Hey there! I was on a special assignment for The News last week, and missed the opportunity to get my take on Kate's latest into the paper, but thought I'd share it here, for anyone who's interested. This was also a good excuse to get this lovely picture online! --Jeff Miers
50 Words For Snow
Kate Bush has existed within her own beautiful artistic bubble for more than thirty years, floating in a cosmos of her own design, somehwere to the left of heaven and miles above the majority of her peers.
It's not that Bush is some sort of musical elitist, though she has far more talent in a single lock of her lovely hair than Lady GaGa has in her entire corpus. It's just that Bush, like some sort of art-rock J.D. Salinger, just never seemed to want to be bothered with what the mainstream was up to. She seemed perfectly delighted to explore her own imagination, largely in private, communicating with her large (and decidedly devout) audience through dazzlingly well-crafted albums released whenever she felt like releasing them. Which is why the largely lovely new "50 Words For Snow" is only her tenth album since 1978, the year she offered us her debut, "The Kick Inside."
"50 Words" is almost a perfect album. It's a gorgeously stripped down affair, essentially a piano trio record, with Bush's voice and piano accompanied by Danny Thompson's subtle acoustic bass, some smart, spare drumming from Steve Gadd, and the occasional string arrangement, synth figure or electric guitar statement. It's a thematic album, centered around the winter season -- a mystical, metaphorical treatment of snow, one that does indeed pack in 50 descriptives for the white fluffy stuff.
It's ambitious without fail, elegant and impressionistic and in no hurry to get anywhere in particular, which means that it's free to go anywhere it wants to.
Most of the time, that's nothing but a blessing . The opening tone-poem "Snowflake" conjures a world of white, then moves through that world on the wings of an oscillating ostinato; the epic "Lake Tahoe" blends jazz and stacked operatic harmonies and is jaw-droppingly beautiful; "Wild Man" is the closest thing to conventional pop here, but is still dripping with the sort of bizarre genius that informs Bjork's best; the title tune, with narration by actor Stepehn Fry is contemplative, beautiful, evocative, wonderfully weird.
The album would be flawless, were it not for "Snowed In At Wheeler St.", which finds Elton John arriving for a decidedly unwelcome cameo. It's as if this wonderful whirling white solitude has suddenly been interrupted by a visit from some cartoon caricature of a retired actor from London's West End, who has downed a few too many Christmas brandies. Elton sounds awful, and is awfully out of place here. Yuck.
That aside, "Snow" is simply stunning. Fans will welcome it into their homes like a warm fire on a bitter winter night. Others will likely ignore it, never hear it, or wonder just what the fuss is about. That's as it should be.