50 Words for Snow
Nov 22, 2011 Web Exclusive
Compared to her earlier work, Kate Bush's latest album may be a bit of a surprise to some, while utterly logical to others. With Bush certainly having nothing to prove in terms of creating challenging music, considering albums such as 1982's densely intriguing The Dreaming, the approach for her latest album is comparatively simple, direct, and as much of an enveloping experience as anything in her catalogue.
50 Words for Snow stretches out with a total of seven songs clocking in at an hour and five minutes. That's prog-length, but rather than this being Bush's equivalent of Yes's Tales of Topographic Oceans, it's a record that's more operatic in scope while staying within pop conventions in execution. At times, piano, strings, bass, and drums carefully follow Bush like members of her court through a series of meditations that move like falling snow, which she sometimes refers to directly or metaphorically within the lyrics.
"Misty," in particular, benefits from its 13-minute length by allowing a very gradual but satisfying build, similar to Van Morrison's exhilarating flights on Astral Weeks. As the music drives with progressively more force, Bush opens up vocally, from somber to soaring, leading the collective crescendo to its peak.
Guest vocalists provide interplay to a few tracks. With a strident light-rock shuffle, Stephen Fry trades lines with Bush on the title track as they actually work their way through 50 words for snow. She and Elton John engage in a sung conversation that winds through the couple's story of "Snowed In At Wheeler Street," a wistful reminiscence that sounds like a page from Bryan Ferry's songbook.
For the lovely closer, "Among Angels," the album's strengths are distilled to their unadorned basics. Bush sings, with her finely matured voice draped in a piano-and-strings setting that's as fine as snow, "There's someone who's loved you forever but you don't know it." (www.katebush.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 8/10