Year of the Album — #034
Kate Bush – “Director’s Cut” (2011, Fish People)
Had there never been Kate Bush in the eighties, we never would have had Tori Amos. Bush has become legendary for her ability to meld complex lyrical imagery with memorable melodies, breaking the mold of teenage musician expectations with her single “Wuthering Heights” three decades ago. If there’s a comparison to be drawn, she’s in the same artistic vein as Peter Gabriel, never comfortable sitting on one’s laurels when there’s musical exploration to be done … even if that means tweaking the music for years and rarely wasting time on such trivialities as touring.
Whether we’ll ever know exactly why she decided to tweak these twelve songs on Director’s Cut, since all of them exist in prior versions on 1989’s The Sensual World and 1993’s The Red Shoes, the result is as mindblowing as any new material she’s produced. Her reworking of “The Sensual World” into “Flower of the Mountain” is haunting, melding pop with the folk explorations of the likes of Loreena McKennitt – finally getting the chance to meld Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from James Joyce’s Ulysses, something his estate had refused her the opportunity in 1987. The result oozes its way into your brain like a snake charmer’s spell, and provides the album a solid jumpstart.
But the real stunner is Bush’s stunning reworking of her masterpiece “This Woman’s Work,” which has gone from being a deep album cut to becoming one of her best-known compositions. Stripped of its drums and synths, the piano and vocals arrangement on Director’s Cut redefines the song, allowing Bush’s lyric to hold sway, once separated from the pop trappings. This arrangement alone is worthy of the album’s purchase price, though the rest of the album lives up to the challenge.
Director’s Cut provides new listeners a chance to hear these songs the way Kate Bush originally intended them to sound, and should serve as a solid entry-point into discovering the remainder of her discography. And for long-time fans, we’re given the opportunity to hear these songs in a new context, revisiting old friends and getting to know them in a whole new light. As an opportunity to see into the workings of an artist’s intensely personal sense of songcraft, this album is revelatory, a must listen release for listeners old and new alike.