Despite its being comprised of reworked versions of songs that originally appeared around two decades ago, Kate Bush regards her Director's Cut as a new album in and of itself.
And she's right to: There's a consistency and homogeneity about the 11 tracks (seven from The Red Shoes, four from The Sensual World) which echoes her work on Aerial, and which lends the project a character entirely its own.
This is largely due to her re-doing all the lead vocals, which has imposed a warmer, more reflective tone on proceedings. The most striking change is on the closing "Rubberband Girl", where she sounds oddly muffled: the original stratospheric yelps are gone, along with Jeff Beck's flashy guitar, replaced by an understated harmonica groove that aims for more hypnotic impact – as too does "The Red Shoes" itself, whose mesmeric mandola groove is nudged along by softly pulsing drums. Ironically, though less flamboyantly abandoned, Kate's vocals here better evoke the sense of possession in the dance.
All the new versions are longer than the originals, some considerably: completely re-recorded, "This Woman's Work" has almost doubled in size in this new, more restrained form. Originally written for the film She's Having a Baby, and frequently used in TV dramas ever since, this, ethereal re-imagining untethers the song from those associations, allowing it to float free again. A similarly effective renovation has been done to "The Sensual World", here retitled "Flower of the Mountain": denied the use of Molly Bloom's soliloquy from Ulysses in the original, Bush was this time granted permission by James Joyce's estate, and the effect is remarkable. With her voice up close and intimate, the undulating repetitions are hypnotically gripping, as Uillean pipes dance with abandon about the gently puttering groove, caressed with string-pad synths: yes, yes! It's the most genuinely sensual music you'll hear this year.
Elsewhere, the computer love song "Deeper Understanding" profits from a less brittle, more lovingly cossetting arrangement, while the balance between Eric Clapton's guitar and the fluting keyboards and backing vocals of "And So Is Love" seems much more subtly resolved in this new incarnation. That song's underlying message ("We let it in, we give it out/ And in the end, what's it all about?/ It must be love") could stand as the motif for the album as a whole, which constitutes the latest of Kate Bush's series of investigations of the nature of love, both sexual and spiritual.
It's her forte, and it's a theme which she has learned to express in music as much as in lyrics. Even when suddenly blurting out "Don't want your bullshit, just want your sexuality" in "The Song of Solomon", the attention to texture in the arrangement of harp, piano, murmuring synth and Bulgarian backing vocal creates a delicate web strong enough to carry her demand without snapping the song in two. That combination of gentle touch and toughness is a rare gift indeed.
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