Top positive review
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Best of both worlds
on 21 October 2014
This caused a bit of upset when it was released. Many critics and fans wanted to know why did Kate Bush feel the need to re-record 11 tracks from two of her slightly less regarded albums (The Sensual World and The Red Shoes). As these songs were originally released so many years before, why record them again? And why not record some new material?
Well a few months later the excellent "Fifty Words for Snow" was released, so that's the second question answered. Regarding the first, whatever Kate's reasoning, Director's Cut gives us a set of 11 alternative versions to analyse and enjoy, so I am happy with that. All vocals and many of the instrumentals have been re-recorded or at least rearranged.
This 3-disc edition really gives the best of both worlds: obviously you get the new song versions released as Director's Cut. And if you are unhappy with them, you can still enjoy the originals as both previous records are included (The Sensual World unchanged, plus The Red Shoes remastered from an analogue source, and sounding great). This gives a clue as to Kate's motivation with the project. She had long been unhappy with the very bright digital sound typical of the 1980s, preferring the warmth of analogue, and this is one of the big changes here.
The whole thing is beautifully packaged in a hardback booklet format with lyrics, new photography and explanatory notes from Kate.
As for the music, what do you expect? It's superb. Her more mature singing voice doesn't have the extraordinary gymnastic ability it had when she emerged as a teenager all those years ago (none of the early stuff was included in her recent triumphant return to live performance). But it is still a force to be reckoned with, has mellowed superbly, and conveys the experience and wisdom she has gained since the songs were first recorded.
She has made changes to some songs, most significantly to The Sensual World, now titled Flower of the Mountain, with "new" lyrics (the James Joyce passage she wanted to use all along, but was originally denied by the Joyce estate). I felt her previous lyrics were absolutely fine, but this is definitely a song that suits her more mature voice.
With many of the other songs, I see the new versions as alternatives to, rather than replacements for, the originals. I am happy to listen to either version.
A highlight for me is Moments of Pleasure. The first time I ever heard this, I was stuck in my car when it came on on the radio; I was stuck in London traffic, late for a meeting and highly stressed. But as that song played, none of those concerns mattered; I was just transported for a few moments (of pleasure). To this day it remains one of my favourite songs, by anyone. It is clearly a very personal song to Kate, but the bittersweet pleasure of remembering time spent with those we have lost really resonates. The new version is much simpler, just vocal, piano and understated choral backing; the orchestral arrangement has gone, as have some of the anguished verses ("Just being alive It can really hurt..."). Somehow though, the new vocal conveys as much emotion as the original did; time has added a depth of perspective that the younger Kate didn't have. I still love the original. I love the new version in a new way. That's a great song for you!
Considering the three disc set as a whole, you get lots of excellent Kate Bush music in a lovely package, two of her more underrated albums, brilliant songs like Moments of Pleasure, This Woman's Work, Love and Anger, Lily, Top of the City (and much more!), guest artistes such as Prince, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Gary Brooker, the amazing Trio Bulgarka, Lenny Henry, Nigel Kennedy, Dave Gilmour, and various luminaries of Irish music. A pleasure to own, and highly recommended.