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Kate Bush - The Whole Story VHS CD (album) cover

THE WHOLE STORY VHS

Kate Bush

 

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3.83 | 14 ratings

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StarsongAgeless
5 stars I find the collection of Kate Bush videos on this VHS to be the most breathtaking music-video collection I have seen to date.

I have always found Kate Bush's music to be particularly visual and emotionally stirring, and with the possible exception of the 'Wow' video, every video companion to its song on this tape captures and expresses the emotions, images and ideas in the song with astounding success and artistry. Each video combines dance and theater with film in a way similar to a film production of a broadway musical; however, I find the efforts on this tape to be more successful and interesting than nearly all such films I have seen.

'Wuthering Heights', based on the novel by Emily Bronte, starts off the compilation with an unusual expression of the love-hate story in which Heathcliff is haunted by the ghost of Cathy (or perhaps just his memories of her, but the voice in the song suggests a more literal haunting). The only figure that appears in the video is Kate Bush herself, on a dark stage, ethereally lit and misty. There is no set. The video is an artistic dance that flows with the song, and in addition to the dance itself several images of Kate have been overlaid, creating the illusion of multiple dancers, and it seems to me that they represent the haunting. The song itself is written from the point of view of Cathy, calling to Heathcliff to let her in his window. The abstract representation of the story through dance rather than literal images is more effective than any other form this video could have taken, in my opinion. Literal images of the relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy would likely have come off as melodramatic, and fallen flat.

'Cloudbusting', based on the imprisonment of Wilhelm Reich and told through the eyes of his son, heads completely in the other direction. The video is a literal representation of the events shortly before and after Reich's incarceration. Kate Bush, with her hair cut short and wearing overalls, plays the part of the boy who undergoes the trauma of seeing his father taken from him, for what he sees as being special. These lyrics, I think, are particuarly poignant: 'I still dream of Orgonon. I wake up crying. You're making rain, and you're just in reach when you and sleep escape me. You're like my yo-yo that glowed in the dark - what made it special made it dangerous.' The video itself is moving, and Kate Bush does an excellent job of playing the role of the son, hiding his yo-yo and 'cloudbusting' with his father's equipment in defiance of the government. Donald Sutherland is the first of many high-profile actors on this VHS, playing the role of Wilhelm Reich. He never speaks, but the emotions he portrays cut right through the screen.

'The Man With the Child in His Eyes' returns to a more abstract form, and does an even better job at it than 'Wuthering Heights'. Again, the only figure in the video is Kate, sitting cross-legged against a background so bright she appears to be some kind of ethereal being. The minimalist approach draws attention to the music itself while accentuating it expertly.

In 'Breathing', Bush plays the role of an unborn child, helpless to stop the flow of chemicals and radiation entering her through her mother. Together, the song and video are shocking reminders that the consequences of our actions, both on a large and small scale, affect those who are not even born yet.

'Wow' is definitely the lowest-quality video in the compilation, although it is visually appealing. It appears to be a collection of clips from the one tour Kate Bush actually took, and while it generally fits the subject-matter of the song (hypocrisy in the arts), it does not accentuate it.

'Hounds of Love' is a spectacular song combined with an exciting video that complements it perfectly. The song itself combines a rather traditional-sounding rock chord structure with an almost tribal, heavily emphasized drumbeat. Some of the most interesting lyrics in these songs show up here (in particular, I'm thinking of: 'Take my shoes off and throw them in the lake, and I'll be two steps on the water' and the entire passage about the frightened fox). Oddly, these images are not clearly represented in the video, which concentrates entirely on the chase as a would-be lover follows and eventually wins over the character Kate plays. I think this was the best choice that could have been made, in retrospect - inserting metaphorical images works extremely well in the song, but in the video it would have interrupted the flow. This way, the music and lyrics handled the metaphors, to accentuate the more logical video.

'Running Up That Hill' is one of the two videos here that sends chills of fear down my spine. I'm sure I haven't fathomed all the meaning in this song, but themes I can safely include are fear and possibly jealousy. The repeated lyrics through the song, 'If I only could, I'd make a deal with God, and I'd get him to swap our places,' refering to a man and a woman having intimate relations (at least that's the interpretation that makes sense to me), combined with the extremely minor, dire-sounding music, suggest layers of meaning that are quite difficult to quantify or explain. The song itself is emotionally disturbing, partly because the meaning seems so multi-layered and difficult to pin-down. The video adds to this with its images of fighting against an impossible tide in a faceless, almost alien crowd, and no matter how hard Kate Bush's character runs, pushes, and struggles, she cannot win. This is one of the most thought-provoking pieces on the tape.

'Army Dreamers' is a return to something more tangible, with Kate playing the role of a dead soldier's mother in the song (although she is dressed as a soldier in the video). The odd, almost playful portrayal of meaningless death strikes me as the musical equivalent of sarcasm, and I find the combination of the video and the song to be more successful than the song alone. This video also provides necessary relief from the more hefty videos that preceeded it.

'Sat In Your Lap' returns to the dance-as-expression method of 'Wuthering Heights' once again, but in a more hectic and stylized form. Many dancers appear on the dark stage (which has a set this time), portraying the cacophany and impatience already expressed so skillfully in the music. I particularly enjoyed the dunce's cap and throne, which added a slightly new dimension to the song - the ideas were already there in the lyrics, but the video clarified them significantly.

'Experiment IV' is the 2nd of the two songs on this video that send chills of fear up my spine. This is another literal video that, along with the song, tells the story of a research facility in which everyone falls victim to their own experiment: 'a sound that could kill someone from a distance'. This research subject was well suited to become a music video, since the main focus is sound. Kate Bush plays the role of the beautiful but near-demonic entity created in the lab, and throughout the video she systematically destroys her creators. Again, this video adds quite a bit to the original song, which tells the story in a less linear matter. The way the two are structured together, the song lyrics and hooks end up reminding me continually of what Bush's character is in the video... almost like hearing the thoughts in the character's head.

'The Dreaming' is an interesting, creative video that does a great job at accentuating the meaning and rhythm of the song. The asymmetric-feeling beat with heavy accents combined with a deep droning and Kate's unusually low-pitched singing (for her) with harsh harmonies has a parallel counterpart in the singers, sunset-like lighting and dark background. The two together make a much more interesting and artistic piece than either part alone.

'Babooshka' is lovely, touching, and Kate does a superb job of inhabiting the character both in singing and interpretive dance. Her 'companions' in this video are alternately a cello and a sword, depending on whether she is depicting the sudanim or the wife (the song is about a woman who tests her husband's loyalty by sending him letters from a non-existant admirer, and eventually taking it one step further - seeing if he would secretly meet with this 'other woman'). I personally was a little unsatisfied with the costume for the sword-weilding personality - I found it to be too over-the-top, too bright, and too fiery for the song. Other than that, the piece works nicely and the dance complements the music gracefully.

'The Big Sky' is the extra goody, and it is a fun video that lightens the mood of the tape considerably, rounding it out and making the listener/viewer want to come back for more. Otherwise, the whole may have fallen a little flat simply because of the abundance of minor tones. With this piece at the end, the effectiveness of the compilation as a whole falls neatly into place.

I wouldn't say this video is perfect. However, I would say it is the most successful collection of videos I have experienced, which is why it gets a 'masterpiece' rating from me. There are a few minor flaws that may cause this as a whole to average out to a 4.8 rather than a 5, but in a collection it really doesn't get much better than that. The thing that impresses me the most about this particular VHS is that I like it more than the original album, even though the album is a best-of compilation, and that's saying a lot.

StarsongAgeless | 5/5 |

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