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Majestic: Kate Bush builds on the promise of 'The Dreaming',
This review is from: Hounds Of Love (Audio CD)
Musically and artistically, Kate Bush's fourth LP The Dreaming was a huge leap forward, an innovative, creative masterpiece that still stands today as one of pop music's most unusual and original works of free creativity. But commercially, it was a disappointment and provoked widespread confusion. Who was Kate Bush? What was this music? This isn't "Wuthering Heights" or "Wow," what is this? EMI had allowed her free rein on the record but now felt she may be best served by working with another producer.
Bush was resolute. She moved to the countryside and built a recording studio at her childhood home in Kent in 1983, intent on retaining creative control, but she herself recognised that if she could combine the bold creative experiments with a more accessible sensibility, she would strike gold. Her next project, 'Hounds of Love,' began in earnest in late 1983 and immediately revealed itself to be similarly creative but far more accessible than its predecessor.
In Under the Ivy: The Story of Kate Bush, Graeme Thomson points out how Bush and her long-time collaborator, bassist and engineer Del Palmer built and built on the original 1983 demos rather than using demos as reference points - so much of what we hear in the finished product originates as far back as then. It was a new way of working, as was her reliance on her home studio. 'The Dreaming' had been financially costly as Bush moved from studio to studio. Creating her own was expensive in itself, but a wise investment that meant she could record as and when she wanted and had no need to keep looking at the clock.
'Hounds of Love' is a joyous, upbeat record compared to the darker and more oppressive 'The Dreaming.' That's not to say it's always light and breezy. It is divided into two distinct sections. Side A, subtitled 'Hounds of Love,' consists of the first five songs - unrelated narratively, but all based around the theme of love and relationships. Side B, 'The Ninth Wave,' is a conceptual suite detailing the (mis)fortunes of a woman lost at sea, but where the worst prog rock is overblown and pretentious, this is beautiful and deeply moving.
The hits are on the first side - "Running Up That Hill" boasts a beguiling rhythm and a gorgeous, sad melody, "Hounds of Love" is spikier and more forceful with its propulsive drum beats, "The Big Sky" is a riotous party scene that builds and builds, and "Cloudbusting," with its beautiful string arrangement, is among Bush's most elegant songs. The way she sings the opening line "I still dream of Orgonon" is heart-breakingly clear and beautiful. The only non-single, "Mother Stands for Comfort," is one of the album's highlights, a sinister but achingly gorgeous spooky ballad.
It's on 'The Ninth Wave' where the experiments bloom. "And Dream of Sheep" is, like "Mother...," a plaintive, deceptively simple piano ballad that paves the way for the brittle menace of "Under Ice" and "Waking the Witch," the mood piece "Watching You Without Me" and the evocative "Jig of Life," a kind of extension of "Night of the Swallow" from 'The Dreaming' with its Irish arrangement. The suite also incorporates one of Bush's most bewitching ballads, the epic "Hello Earth," which opens the door for the redemptive joy of "The Morning Fog."
The two sides together amount to one of pop's landmark albums. The first five songs are among Bush's most accessible and direct and unfailingly melodic, while the music of 'The Ninth Wave' is clear, imaginative, and full of mood and emotion. The new vocal depth and richness of 'The Dreaming' is in full force on 'Hounds of Love.' She spent a long time perfecting her lead vocals and the hard work pays off, because Bush the singer shines throughout. Compare a vocal on something like "Cloudbusting" or "Hello Earth" to her earliest work and you will be astounded at the development.
It's rightly hailed as a classic and it's one that deserves all the praise.