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Definitive collection from a real musical innovator
on 20 May 2004
The 10 years or so of silence since her last recorded works haven't helped, but it has to be said that Kate Bush's contribution to songwriting history and musical innovation since she burst onto the pop scene as a teenager in 1978 has been rather overlooked of late. I would urge anybody who likes their songwriting catchy and emotional but also intelligent and quirky, and their music intriguing and eclectic, to try this compilation, featuring most of the famous singles and a few minor ones from all but the last 2 albums of Kate Bush's career. Although not *quite* the whole story, this is an impressive journey over a huge range of musical ground showing a level of developing maturity and sophistication rarely heard since.
The ordering of tracks - neither chronological nor thematic - appears rather random at first, especially to those who might know the repertoire well, but holds together remarkably well. The early classics "Wuthering Heights" (here given a subtle re-working) and "The Man with the Child in his Eyes" show Kate as the wistful, impassioned teenager; "Wow" and "Babooshka" demonstrate growing vocal strength and a developing knack for telling stories in song; "Army Dreamers" and "Breathing" give a chilling reminder of the tense global situation in the depths of the Cold War and remain, years on, as outstanding protest songs in the grand tradition. With "Sat in your Lap" and "The Dreaming" a more experimental phase is reached, with at-the-time ground-breaking electronica, drum machines, sampling, and even the musical talents of Rolf Harris called in to complement the unerringly catchy, stirring melodies and bizarre lyrics. The high point of sophistication is reached with the three singles from the "Hounds of Love" album: the compelling title track; the eerie, relentless "Running Up That Hill"; and the spellbinding "Cloudbusting", a story-song mixing childhood memories with conspiracy theory, but with the sun coming out at the end. "Experiment IV", the latest work chronologically, is another conspiracy-theory-cum-story-song in which Kate's own music comes alive to wreak havoc on the military researchers trying to turn it to destructive purposes; and here, for this collection at least, the story ends. Another two albums of new material were to follow this one; but as an introduction to the repertoire of one of Britain's finest songwriters, this collection is complete in itself.
Without Kate Bush, I doubt that other innovators like Bjork or Tori Amos would have made much headway on the British music scene. More importantly, nor would a host of other talented women with their own songs and arrangements. Buy this record, and begin to glimpse the phenomenon.