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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat unfocused and messy, but often yields great results, 16 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: Red Shoes (Audio CD)
Working again at her home studio, Kate Bush was keen to get away from an overly fussy sound indebted to technology and instead wanted to focus again on live tracking and a more band-based sound. Such was the loose feel of the early sessions that she intended to tour the record. However, as recording continued, Bush simply couldn't resist adding and overdubbing and eventually she substituted the idea of a tour for a film ("The Line, The Cross & The Curve.")

'The Red Shoes' was released at the end of 1993 after a fraught few years of stop-start sessions. It's often maligned as the weakest record in the Bush catalogue, but it possesses its fair share of fine moments. As Graeme Thomson points out in Under the Ivy: The Story of Kate Bush, it also must be said that the recording of the album was under something of a black cloud - a couple of close collaborators died just before the making of the album, her romantic relationship with bassist and engineer Del Palmer ended (although they continue to work professionally to this day), and, significantly, Bush's mother died in 1992, stopping work on the album for months.

It has an unfocused, messy quality that is entirely understandable when you consider these circumstances. Sonically, it feels a little outdated in its production style and the recording approach of the drums, but vocally it finds Bush in perhaps her most powerful, elastic voice. Her performance on "Rubberband Girl" is one of her strongest vocals, and rhythmically it's a much more straightforward, propulsive, rock-influenced kind of sound than we had heard from her for a long time.

Curiously, it's an album full of celebrity cameos. Eric Clapton adds bluesy guitar to the beautiful "And So Is Love," and Jeff Beck follows suit on the slow-burning closer "You're The One." The strangest of them all finds Prince and Lenny Henry vying for space on the zany "Why Should I Love You?," a chaotic but somewhat charming mess that also finds room for the Trio Bulgarka, with whom Bush had collaborated on previous album The Sensual World. Henry sings a couple of verses competently, and Prince paints his trademark guitar and vocal sounds all over this weird pop/funk hybrid.

Bush tries out a number of new styles on the album. "Lily" possesses a vaguely hip-hop infused rhythm, "Constellation of the Heart" is a semi-successful funk experiment, and "Big Stripey Lie" finds Bush on electric guitar and recalls some of the weird exotic experimentation of The Dreaming. There are also some more conventional moments to be found - "Moments of Pleasure" is a sort of reprise of "This Woman's Work," while "Top of the City" is a pleasingly beautiful, atmospheric ballad. Title track "The Red Shoes" is enjoyably energetic and rhythmic.

Ultimately, while 'The Red Shoes' features its share of fine material, it's not as cohesive or focused as we had been used to for Kate Bush. It suffers from being a little long, and not all of her experiments work, although they are unquestionably admirable. After its release, Bush was exhausted creatively and personally, and took some time off. It's the sound of an artist reaching some kind of conclusion, and you can feel that a breather was necessary. Still, there's some great work to discover here.
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