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. Sometimes that reflection borders on the mournful, imbuing the set with a heady emotional weight, far removed from the strangeness and near camp that used to be her trademark.
An early highlight is The Song of Solomon from The Red Shoes. Bush repositions her most emotional bold, straightforward songs (“don’t want your bulls**t, just want your sexuality”) as teetering on the edge fragile, thanks to tinkling guitars which mimic the transparency of a love that is close to collapse. There’s also the first goose-bump inducing moment of the album; The Trio Bulgarka’s stunning, mid-point entrance.
Clearly the album’s centerpiece is the trio of This Woman’s Work, Moments of Pleasure, and Never Be Mine. Arriving one after the other, the songs use their new, airier arrangements to allow the full emotional punch of the lyrics to land squarely.
The much loved classic, This Woman’s Work, is re-made with Bush controversially replacing piano with an electric keyboard and a haunting wash of synthesizer. With the knowledge that Bush is herself now a mother, this tale of soon to be parenthood is given a new gravitas, resonating in a deeper way than the original.
Things hush to a funeral pace, as Moments of Pleasure sees Bush alone with her grand piano, erasing all traces of Michael Kamen’s previous orchestration. Her vocals are almost unbearably mournful, bringing out all the sense of loss in the song and replacing the sense of wonder in the original.
What got lost in the original murky production of Never Be Mine is re-captured on this tale of unrequited love. Lines like “the thrill and the hurting’” really hit home. Vocally she sounds most like the Bush of old and when The Trio Bulgarka reappear, it’s stunningly beautiful.
For Kate’s legion of devoted fans, Director’s Cut could be a difficult pill to swallow. Many hold her work in such high regard that the prospect of revisiting her canon in this manner is akin to near blasphemy. Those fans would be doing themselves a disservice. Kate Bush has crafted a portrait of where she is now, where her songs sit with her now. It is a stunning portrait of a true artist grappling with the later half of life by looking back on the earlier.
Director’s Cut is released May 17th on iTunes and other digital retailers.