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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Kate Bush

The Red Shoes

Review by Gary Hill

I remember that when I first tried to listen to this album years ago, I gave up on it fairly quickly. I never got past the first three songs. Those three are very much not what I expected from Kate Bush. They are too mainstream, and not very interesting. It all improves beyond that point, though, and there are some great pieces of music here. I wouldn't put this as my favorite Kate Bush album, but if I ignore those first three songs, it holds up pretty darned well.

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Track by Track Review
Rubberband Girl
There is a real pop sort of groove to this cut as it gets going. Bush's vocals come over the top, adding to that feeling. This is definitely not the kind of artsy thing one expects from her. Instead it's more of a pop tune designed to get people out on the dance floor. Bush herself does shine with some vocal acrobatics later. I'm not as enthused with the guitar solo, though. When it does turn more crazed and unusual later it makes me think of something Prince might do.
And So Is Love
This comes in mellower, and Bush's vocals come in over the top. The song again has more of a pop rock vibe, but it does feel more closely tied to the rest of Bush's discography than the opener does. It seems a little more artsy. The guitar fills (by Eric Clapton) on it are more blues rock oriented, though, and almost act as a distraction. The backing vocal section really brings the art and some magic. Overall, though, this becomes much more of a mainstream, blues rocking song.
Eat the Music
There is a bit of an Island vibe to this. Again, only Bush's voice seems to link this to her early discography. This has a lot of world music in it. Despite being very mainstream, it does have some elements of art music.
Moments of Pleasure
Piano starts this, and Bush's vocals come over the top of that backdrop. The number develops as a pretty ballad built on that arrangement. Her voice reaches some great heights along the road. Other voices of the non-lyrical variety come in over a piano only section. They drop away when Bush's lead voice joins. They return when it shifts back to just piano, and again quit when Bush returns to sing. The song feels more like something that would have fit on an earlier Kate Bush release.
The Song of Solomon
As the mellower, artsy vibe brings this into being, it again feels more like the Kate Bush with which we're familiar. As her voice joins, that effect is augmented. There is a definitely an artsy vibe to this. The cut feels a little classical and also jazzy. This is a magical piece. It definitely stands far above the first three songs of the album. I'd consider this a highlight of the disc. It does earn a very minor parental warning depending on your tolerance level for the lyrics. I'm sure for most of us it's not an issue, but for some it might be.
Ambient sounds serve as the backdrop for a spoken reading by a woman other than Bush. After that section, the cut powers out into a more rocking sound. This is another that really does feel like what I expect from Bush. It's very much an artsy, proggy number. It also has some cool grooves. This is another shining moment.
The Red Shoes
Celtic elements that call to mind The Hounds of Love bring this song into being. As it works outward it again shows of the kind of art rock sound we expect from Bush. While this is more familiar territory, it's not as strong as the last couple tunes Still, it's worlds above the three openers.
Top of the City
Starting with a piano and voice arrangement, this again makes me think of The Hounds of Love. The cut works out after the opening section to some killer art rocking sound that feels both like Bush and something Peter Gabriel might do. It drops back to piano and voice for a time, but then gets more rocking. This one is a step up from the previous piece. It continues to alternate between mellower and more driving sections and is packed with beauty and majesty.
Constellation of the Heart
Now, this is very different. It has some of that Gabriel-like sound, but it's also very funky. Imagine Kate Bush bringing some Parliament into her sound. I really like this a lot. It's creative and artsy, but it's also just such a thick groove. It also has trademark Kate Bushisms built into it.
Big Stripey Lie
This definitely gets points for that goofy cool title. The song has more of that Prince angle from earlier, but it's merged with a real art rock vibe. This is driving, noisy and yet so cool and artsy.
Why Should I Love You?
The opening section on this feels very much like trademark Kate Bush, but the organ is a little over the top for my tastes. When it works out into the chorus it feels like a cross between Prince and Parliament to me, but with trademark high register Kate Bush vocals over the top. This song is definitely removed from her more art rock repertoire, but it really works for me anyway. There is a male lead vocal section later in the track from none other than Prince himself.
You're the One
This is a slower, more understated cut, but it does get some rocking guitar fills later (courtesy of Jeff Beck, who is much more effective here than Eric Clapton was). Again it's a little organ heavy. The lyrics are sad, talking about a relationship ending, when one of the people does not want that to happen. While this isn't the artsiest thing Bush has ever done, it's very effective. Her vocals get really powerful at times, too.
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