9 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Director's Cut (Audio CD)
You can rely on Kate to try something different. There have of late been a couple of important re-issues of past materials that have found the artists retooling some previously unissued bonus tracks. Bruce Springsteen did it on The Promise and the Rolling Stones went a stage further on the acclaimed Exile On Main Street package by adding new vocals to shelved backing tracks to create new songs. Kate Bush has taken the process further still by eschewing the opportunity to offer similar 'bonus' tracks and go instead for the jugular by stripping the original recordings of 11 tracks from her Sensual World & Red Shoes albums down to their roots and then fashioning entirely new versions from the same ingredients, with some new flavours added to the mix. This invariably finds her pursuing a 'less is more' approach in order to accommodate the new ingredients (vocal lines & more) that we've not heard before. The idea challenges those who regard the originals as sacred texts into making inevitable comparisons, of course, but for me what's going on here is nowhere near as trite as that. On this record Kate does in the studio what other artists do live on stage with the tapes rolling in the background for the subsequent live album: present familiar material in a different fashion. In doing so, the post-Aerial Kate turns up with what sounds like a new album founded on the original versions but presented in different shapes with alternative colourings. And it's something remarkable. In order to appreciate it fully, I thoroughly recommend resisting an immediate replay of the original recordings and play Aerial first. You might then find, as I have, that this Director's Cut follows on quite naturally. It also suggests that the running order of these tracks has been deliberately designed as a narrative sequence. In short, it works as an album in its own right, telling its own story, & deserves to be appreciated as such. Another first, then, for an artist whose bravery in attempting this work of studio alchemy is matched by her mastery of the process by which she produces this new nugget. In retrospect, Kate's interest in doing something like this was first flagged back in 1986 when she supplied a brand new vocal to 'Wuthering Heights' for The Whole Story compilation, but here she gone further than anyone else in creating the new from the old. She has delivered a frankly gorgeous, moving, disorientated, ghostly and occasionally spooky album of deep beauty that sounds more impressive with every listen. If you're still reading this you will have gathered that I like it a lot. The deal was clinched at the end where she signs off with a rock version of 'Rubberband Girl' that sounds like a rehearsal session for over half its duration until the harmonica & synth washes arrive to accompany us through to its finish. It's wryly humorous but also respectful of the singer's own origins as the lead singer of a rock band that played in small venues. I wasn't expecting that.
In the Collector's Edition you also get the original The Sensual World and Red Shoes albums on separate discs. These should not be shunned just because you already possess the originals. The Sensual World may not have been remastered (the packaging offers no comment on the matter) but it certainly sounds the more clearly defined when played back-to-back with the 1989 issue. Red Shoes, however, is something of a revelation. Derived from the original back-up tapes stored in analogue format, this version demonstrates just how much the sound quality was compromised in the digital transfer. Compared to this remaster, the original issue sounds wholly inadequate. Why can't other remasters sound as good as this? It is quite simply the best remaster I've ever heard. Let everyone else follow this artist's lead.