I'm one of those rare people who believe it's important to start with an artist's first release, slowly get to know it, and then move on to the 2nd, 3rd, etc. So that means that this is my 3rd Kate Bush album, after The Kick Inside
Just by looking at the cover artwork, I suspected this album was going to be an interesting one, and I was definitely right! While maintaining the excellent production values, in terms of vocals and instrumentation, this album goes into a much more experimental direction than the first two albums had gone. One of the first things I noticed is that the instrumentation is a lot "bigger" and much more powerful than the first two albums. This album is quite a bit darker and has some slightly spooky moments, which, combined with the overall sweetness of Kate's vocals, is really quite unique.
Highlights for me are "Delius (Song of Summer)", "All We Ever Look For", "The Infant Kiss", "Night Scented Stock" (which I'm sure inspired Goldfrapp to write their track "Voicething" from their 2010 album; Head First
). "Army Dreamers" and "Breathing" are absolutely beautiful songs that are just as perfect as "Wuthering Heights" is, but both in totally different ways. Both of these songs were released as singles and charted at number 16 in 1980; which I think shows how the mentality of the public has changed. These days something as beautiful and experimental as these songs probably wouldn't even be on the chart at all... The last minute or so of "Breathing" is incredibly powerful, and makes me just want to listen to the entire album again, and again, and again. I'm always listening to music, and I have a LOT of stuff to choose from, so it's very rare that I came across an album that I can listen to on repeat (which I have done for most of today!).
This album is, in my opinion, much better than "The Kick Inside" and "Lionheart". As the cover artwork suggests, I think Kate let a lot of what was inside her to release and the result was a magical, moving, unique, and incredibly powerful album that is just pure art in every way.
Anybody reading this review who is thinking of exploring Kate's music, I would strongly suggest starting with the first album, then the second, and then this one. "Never For Ever" seems to be, sadly, overshadowed by Kate's later work. I actually read a review saying that this album is "too much of a transition to be considered a masterpiece". I'm quite glad that I haven't yet heard her later albums so that I can't compare this one to them and, in the process, spoil my own enjoyment of this absolutely beautiful, amazing, and moving album. I consider it to be a masterpiece!
If it's true what so many people say about Kate's later albums being better than this, then I really do have a lot to look forward to...