Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Kate Bush 1

she rises like a phoenix forming. she comes like a wind howling. she is only 50 and yet she has created a musical sound unlike any other. a sound that is as original and unique as the lady herself. she moves like a mist floating. like a hound of love calling and yes, she is Kate Bush.

Talent this large doesn't come into this world that often but when it does boy are we the lucky ones who benefit.

Born on July 30th, 1958 in Bexleyheath, Kent to an English father, Doctor David Bush, and an Irish mother, Hannah. whilst still at school, St. Joseph's Convent Grammar school in Abbey Wood, South East London, studying piano and violin, she came to the attention of one Dave Gilmour who, in between making great music with Pink Floyd, was bowled over by this young and prodigiously talented female.

At the very tender of age of sixteen, Kate Bush was signed up to EMI. She didn't release any album or any singles for several years.

1978. The Kick Inside was Kate's first album release and, along with the single Wuthering Heights, became a huge success in the UK and overseas. Kate was only 19 when the album muscled its way past the punk and disco scene that dominated the charts in those days and yet her mature voice and eclectic style appealed to a vast swathe of peoples.

The album was full of Kate's cinematic and literary influences and it was the love of both genres that gave Kate the distinctive sound. There was an open, frankness about sex on the album and an intelligent use of lyrics and material. Strange Phenomena is a song based on the Ballad of Lizzie Wan, the story of a girl who kills herself after being impregnated by her brother. Not your run of the mill Rock 'n Roll songs at all. Kate's second single and a song I much prefer to Wuthering Heights was the immaculate The Man With The Child In His Eyes. A small hit over in the states.

First albums are often the accumulated works of several years input and this album was no different. However, one thing was evident, here was a talent that was brim full of possibilities. A talent that was not based purely on the blues tradition but in fact incorporated a wealth of influences.

Kate's second album was the rushed Lionheart. Kate has since expressed her own dissatisfaction with the project saying that she would have ideally liked to have had more time to get it right. Nonetheless, it was another success containing another hit single, Wow, and reaching number six on the album chart.

Not since David Bowie and perhaps Peter Gabriel had we seen an artist who truly encompassed a range of performing arts talents. Like Bowie, Kate had studied with mime artist Lindsay Kemp and she used her lessons well, especially to great effect on the single, Wow. The album again contained a diverse flood of influences from J.J. Barrie to Hammer Horror and even had a line in a song about UK TV's The Sweeney.

Wow! Indeed.

Her success lead to more demands from the public and her growing fan base to tour and to do regular live performances which, ultimately, was the one thing that Kate hated and hates still feeling, as she does, that all this promotional stuff detracts from the central thing she wants/wanted to do. Make music. Kate hates the glare and intrusive nature of celebrity much preferring to sit in a studio with a group of musicians and create sounds and textures. However, it was Kate who was the first singer to use a wireless headset whilst performing. An innovation that is used to this day.

Kates next project was the radically different Never For Ever.

Radical in that unlike the previous two albums, which were composed at the piano, this one was composed using a Fairlight CMI and was heavily inspired by the use of synthesizers and drum machines.

There is also a far wider range of songs, a diversity that wasn't present on the first two but again had the same eclectic strains of influence such as the 1961 film, The Innocents that starred Deborah Kerr and Michael Redgrave. Francois Truffaut's 1968 film The Bride Wore Black and of course the album featured the amazing single Army Dreamers.

Like any singer/songwriter worth the title singer/songwriter, Kate felt the need to push that envelope. To take what she did and move it into different areas. Areas of experimentation and challenge. To many Kate's fourth album, The Dreaming, just went too far left field.

Personally, I don't agree. Oh, sure, it did push and shove into some unexplored regions and it did try to introduce instruments that are not usually associated with Rock but it wasn't an extreme album by any stretch of the imagination. Mind you having a didgeridoo was a little different and some of those 'soundscapes' were a little dense. But isn't that the point? Wouldn't we all moan and bitch if an artist just kept on doing the same thing over and over? I sure as hell would.

The Dreaming was not a financial success and therefore broke a few merchants hearts. It was, though, a creative one. The Dreaming was released in 1982.

From this point on Kate started producing her music at a far slower and more methodical rate. Perusing and mulling over ideas and sounds before committing them to disc. The more intellect that went into the process the more fastidious she became. This meant that her output slowed down. The next album, and surely her masterpiece, was released in 1985.

It was called The Hounds of Love and is truly brilliant.

If The Dreaming went too far too soon and thereby scared away the audience or, in other words, wasn't as accessible as previous efforts, then The Hounds of Love managed the perfect balancing act between hell-bent creative swagger and commercial listenability. It rocked. It challenged. It moved you with songs you can sing and melodies you can enjoy whilst making you think and wonder how> How did they get that sound? How did she ever think of that arrangement?

How indeed?

The album breaks down into two distinct sides. Side one has the more commercial and accessible songs, including the four singles: Running Up That Hill (an American hit), Cloudbusting, Hounds of Love and the enormous The Big Sky.

"The second side of the album is entitled The Ninth Wave. A title lifted from Tennyson's poem. The songs form part of a 'song cycle' wherein each track helps to convey the story of a woman who is lost at sea, facing death by drowning, and the tortured night she spends in the water. The whole imaginative concept is set boldly to Kate Bush's technical mastery that uses samples and vocals played in reverse to synthesized sounds and folk instrumentation. Utterly, utterly brilliant. Certainly one of my all time favourite albums. A right little cracker.

1989 saw Kate's next project surface, the album, The Sensual World, was a highly personal affair with the usual dark subject matter ranging from a lady who dances with a suave stranger only to find out he is, in reality, Adolf Hitler to a person who takes solace and comfort in the cold companionship of what was to become the internet. Blogging maybe?

Again there was a feeling of Kate challenging her herself as much as her audience. There was a liberal use of overdubbing and again that intelligent use of a wide spectrum of literal and cinematic influences. The Sensual World went on to become her biggest selling American album.

Four years later, 1993, just as Grunge was smashing its way into our collective consciousness and the Baggy scene was heart tripping into the UK scene with trance, dance, rave gifting the nineties with its highly unique sounds Kate resurfaced with The Red Shoes. We didn't know it at the time but this was going to be the last recording in a long while.

Based on the film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger which in turn was inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is about a female dancer who is so possessed by her art she cannot shake off the eponymous shoes and find peace.

Already you can see that again this is not your typical rock and roll fare. Not that rock and roll music has to be forever loud and raucous with not even a glimmer of intellect. We all know that isn't the case but this album, as with all of Kate's creations not only uses the very best of rocks influences it draws on a far wider base than that. Conversely, this album was far more direct in its approach, far less intricate in its musicality but no less deep in its lyrical input. Kate had lost a some dear people to her most notably her mother and this album deals with all those. I guess, simply put, this album was more like a diary. This album outsold the previous album and sold 3 million copies worldwide.

Then the long wait.

Twelve years in total. From 1993 until 2005, not a word, just the occasional whisper, just the occasional rumour from the ever eager, ever-hungry media. Kate gave birth to Albert in 1998. She managed for two years to keep the birth secret and to be the one thing she wanted to be to her son, who she affectionately calls Bertie, a bloody good mum. She kept the media at bay and has been accused of being a recluse wherein in point of fact all she was trying to do was give her son all of her motherly love and attention.

2005. Ariel arrived with much hype and anticipation. It was Kate's eighth studio album and followed swiftly upon the release of the single King of the Mountain. Oh, what a joy to hear this remarkable woman’s voice and music again. Full of all her trademark intelligence and wit, The charm and grace that only a female could give with the passing of time and sadly only a few men can manage. The single was about Elvis Presley and the weight of fame and success and is a brilliant and moody piece. Evocative and potent a piece as Kate has ever delivered.

Ariel is a double album and, as with 85's The Hounds of Love the album is split into two sections. The first disc subtitled A Sea of Honey, features a set of unrelated themed songs including the single, an ode to her son "Bertie", and "Joanni", based on the story of Joan of Arc. There is also the challenging π, a song based on a mathematical sign where Bush sings the number to its 137th decimal place! Then there is A Coral Room, which deals with the loss of Bush's mother and the passage of time, and was hailed by sections of the British media as "stunning" in its simplicity, "profoundly moving" and the "one of the most beautiful" pieces that Kate has ever recorded.

The second disc is, to all intents and purposes a concept 'album', well, it has a central theme running through it and for me is the better of the two discs.

God alone knows what this remarkable woman will do next or when but, one thing is for sure, it will be original and it will only be at her whim and not that of the music moguls or the desire of the industry that demands product be it good or bad.

Without any doubt in my mind, Kate is one of the greatest living British Icons. No mean feat for someone who has just reached fifty.


. Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog