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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Kate Bush

Aerial

Review by Steve Alspach

I'm in year 19 of a 3-year sabbatical from graduate school, so I can't blame Kate Bush for wanting to take a year off and and missing the deadline, so to speak. Kate was feeling a bit burned out after "The Red Shoes" and the accompanying video "The Line, the Cross, and the Curve." One year's rest led to two, and three, and the next thing you know it's the Millenium and you have a son to raise. Taking that much time off will either make your creative chops atrophy or come back strong as ever. Fortunately, Kate's chops chose the latter path. "Aerial" is a wonderful 2-CD set that is an absolute delight to listen to. Kate's arrangements are adventurous but appropriately so - it's her world, and not many of us live in it either. But she does things on her own terms - she always has, and maybe that's why her music can stand the test of time. "Aerial" will be no exception.

On "Aerial" Kate has surrounded herself with some familiar faces - John Giblin, Stuart Elliott, Eberhard Weber, Del Palmer, and Gary Brooker among others. Her husband/partner/main squeeze/father-of-her-child Danny McIntosh handles the guitar parts quite nimbly.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at https://garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2005.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1 - A Sea of Honey
King of the Mountain
The arrangement and melody, right off the bat, is unmistakably Kate. The drums pack a punch to counterpoint what is an otherwise gentle arrangement.
Pi
In all likelihood inspired by the movie of the same name, "Pi" has a dreamlike slightly mysterious edge to it. Only Kate can run through the first 115 or so decimal places of pi make it sound interesting.
Bertie
Okay, so she wrote a song about her son - at least she keeps from being schmaltzy about it. This cut, with its viols and eastern European folk feeling, is vintage Kate.
Mrs. Bartolozzi
Never has doing laundry ever received so much introspection. It's a daring step to take, and I'm not sure I really "get it," but Kate has always been one to take chances, so this one isn't too out there given her track record. Kate accompanies herself on piano on this delicate number.
How To Be Invisible
A mid-tempo piece with a very simple arrangement - guitars, bass and drums, there don't appear to be any keyboards to be heard anywhere here.
Joanni
A slightly obscure reference to Joan of Arc, this song has a reggae tinge to it. The tail end of it is slightly reminiscent of "Love and Anger" from her Sensual World album.
Coral Room
Another girl-at-her-piano number, but this is striking in its intimacy and beauty.
Disc 2 - A Sky of Honey

This song cycle looks at a "Day in the Life" starting from mid-afternoon through night and to morning. Not as harrowing as "The Ninth Wave", "A Sky of Honey" still makes for enjoyable listening, especially with headphones. (But who gets the blame for the lousy marketing job? If there was ever an homage to a summer's night, this piece of work is it, and Columbia releases the CD on November 1. Great timing, folks.)

Prelude
Bush gives us a short soundscape with the sound of birds (a common theme throughout) and Bertie's scant observations.
Prologue
A constant four-chord piano pattern underlies "Prologue." The London Metropolitan Orchestra, arranged by Michael Kamen, adds a very nice string accompaniment.
An Architect's Dream
It's not really an architect but a painter that Kate is addressing. This song doesn't have the verse-chorus pattern of most songs, but instead of that we get Kate's vocals over a Blue Nile-like arrangement and a light conga drum rhythm.
The Painter's Link
The orchestra arrangement on this 1:35 bridge sounds a bit like Paul Buckminster at his more pastoral.
Sunset
There's a jazzy undertone on "Sunset" with its acoustic bass and light drumming. The song then changes into a flamenco tempo.
Aerial Tal
This minute interlude has Kate singing along to birdcalls. I don't know of too many people who would allow themselves this extravagance, but it wouldn't be a Kate Bush CD without these flights of fancy.
Somewhere In Between
There is a light bossa nova flavor to this. The string fills (strings or keyboard? It's hard for me to tell, honestly) are rich and well placed for this. This is perhaps the most conventional song arrangement in this suite.
Nocturn
What starts off as another languid number about a midnight swim in the ocean then jumps into a sultry groove and stays there for the rest of the piece, and Kate's vocals have a sensuality that some singers half her age would give their eye teeth for. Gary Brooker fills in with some nice organ fills, and there is some fine acoustic guitar playing as well.
Aerial
The resolution - the sun arises and Kate is ready to face the day, laughing with the birds (literally), and this song is perhaps the hardest rocker on the album with its thumping 6/8 rhythm. Danny McIntosh gets a long guitar solo in the end.
 
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