedia for all the details and backgrounds that would be pointless for me to reproduce here. I really need to get Aerial before too much more time has passed.

I also have three odd tracks. Two are from tribute albums to other artists and they are Gershwin's "The Man I Love" and Elton John's "Rocket Man." The third is her version of the song "Brazil" which was used in the soundtrack to Terry Gilliam's movie of that title.

Album count: 333.

1 comment:

  1. I never heard her until she sang with Peter Gabriel on "Don't Give Up" from his album "So". She is incredible.