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Kate Bush

The Sensual World (vinyl)

Review by Gary Hill

I had heard Kate Bush before the Hounds of Love album, but it was that disc that made me a fan. I still consider that set to be a masterpiece and her best release. Coming four years later, and after a compilation album, The Sensual World was the studio follow-up. I think this album has a lot in common with that one and really soars nearly as high. It's an excellent entry into her catalog. I have reviewed the vinyl version rather than the CD or cassette edition. That's because I think it works better in terms of flow, and as a whole album, without the bonus track that was included on the other formats.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Side One:
                 
The Sensual World

Chiming bells start this song. The cut rises up into a groove that feels a lot like the music on Hounds of Love. It's organic, driving and powerful. Yet it's also both catchy and proggy. This is such classy stuff.

Love and Anger
This starts percussively, but melodic elements join pretty quickly. This grows upward into something that's a little less lushly arranged. It's no less effective, though. I dig the hard-edged guitar that shows up later. It does get pretty rocking before it's over.
The Fog
World music, folky elements and more merge in this beautiful piece of art. It starts more on the experimental and theatrical side, but it evolves into a more "song-like" thing as it continues. Dramatic symphonic elements emerge further down the road to augment the piece. It begins to intensify from there, and the art concepts are magnified, even as more rocking things join. It gets so powerful before it's over.
Reaching Out
Starting on piano, the opening vocals are so gentle. The track gradually gets more layers of sound and more intensity added to the mix as it grows. The cut is somewhat mainstream in sound and structure, but the layers really soar.
Heads We're Dancing
Another that starts rhythmically and grows outward from there, this is a cool tune that works really well. It has enough artsy angles and enough passion to really transcend. I like the drop back movement later and its almost soulful vocal vibe. This moves upward toward an almost electronic dance music (of the time) concept from there, but symphonic elements elevate it. That grows into some killer proggy jamming as this keeps driving onward.
Side Two:
                   
Deeper Understanding

Feeling a bit like something from 80s Peter Gabriel, I really like Bush's vocals so much here. There are some lush and otherworldly angles that come over the top later along with layers of backing vocals. This is a magical piece of music. It has some really jazzy bass work at play.

Between a Man and a Woman
There is a cool almost soulful groove to this. The cut has a vibe that's both retro in nature in some ways, but also modern (for the time) and otherworldly.
Never Be Mine
I love the drama and otherworldly magic of this song. It has an ethereal quality, while also feeling substantive and grounded. This is a track that definitely feels as if it would have been at home on Hounds of Love.
Rocket's Tail
A sea of vocals brings this track into being. It holds in a multilayered acapella way for the first minute-and-a-half. Some killer guitar screams upward as the musical arrangement joins from there. They merge the two things together after an instrumental break. This is quite a potent piece, if a bit less otherworldly than some of the rest.
This Woman's Work
Piano brings starts this cut. The song grows with a bit more of an organic and mainstream approach. It's built on the piano and vocal idea, but there are layers of sound over the top augmenting it. This never rises far beyond its origins, though. Then again, when it's this good, that's not a problem. It also allows it to better serve as a grounding force.

 

 
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