Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Kate Bush - The Sensual World CD (album) cover


Kate Bush


Crossover Prog

3.52 | 176 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars There are a couple of observations to make about this album that serve to distinguish it from Kate Bush’s previous works. This album is easily her most restrained in terms of tempo, slower and in most cases more starkly arranged with fewer and more exotic instrumentation. There are a few songs that feature the sort of syncopated beat that figured prominently on Hounds of Love and in parts of The Dreaming, but in general there is more emphasis on orchestral arrangements instead, and on unusual vocal cadences that give the album a much folksier feel than its predecessors. Finally, on pretty much every track each instrument is distinctly presented, so that the cello in “The Fog” is clearly audible apart from the violin; on “Reaching Out” the mandolin is quite discernable apart from the string quartet, and so on. This gives the music a very precise and lush feel, really a trademark of Ms. Bush but much more noticeable here than on her earlier albums. Despite the lack of a dominant single or any really energetic number, The Sensual World comes across as a very well-written and well-produced body of work.

The actual recording was a three-stage affair, with parts recorded in Dublin; the orchestra tracks made at the Abbey Road Studios; and still others recorded in Ms. Bush’s own home, which is equipped with a 48 track studio. In contrast with so many of her contemporaries, this has all the trappings of a very elegant piece of work, and is an album that requires several listens before the true beauty of it begins to emerge.

The title track has a strong Irish feel to it, accentuated by Davey Spillane on uillean pipes and Donal Lunny on bouzouki. I had to look up both of these instruments and, at the risk of offending the initiated, will crudely describe them (for those of us not as sophisticated) as something akin to a flat set of bagpipes and a mandolin, respectively. John Sheahan plays violin, with former Elton John sideman Charlie Morgan on drums and Ms. Bush’s long-time partner (at the time) Del Morgan on bass. The point here is that this was an all-star cast, and it shows. This is a beautifully arranged musical monologue of the closing scene from James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, and is probably best listened to by candlelight in an amorous setting.

Dave Gilmour adds his instantly recognizable guitar to “Love and Anger”, and brother Paddy Bush plays the valiha (uh…, it’s like a big wooden flute, okay? I’m not very good at these things). Ms. Bush backs herself on vocals with overlaid tracks, and sings about – well, a typical relationship (check the song’s title – that pretty much sums it up).

“The Fog” is an interesting work in that it’s a family affair, with Kate’s father adding dialogue at the beginning and middle. Even Dr. Bush’s spoken words come off as melodic, and the story here is of a very young Kate learning to swim with the tender coaxing of her father. The somewhat eccentric Nigel Kennedy lends his violin here, along with the late Alan Murphy on guitar and Jonathan Williams on cello. This is a very airy work with slightly dissonant strings and Kate almost whispering the lyrics. This seems like an awfully personal song for this album, but it makes for a great listen in a quiet setting and makes me want to go find my kids and hug them whenever I hear it.

”Reaching Out” is another child-like emotions, in this case yearning – for help, for sustenance, for comfort. Paddy Bush plays mandolin and Kate piano, and also with a string quartet arrangement to create again the somber and dreamlike feeling that pretty much permeates this album.

The front side of the album ends with “Heads We’re Dancing”, a halting rhythm and the story of a well-known historical asking for the singer’s hand for a dance in 1939. Though he is elegant and debonair, she finds the next morning that his face is splashed across the front of the newspaper in full military dress. This is just creepy, and I’d love to know the whole story behind how this came to be on the album.

A “Deeper Understanding” is the tale of an introvert who befriends their computer for companionship. Kind of a na´ve theme considering the time in which this song was written, but it’s probably uncomfortably recognizable to several of the people who are setting in front of a keyboard reading this right now. Paddy Bush plays a tupan here (big bass drum), along with The Trio Bulgarka providing backing vocals. Some of the computer sound effects seem rather quaint today, but when this was written nearly twenty years ago this was probably a forward-thinking theme.

“Between a Man and a Woman” has a chanting cadence with minimal instrumentation, and retraces familiar territory first laid out on “Love and Anger”. This time though there is an interloper that Bush is warning off. Not sure who that is, perhaps a friend or family member, or maybe something more abstract. This is not one of the stronger songs on the album, and may have been more of a cathartic outlet for Ms. Bush than anything else.

The spiraling mood continues on “Never Be Mine”, which strikes me as a breakup song, but with some symbolism about burning corn fields and loss, I don’t know. German jazz musician Eberhard Weber lays down some very nice bass here though.

The vocals in “Rocket’s Tail” are almost completely a cappela for the first couple minutes, with harmonic backing from The Trio Bulgarka, until Dave Gilmour kicking in some guitar toward the end. I have no idea what this is all about, but I’m sure there is some sort of symbolism that escapes me. The protagonist is watching rockets being launched (fireworks, I assume), then proceeds to become a human rocket. Plenty of discord in the drum and guitar arrangement at the end, and completely over my head.

I believe “This Woman’s Work” was actually a hit single of sorts for the album, although not in the US. It did appear in the film “She’s Having a Baby” around the same time, and Ms. Bush has performed it live on a few occasions, or at least I know I’ve heard a live version of it. This seems to be another case of Ms. Bush having a bit of a PMS moment, or at least lamenting the seemingly futile labors of the fairer sex. This instrumentation is pretty much just some strings and Kate herself on piano.

The album release ends here, but on my cassette release there is one last track – “Walk Straight Down the Middle”, a song about coping –

“He thought he was going to die, but he didn’t. She thought should could never cope, but she did.

We thought it was all over, but it wasn’t…. – it hadn’t started yet. And walk straight down the middle of it.”

Coming off the rather extroverted Hounds of Love, this album seemed like a bit of a letdown by Kate Bush. I remember buying it only after being introduced to her work with that album and The Dreaming, and at the time was a bit disappointed in this latest release. It actually took a few years before I managed to start to develop an appreciation for the unusual depth of candor and personal emotion that is revealed on The Sensual World. It’s unfortunate that Ms. Bush didn’t tour in support of this album, because I believe that the live presentation of this material would have led to a much greater level of acceptance by fans. No matter, this is an outstanding piece of work, tempered only slightly by the somewhat bitter and strident “Love and Anger” and “Between a Man and a Woman”.

Overall, this would make an excellent addition to just about any music fan’s collection, but will more than likely require a few listens before it really begins to click. Four stars.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this KATE BUSH review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives