The Red Shoes
1993: Columbia CD 53737
I couldnt write about this one until I had heard Bushs 2011 re-release of the album in its analogue-tape-backups form. Mostly my hesitation about writing about it was based on the fact that I just didnt like it much overall despite the presence of some exquisite moments: Ive never been able to reconcile those aspects. But the re-release (as part of the Collectors Edition of Directors Cut) finally gave me an occasion to really listen to the whole thing through as if with fresh ears.
I still think its a very flawed album, but thanks to the backup-tapes version I can now discern just where and why I find it flawed. More importantly, I now enjoy it more because of that version: the beauties of the original album are more sonically rich. Bush is completely correct in the dissatisfaction she describes regarding the original releases digital-recording soundit really was far too sharp in that sense, on the earbut on the other hand the re-release suffers from some murky high-range territory (not as bad as on Directors Cut itself, however). While the tape versions lack a certain crispness that one is accustomed to hearing from CD releases, they have MUCH more bass power, much deeper sound, and above all much more present Kate. In 1993 it sounded like a new album; in this edition, it sounds like a continuation of The Sensual World, which I loved.
My impressions of this album are somewhat colored by the ill-advised film Bush made at the time (The Line, the Cross, and the Curve), which was, well, pretty bad. I remember the moment when Miranda Richardsons character said she caaaaaaant! in one particularly drawn-out bad stretch, and the audience at our screening of the film finally gave up and laughed at how bad it was, even some of the Kate Bush fans.
I loved it back in 1993 and I still love it. The lyrics are a great reinforcement sometimes when I need to remind myself that I need to allow for psychological rebound in my journey through life and my dealings with others. The backup-tapes version (BTV hereafter) seriously beefs up the bass! Spare yourself the video, however. <yawn>
And So Is Love
Sad and beautiful and sad. Lovely, profound, personal, and universally shareable. On Directors Cut Bush tweaked it with one significant word changesad, describing life, became sweet.
Eat the Music
Ya know what? This interminable track has never done a damned thing for me. Its tedious and uninteresting. Lets move on.
Moments of Pleasure
Man, what a weeper. And if you cried upon hearing the original version, double your supply of Kleenex before listening to the BTV, because Michael Kamens orchestration absolutely RULES the latter. I dont know of another song in which Bush has so relentlessly jerked our tear-ducts, Watching You Without Me being so much more abstract and removed. For bonus points, get another box of Kleenex and listen to her version of it on Directors Cut, where she ends with not Bill but Michael and does so without any of Michaels contribution present. I can only speculate about that rather heavy nuances rationale.
The Song of Solomon
When I first heard this track, I hadnt read the Book of Solomon in the Bible; since then, I have done so and I still have no sense that this song represents it at all. It seems to extrapolate, at best, some aspects of the Song of Solomon; what I find, rather, is that its an interesting song that is better appreciated on its own without the Solomon references. This is probably a failing on my part.
This is a tough track to enjoy: on one hand, it has lyrics and vocal performance which should intrigue and which imply fascinating depth, but on the other hand the instrumental track is ponderous, almost monotonous, in effect, and goes nowhere. Whats behind it all? I have no idea, but it IS interesting. I find that I always sing along with the chorus, but I think thats because of Katherine Kurtzs Deryni novels, which introduced me to the four-archangel-stations concept and that of Uriel. Would it stand on its own as just a song? Not really, I think.
The Red Shoes
As long as I can disassociate this track from the aforementioned film, I truly enjoy it. The rhythm and pace are infectious, the structure is compelling, the storyline is just enough to get the point across without belaboring anything, and the energy is STRONG. If you take it as a representation of the film, its probably not great; if you treat it as a Kate Bush song referencing a known popular-culture identity such as Houdini or Citizen Kane, its just dandy.
Top of the City
A Kate Bush classicpure and poignant. The BTV has a little more resonant oomph, especially on the chorus arrivals, which only makes it more of a tearjerker. In my mind I tend to unintentionally populate it with images from Annie Lennoxs Precious video of the previous year, with Lennox in raccoon-eye makeup (in one persona) as a half-human, half-pigeon incarnation. Bushs choruses blow the roof off, taking us up into the big sky astonishingly and then eagle-eyeing the cause of all the drama, and I am just in awe of her for having given us this jewel to study.
Constellation of the Heart
It just goes on forever . I wish I could be more positive about this track, but it makes its point soon enough and then repeats that damned instrumental loop seemingly endlessly while a few additional lyric ideas are explored atop it; it never develops. That is not a formula for a good song.
Big Stripey Lie
This one remains a big question-mark to me. I dont actually dislike it, because the lyrics and the clunky sonic grab-bag of the instrumental track do intrigue me somewhat, but DAMN its some weird shit. And, perhaps more importantly, in the end it just seems kind of pointless. My impressions of it were only underscored by hearing the BTV, where it was somewhat less enjoyable than the original was, somehow. When Bush sings the line sometimes they blow trumpets, it sounds like such a throwaway stopgap that I usually laugh.
Why Should I Love You?
Hated it in 1993; hate it now. This sounded like Kate doing an extended guest appearance on someone elses song. I just dont like Prince, nor his music, and although I couldnt say this was representative of those, it CERTAINLY wasnt Kate Bushs music I was hearing. There are interesting threads of lyrics in the verses, albeit not terribly profound at times, but then the choruses come crashing in with inane irrelevance. A lot of work obviously went into this track, and it all came out like sausage meat.
Youre the One
While I wouldnt call this a great Kate Bush song, because its not particularly quirky or otherwise Bush-stamped, it *is* a beautiful song which solidly and beautifully expresses a sentiment I suspect nearly everybody has hadthat of intense lingering affection after a romantic breakup. Hearing Bush sing it just nails that feeling, and she does it terribly superbly. I mean, it hurts to hear her sing this, because weve all been there, havent we? The BTV completely redeems the original recordings flaws (aside from the pitch-swooping synth element): the organ sound is now a rich spine for the song, theres a clear distinction between the two voices at the end (one intimate/vulnerable, the other manic/desperate), and it finally gets the immediacy and tenderness of the in-person vocals to last to the end of the album instead of sounding like some thrash-out jam session dragging on. Regardless of the version, Sugar ? Honey ? packs some serious, almost scary punch.
On the whole, this album doesnt quite arrivesome tracks are interesting, and some are downright magical, but the ones which fail drag the rest down with them to a level of dissatisfaction which lingers at the end (despite the actual closing tracks power).
Comments © 2011 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.