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5.0 out of 5 stars Kate Bush creates her first masterwork, 16 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: The Dreaming (Audio CD)
After working with Peter Gabriel and being introduced to a Fairlight keyboard sampler during sessions for Never for Ever, Kate Bush felt she had exactly the right tools and the right experience to forge ahead with a bold new experimental sound. The result, two years in the making, was the wildly imaginative, unusual 'The Dreaming,' her first masterwork.

As Graeme Thomson attests in his superb biography Under the Ivy: The Story of Kate Bush, the Fairlight had opened up limitless possibilities in terms of sound effects and the level of texture she could imbue her songs with, and working with Gabriel on guest vocals on Peter Gabriel Vol.3 showed her Gabriel's unique way of building songs by starting with rhythm. Bush decamped to her house on the outskirts of London almost immediately after she had completed 'Never for Ever,' and spent much of the rest of 1980 recording new demos in between promotional commitments. The majority of 1981 and 1982 was then spent moving from studio to studio recording as and when the studio time and musician availability allowed.

For the first time, Bush was using completely new material, not falling back on old songs, and the new approach injected her work with a real fresh vigour. The sound of the experimental songs on 'Never for Ever' bloom here, and one of the first things one notices is the development of Bush's voice. It's quite a world away from the slightly thin, high style she used on her earliest recordings, attaining a new depth and richness that allowed her songs to enjoy far more emotional impact. Her voice is simply extraordinary throughout, beautiful and full of range both emotionally and in terms of notes and technical ability.

'The Dreaming' sparkles with crackling energy and endless imagination. Bush is not afraid to try things and succeeds across the board. It's hard to think of an album by a supposedly mainstream pop star as experimental and unconventional as this. The opening gambit "Sat In Your Lap" is a statement of intent, all pounding tribal rhythms, synth squiggles, insistent piano, and crazed vocal delivery. The theatrics return on the crime caper "There Goes A Tenner," Bush's own uniquely skewed ska experiment, and the Fairlight gets full use on the Vietnam War mood piece "Pull Out The Pin."

Bush retains her pop smarts on "Suspended In Gaffa," one of her most unusual but alluring pop songs, but trades them in for sheer menace on the brooding "Leave It Open" and the frightening, oppressive, but utterly bewitching closer "Get Out Of My House," where the tribal rhythms attain a darker quality. "The Dreaming" itself is a strange Australian vignette. Elsewhere, 'The Dreaming' is beautifully rich and emotive. "Night of the Swallow" brings her Irish folk influences to the fore in an alternately slow, haunting, and skittering, frenetic arrangement, "All the Love" is among her career-best piano ballads, a foreshadowing of "Hello Earth" from the next album, while "Houdini" speaks about romance and the power of love in a far more poetic manner than many love songs of the era.

'The Dreaming' is an experimental work but it's not overly difficult for the sake of it. The core songs are brilliant, beautiful, strange jewels. It is one of the greatest works of free creativity in mainstream pop music, and EMI should be given some credit for allowing such an unusual work to go out unchanged (it was their prerogative to deny its release, and they almost did, but they thankfully and ultimately wisely allowed Bush free rein creatively.) Such a bold move naturally sparked confusion and bewilderment, and it was nowhere near as commercially successful as her previous work, but it proved her talents as a singer, writer, producer, and visionary for her work. Her next album was arguably more majestic and ultimately more sonically sophisticated, but 'The Dreaming' remains perhaps Bush's strangest and most unique work.
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