I think it is sad that fans seem divided about the merits of this album.
Kate was never happy with much of the Red Shoes, both the music and the arrangements. The 1990s were a challenging period for Kate personally and this was reflected in her most bitter songs such as Big Stripey Lie and You're the One. Thankfully the last ten years have been kind to Kate, creating a beautiful new home and studio and enjoying the joys of being with her young son. Kate is very happy with Aerial but wants to return to a more rooted, simpler and more intimate way of working with her smaller band of new and existing collaborators and studio personnel. Music, like people changes over time. In some ways, Kate is going 'full circle' returning to the vibes of her earliest albums, taking advantage of modern improved analogue techniques to recreate the warm, fuller sound of yesteryear.
Therefore this album works well when it is regarded as an addition rather than a replacement of the Red Shoes. I will always continue to play the originals. Many fans may not realise that Kate released a new analog remaster of the original Red Shoes album at the same time as Director's Cut which is noticeably more comfortable to listen to without that 'hard metallic edge' she disliked about the original 1990s mastering. Kate has therefore helped ensure the public have access to the original versions for years to come.
Why the 4 songs reworked from the Sensual World? In my view, Kate wanted to quietly drop the reworking of the more 'bitter' songs from the Red Shoes. After all, those songs can't be an easy listen for her son Bertie. I think that the Sensual World reworkings were to compensate for the absence of BSL, WSILY, YTO, COTH and ETM and just add some extra interest to the project.
Following the release of the new album 50 Words For Snow, the Director's Cut project makes more sense especially when viewed from a historical perspective. The simpler, more intimate approach as described above is very similar and the same musicians and studio crew are largely the same for both albums, bar the special guests.
Flower of the Mountain: Kate has been succesful in her second attempt to gain permission to use the original James Joyce lyrics. The vocal is sultry and close-miked and has an intimate, almost live feel. The annoying gated (and dated) drums are gone and a warmer bass is evident.
Song of Solomon: Love the new powerful fat bass sound. The trio have more prominence in this version.
Lily: Stunning new tight drums from Steve Gadd. Kate's vocal nuances now reflect she is looking back at her past from a happier perspective. Kate almost screams the closing lines, maybe a way of casting out her demons. Whoo Kate!!!!
Deeper Understanding: Bertie's poignant voicing of the computer works well. Steve Gadd and Brendan Power impressively extend the track with an intricate jamming session.
The Red Shoes: Perhaps more focused than the original and with a driving beat which complements the meaning of the song well, becoming more what it always was meant to be - a celtic jig or reel.
This Woman's Work: Feel that as childbirth is such a solitary thing, it is fitting that this is now just Kate and keyboards. Very emotional, Bertie's and Jacob Thorn's choral singing fits well, perhaps their shrillness and recurrence is meant to represent the pain of labour. The track is sparse and pared back but beautiful.
Moments of Pleasure: The removal of the rather overbearing orchestral arrangements allow the other elements of the song to breathe more. The anguish of the chorus has also been deleted, giving a feeling more of nostalic eulogy rather than intense grief, reflecting the way Kate feels now about her departed loved ones. I think Michael Kamen's orchestrations were more effective short and delicate for example Hello Earth or The Painter's Link.
Never Be Mine: A warm, wistful and intimate rendition of one of my favourites from the sensual world.
Top of the City: The rather overbearing digital era drumming is thankfully gone, and Steve Gadd's intricate work gives the track a much needed polish.
And so is Love: Rather than this track, I would have liked Kate to have included a version of Why Should I Love You? with the messy Prince additions removed.
Rubberband Girl: More organic than the original...Kate invites us back to her 1970's KT Bush Band gigs at her local boozer!! Audacious and not for everyone but works for me.