posted on November 26, 2011 08:30
Review Snapshot: The release of new music from Kate Bush is always a monumental event. Seldom is wonderful, but '50 Words For Snow' is her second release this year, and her first studio album of new material in seven years - and as always with Kate, it’s quality not quantity that matters.
The CLUAS Verdict: 9 out of 10
The album title says it all. This isn’t a Christmas cash-in, but a seasonal album and the topic is definitely snow. The opening number ‘Snowflake’ sets the tone for the album with Kate playing piano while duetting with her son Albert (Bertie) who takes on the soprano role of Aled Jones singing “we’re over a forest / there’s millions of snowflakes” while Kate’s beautiful voice only adds to the mystique and beauty, with a sense of motherly love throughout.
On ‘Misty’ Kate falls in love with the Snowman. While some might suggest double entendres to some of the lyrics “I can feel him melting in my hand “or “the sheets are soaking” this really is a harmless, beautiful love-song with no sexual innuendos intended as the snowman enters her bedroom and makes love to her. Kate doesn’t do censored music
The first single, ‘Wildman’, is probably the weakest track here, and at the same time, the only track that will possible get airplay as most of the tracks range from 7 – 10 minutes in length. There is a constant catchy riff throughout, while Kate tells the tale of the Yeti that she doesn’t want killed: “We found your footprints in the snow / We brushed them all away”. Perhaps she’s fallen in love with him as she sings “they want to hunt you down / you're not an animal”, and a guest appearance from Andy Fairweather Low
The standout piece here is her love duet with Elton John, ‘Snowed In At Wheeler Street’. While it’s no ‘Don’t Give Up’ it is a beautiful story of two lovers meeting up again and regretting letting each other go in the past, and reminiscing about their time from ancient Rome through World War II in Paris and London. Elton gives one of his best vocal performances. His memory is “Can't we just stay there forever? We were so happy! I'd live that day over and over” while Kate’s says “Come with me, I'll find some rope / I'll tie us together”. This could be the soundtrack to Casablanca.
'Among Angels' is trademark Bush, with just her tinkling at the piano doing what she does best. No whistles and bells, just vocals and piano and that haunting technique of hers. “I can see angels standing around you /they shimmer like mirrors in summer” she sings.
The title track does exactly what it says on the tin. Stephen Fry makes a surprise appearance trying to come up with literally 50 words for snow while Kate counts them down. From “drifting …avalanche… ..mountainsob” Kate comes in at various intervals with “Come on Joe, you've got 32 to go / let me hear your 50 words for snow”. Some of Fry’s words are a bit dubious though including “anklebreaker", "boomerangablanca", and "bad for trains".
This shouldn’t really work, but it does somehow. Only Kate could make it work. This is yet another masterpiece from the woman nobody knows anything about, and this concept album won’t reveal anything more personal about her. It doesn’t have the hit singles that 'Hounds of Love' had, but Kate’s in her 50s now, not her 20s. Fans will love this, and for them this year, December will be magic again.