Friday, March 21, 2014

Flashback Friday: The Dreaming by Kate Bush

In 1974 or so, Kate Bush, a shy, retiring 16 year old schoolgirl, managed to get a demo tape to David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. He was stunned that there were over 50 songs of exceptionally high quality on her demo. Paying for a proper studio recording of three of the songs out of his own pocket, he got her signed to EMI records.

A few years later, after she turned 19, she entered the studio to record her first album. She had spent the intervening years studying movement and dance, while continuing to write and perform idiosyncratic songs. At this point, she had over 200 compositions to choose from. Her debut album, “The Kick Inside”, featuring the single “Wuthering Heights” was released to general acclaim and success, but a large part of her career – mostly record production – was out of her control.

In 1982, after a couple of modestly successful follow-up albums, she finally gained control of the producer’s chair and released an album that was her vision from start to finish: The Dreaming.

You can hear it here: The Dreaming by Kate Bush (Xbox Music)

Fair warning: This is a “difficult” album, but you can get your head around it if you spin it a few times. Kate had become intrigued with the compositional possibilities of the Fairlight CMI sampler and built most of the album around it. Also – she had moved beyond the singer/songwriter style of the time and was exploring more dramatic cinematic storytelling with her songs. Topics on this album include failed bank robbery attempts, driving in the Australian outback, the life of Harry Houdini, and the paranoia of the suburban homeowner, among other things. She also was experimenting with alternative vocalizations – shrieks, groans, backward vocals – all processed through the Fairlight. This can be off-putting to the first time listener, but patience is rewarding, since there’s nothing quite like it in modern music. The album is roughly divided into two movements, split right where the vinyl album break would be.

After this record, Kate moved back to a more general pop direction, and released Hounds of Love, which became the biggest selling record of her career. However, Hounds of Love’s cinematic sweep would not have been possible without The Dreaming, which most people still haven’t heard, due to its reputation. So – give it a spin and see what you think.

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