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Kate Bush - The Kick Inside CD (album) cover


Kate Bush


Crossover Prog

3.95 | 286 ratings

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3 stars Kate Bush?

Prog Rock??

Surely not!!!

Dusting off my precious copy of "The Kick Inside" - largely unlistened to since the 1980s - I prepared myself to litter this review with comments about "pop songs" and just because there's a tenuous David Gilmour and Peter Gabriel link sort of thing.

But hey, it's listed under Prog-related, and I guess the latter relates Ms Bush to Prog.

I strapped on my trusty Sennheisers - and initially you could have blown me down with a feather.

There is a truly Prog Rock type vibe running through the whole of the first side of this album - although it never goes into "full-blown" territory - and it's even better than I remember it being back in the 1970s/80s. There is music on this album that has remained fresh to these ears and transcended the era it was unleashed upon.

For unleashed is the right word.

Kate Bush has a mesmerising and (almost literally) bewitching voice that only the coldest of hearts could fail to be completely melted by, and caused a great stir with the release of "Wuthering Heights" especially.

She also has a very and unusually feminine approach to her piano playing, avoiding "masculine" sounding chord progressions almost, it would seem, at all costs - choosing the softer and often unexpected chord changes every time, maintaining a surprisingly spontaneous yet ultimately coherent feel to the music.

"The Kick Inside" is complemented by an army of session musicians who really manage to get into the groove - presumably under strong direction - and manage to avoid sounding sterile on the whole. There are one or two exceptions on this otherwise solid work of progressive music, and I'll cover those in the following analysis;

"Moving" opens the album incredibly well, with what sounds like wolves howling - or it could be whalesong... Delicate piano chords shift and drift, with Kate's voice seeming to improvise verses and choruses over the top - it's like she's performing a duet with herself; the piano and voice two separate and individual yet complementary instruments. Midway through the chorus, there is a key change of startling beauty that is well worth singling out for attention.

The saxophone in "The Saxophone Song" is less remarkable than the guitar playing, which is deliciously sensitive and a point, while the sax itself cuts little mustard. The song itself is largely unremarkable too - but does get into a nice, if somewhat repetitive groove for the burn-out.

"Strange Phenomenon" is better, with icy dischordant ripples on the piano mellowing somewhat, while keeping a real free-form feel until the chorus, which has an odd singalong feel to it - but you wouldn't add it to your bath playlist unless you had Kate's amazing vocal registers...

"Kite" is among my least favourite of Kate's work - and a modest hit - but it's still a very unusual song with unexpected chords... and that horrible "White Man's Reggae" feel. Even Kate's voice can't save this one for me.

"The Man With The Child In His Eyes", on the other hand, is what we're talking about. Another hit single from this brilliant debut, it showcases both Kate's melodic invention and pianistic abilities - and that wonderful, sympathetic yet detailled orchestral arrangement. The chord progressions and key changes are dazzling and seem to paint a picture of a universe of possibilites and potential in a fully Progressive way. The subtle and delicate use of the orchestra serves to highlight little details in the music and lyrics - note particularly the early use of the 'cello, and later use of woodwind and horns. Utterly spellbinding.

But the best is yet to come. "Wuthering Heights" is one of my all-time favourite songs, and under analysis, makes me feel kind of sumg that a song that moves me so deeply emotionally should be so packed with all the right sort of details - a strong chorus, surprising key changes in the verses, a magnificent middle 8, shimmering organ, pianistic details and above all (literally!) Kates incredible voice in full flight. And then there's THAT guitar solo (way too low in the mix and with terrible execution issues, but the 1986 remix fixes that to perfection)! Magical stuff.

The problem now is that we've heard the best. Here is where side 1 of the vinyl ends.

The album continues well, but never again reaches the peaks of "The Man..." or "Wuthering Heights" - indeed, side 2 is a real let-down in comparison.

"James and the Cold Gun" is a good rocker, with a catchy chorus, but the only thing that's really remarkable about the song is Kate's voice and the story in the lyrics. Oh, and there's some tasty Hammond licks in there.

"Feel it" is much better - featuring Kate, a piano and some imaginative jazz-inspired chord progressions with intuitive punctuation and decoration, moulding the music effortlessly into smoky sillouhettes.

"Oh to be in love" is a bit more uncomfortable and would seem to be filler, the session musicians as unsure of the overall groove of the verses as Kate seems to be, and the choruses somewhat non-descript. The keyboard parts are further evidence that certain things cannot be polished...

"L'amour looks like something like you" returns to the quality of groove of "Feel It", albeit with a few execution issues and a naff electric piano sound.

"Them heavy people" was yet another hit, presumably bought only by devoted fans, and is a return to the "White Man Reggae" sound of "Kite". Unremarkable except for its sub-average nature.

"Room for the life" is almost devoid of flow and does not even stray into average territory, the session musicians floundering, and Kate struggling to find a real groove but faking the passion reasonably. What's with the Brain May guitars?

"The kick inside" brings Kate and the piano back together again in, if not perfect, at least extremely agreeable harmony. The unsettled nature of the chord progressions, occasionally substituting minor and major thirds for effective and momentary harmonic base confusion, with deliberate shifts between major and unrelated minors via modal progressions... well, you know... these devices are all well and good, but Kate seems to do it without even thinking about it - and that's the difference between creating honest, progressive music and calculated nonsense.

A very good closing track - one well worth hanging around for, but I'd skip the majority of side two to get to it if I were you...

In summary, then, an album with some remarkable (if not really Prog Rock) music on it that deserves a little corner in any progger's collection - but since it's only 60% good stuff, does not score highly overall.

On the other hand, the stuff that's good is exceptional.

If you like the lighter side of Prog and haven't got it already, do yourself a favour and buy "The Kick Inside" by Kate Bush. If you only like the heavier side, buy it anyway - you might like it :-)

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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