1989, Music

The Sensual World (1989) by Kate Bush

Kate Bush, ever the iconoclast, finds a good balance on this record between contemporary art pop – and all of the obsession with technology that entails – and folk music influences. In the vaguest sense this one sort of reminds of Peter Gabriel’s work, only they are incorporating very different forms of folk music and Bush’s music sounds less dominated by contemporary music technology (to my ears, anyway).

The more I listen to her records, the more I become convinced Bush is one of the major songwriters of her era. Initially I was more in awe of her quirky arrangements and her willingness to take risks as a performer, but her songwriting is really growing on me. She’s always got strong melodies – sometimes hard to hear under her quirky arrangements – but her lyrics are often extremely good. And there are a couple on this record that are among her best, particularly “This Woman’s Work”.

As usual, the arrangements defy categorization and vary enough from track to track, making the first listen quite surprising. (Where will she go next?) There’s nothing on here that blows me away in terms of its arrangement like they did on The Dreaming, but none of them are boring.

My only criticism is the production, or possibly the mastering. (I don’t have the ears to tell which is my problem.) This record lacks the dynamics it should have for something with so many interesting moving parts. Maybe that’s just due to listening to it digitally, but I wish it sounded better. Not only does it occasionally sound too ’80s, but it sounds kind of flat.

Otherwise, quite a good album. And another reason to listen to her more often.

8/10

  1. “The Sensual World” 3:57
  2. “Love and Anger” 4:42
  3. “The Fog” 5:04
  4. “Reaching Out” 3:11
  5. “Heads We’re Dancing” 5:17
  6. “Deeper Understanding” 4:46
  7. “Between a Man and a Woman” 3:29
  8. “Never Be Mine” 3:43
  9. “Rocket’s Tail” 4:06
  10. “This Woman’s Work” 3:32
  • Kate Bush – piano, keyboards, vocals
  • Del Palmer – Fairlight CMI percussion, bass guitar (1, 4, 7), rhythm guitar and percussion (5)
  • Charlie Morgan – drums (1, 4, 6, 11)
  • Stuart Elliott – drums (2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9)
  • Bill Whelan – arranger (“The Irish sessions”)
  • Paddy Bush – whip (swished fishing rod) (1), valiha and backing vocals (2), mandolin (4), tupan (6)
  • Davy Spillane – uilleann pipes (1, 8), whistle (3)
  • John Sheahan – fiddle (1)
  • Dónal Lunny – bouzouki (1)
  • John Giblin – bass guitar (2, 6, 9)
  • David Gilmour – guitar (2, 9)
  • Alan Murphy – guitar, guitar synth (3, 5, 7)
  • Jonathan Williams – cello (3, 5, 7)
  • Nigel Kennedy – violin (3), viola (5)
  • Michael Kamen – orchestral arrangements (3, 5, 10)
  • Alan Stivell – Celtic harp (3, 7), backing vocals (7)
  • “Dr. Bush” (Robert Bush, Kate’s father) – dialogue (3)
  • Balanescu Quartet – strings (4)
  • Michael Nyman – string arrangement (Balanescu Quartet)
  • Mick Karn – bass guitar (5)
  • Trio Bulgarka – vocals (6, 8, 9)
  • Yanka Rupkina (of Trio Bulgarka) – solo vocalist (6, 9)
  • Dimitar Penev – arranger (Trio Bulgarka)
  • Eberhard Weber – double bass (8, 11)

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