Previously on Kate Bush – Director’s Cut:
‘But having achieved true originality, it would be a crying shame if she insisted on unpicking it at this stage of the game.’
So having listened to it for a week or so, what’s the verdict? The short answer is that she has about got away with it by the skin of her teeth – but only just. I suppose my main criticism of this album is that I didn’t like most of the songs, the majority of which come from ‘The Red Shoes’, to start with, so the process of making a silk purse out of the various sows’ ears was always going to be a problem for me. Having said that, there are one or two cuts that have been improved. I don’t think I have listened to ‘Rubberband Girl’ more than about twice, ever, but this new version has been immersed in a classic Rolling Stones chugging rhythm that is difficult to resist.
The other song that I feel has been improved is ‘Lily’ which appears to have been slowed down very slightly and given a vice like groove and excellent new vocal. So far so good. In fact, the new vocals on every track are remarkably good. Set in a new lower key to accommodate her more mature voice, each song is sung with real abandon and a lack of self-consciousness that is pleasantly surprising and provides a real link to her younger self captured on the original recordings some 20 years ago.
In the main, these tracks have not been altered radically but rather set free from their 1980s/90s trappings. Gone are the gated drums and slightly compressed overall sound and in their place are beautifully recorded instruments which have warmth and space. There is no doubt that in pure sonic terms this album sounds so much better than the originals.
Whilst the more relaxed nature of the songs works for most of the time, I cannot help but feel disappointed with my two favourite songs here. One is ‘Deeper Understanding’ which has lost its flow completely during the ‘computer speech’ sections where a vocoded/autotuned line of speech by her 12 year old son has been inserted. So where there was a great surge of harmony we now have a jerky mechanical voice and it just doesn’t work.
The other major disappointment is the wonderful ‘This Woman’s Work’ which in its original form is a real emotional roller-coaster. But again the vocal has been slowed down and chopped up to a point where the rhythmic integrity has been lost. In the original, the drama of the chorus is intensified by a quickening of the vocal delivery. In this version the opposite occurs and all the energy of the piece dissipates. The underlying electric piano isn’t helping either making the whole thing a bit ‘chicken-in-a-basket’ nightclub fare.
On balance this album is a bit of a curate’s egg. The de-restriction of the instrumental sound and new vocals are definite plusses but the loss of intensity in the drama of some of the songs is a definite debit. And I still don’t like many of the songs, overhaul or not and that’s the bottom line with ‘Director’s Cut’. As I said, all things considered, I think she just about comes out on an even keel. Let’s see what the new material brings.