It’s 1985, and MTV is near its zenith, and the Live Aid concert that summer coupled with the “We Are the World” single, and the Band Aid video from the Christmas of 1984 would make the channel the most important thing in music. But no, video did not kill the radio star.
There still was a USSR, and Reagan is sworn in for his second term as President. Gorbachev becomes General Secretary of the Communist Party in the USSR. But we’re in the final throws of the deep Cold War and the Soviet Union for that matter.
“British Telecom announces it is going to phase out their famous red telephone boxes .
“William Schroeder becomes the first artificial heart patient to leave the hospital” “DNA is first used in a criminal case”
Back to the Future helps launch a back to the 50s explosion in movies and nostalgia.
New Coke makes its sad debut.
“Mike Tyson makes his debut in Albany, New York with a first round knockout” There would be many more.
“Microsoft releases its first version of Windows” (Wikipedia 1985, 2010).
With this setting as a backdrop Kate Bush would launch herself, with the aid of her record company and MTV videos, high on the American stage. Her album previous to Hounds, The Dreaming had done well in the US, but Hounds would take her to stardom. She also used the medium of MTV to its maximum by creating a short film with Donald Sutherland for the song Cloudbusting, based on the novel A Book of Dreams, by Wilhelm Reich. Other videos would follow, along with double platinum status in the UK, selling more than 3 million albums worldwide. “In 2002, Q Magazine named Hounds of Love the third Greatest Album of All-Time by a Female Artist, and in 2000, the twentieth Greatest British Artist of All Time (Wikipedia, Hounds Of Love 2010)
Few female vocalists can be compared to Peter Gabriel, Greg Lake, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, or Roger Daltrey, but Kate Bush IMHO sits atop the pinnacle of female vocalists of rock since the 60s and 70s. She is in a league with some of the greatest female singers of all time. Her imagination and ability to capture the power of an idea, especially what it means to be English, and bring it through her music is incomparable. Nowhere was it more apparent than on this album, her fifth, recorded in her own time, at her own studio.
1. Running Up The Hill – That winding synth is so immediately familiar. Just before the power drums kick in and more synths meander about. But this is a vocal driven song, and Kate’s delivery of the lyrics act as another perfectly tuned instrument. Kate opens, “It doesn’t hurt me.” “But you want to feel how it feels” Kate’s backing vocals are just as warm as the lead. An interesting and creative song. Kate is well known for interesting ideas brought to music. There would be more songs later that would create controversy, like the idea of the military using music for war, but the idea and dream that we could trade places with God is an interesting cognitive exercise. Kate makes you think throughout her catalog of work. This song certainly builds on that legacy.
2. Hounds of Love – Drums, and then that perfect vocal instrument jumps out at you, “When I was child running in the night, afraid of what might be hiding in the dark.” “I don’t know what’s good for me.” Then one of the best lines in the song. “I found a fox caught by dogs.” “His little heart it beat so fast.” It’s the delivery of these lines which makes this such a great song. Kate’s British accent provides a regal sound to everything she does and her playful way of singing takes the listener right along with her.
3. The Big Sky – More thunder drums. A big sky dreaming song. Showing her depth of knowledge and perception. A sun filled blue sky day is written all over this song. You can visualize Kate running through a field and looking up at the clouds. “That cloud, it looks like Ireland.” “It’s changing in a big sky.” Dream big and look to a bright future. She had a good one coming after this record came out. The drumming is incredible on this one, but its Kate’s vocal improvisations which really make it great.
4. Mother Stands for Comfort – After the first three rocket this album to a fast start, this one slows things down as Kate tries to get her head around the concept of Mother. Only six years after Pink Floyd’s the Wall, and their interpretation of mother, from the male perspective, Kate writes her own version from the female. After all it was David Gilmour who would find Kate, help her get signed to EMI, and help fund her early demos, so it’s no wonder there would be influences. This song is all Kate Bush and her vocals with some support of synths and drums. Pink Floyd would show up later in the album as well.
5. Cloudbusting – One of my favorites. The short film conceived along with Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, staring Donald Sutherland is wonderful. The song captures so well, the power of the story from A Book of Dreams, by Wilhelm Reich. The violins and strings, along with those constant drums and Kate’s beautiful voice make this one perfect. The inflection of her voice just captures each moment as the story develops. All of the emotion and power of the story is conveyed through Kate’s voice.
6. And Dream of Sheep – Sometimes we have dreams, other times we have nightmares. This one starts a three song mini opera which opens as a dream then turns to a nightmare with Under the Ice and Waking the Witch. “Let me be weak, let me sleep, and dream of sheep.” Just beautiful. If you’re not sleeping after this lullaby then you definitely have severe insomnia.
7. Under Ice – Deep strings and that lurking sound of submarines moving under ice. “The river has frozen over.” “Only me skating fast.” “I’m speeding past trees.” “Leaving little lines in the ice.” “Splitting sound.” Yes being trapped under ice. Still in the dream state after part one.
8. Waking the Witch – “Wake up.” Piano and several people trying to wake Kate up. That dream state between the dream and reality. “Look who’s here to see you.” The sound effects of a woman on trial, with massive reminders of Trial from The Wall. The helicopter used towards the end of the song is even in the credits of the album sampled from The Wall. Very dramatic and a reminder that with dreams sometimes come nightmares.
9. Watching You Without Me – A pre-cursor towards some of the music coming from Peter Gabriel during the 80s. Very experimental and different. One of the many things that make Kate Bush so interesting and different than anyone else in the business. She uses her voice in so many different ways on this song. It is very interesting and never dull. The echo effects and ocean sounds all supported with heavy strings and synths.
10. Jig of Life – My second favorite song on the album. This one is full of life and you just might find yourself up and dancing as the rhythm builds. Violin and drums open this traditional jig melody, but Kate rarely follows tradition completely. There is loads of great vocal experimentation throughout this song. The more traditional instrumental interlude in the middle is even interrupted with Kate’s own vocal fun along with poetry being read. Unfortunately it’s over, all too quickly.
11. Hello Earth – Then, it’s on to sounds of Houston or the Kennedy Space Center and the sounds of talk between the astronauts and the ground, as we get to my favorite off this album and one of my all time favorite Kate Bush songs. The idea of being an astronaut seeing the Earth from that perspective. What must it feel like to see the Earth from above? How small does the Earth really seem? Kate loves to challenge you to think and this one is so epic. She also knows how to capture the power of the moment so well. The song may also be interpreted as someone else looking down on us with the power to change events. That’s the fun of a Kate Bush song; there are always other possible interpretations.
12. The Morning Fog – A bright airy song to close this multi – dimensional album. Ah, the famous London fog. Guitar, strings, drums, and bass as more instruments are added. Kate rises above all the sounds with her graceful and powerful voice. “I am falling.” “Like a stone.” “Like a storm.” “Being born again.” “Into the sweet morning fog.” Then she tells all of her family how much she loves them. What a wonderful way to end an album.
Rating: 10/10 – Many have attempted to copy her style and charisma, most notably Tori Amos. But no one has ever duplicated her power or grace. She is one in a million and her talent surges on. Her family comes first now that she is a mother. Her production of music has dropped off since. But on this album she hit all notes and wildly shook up both the UK and American charts, showing us the grace we had all come to respect from England for centuries. She is at once dignified and humble. One of the best voices I have ever heard. I hope she will deliver some new music for us to enjoy. Until then I will continue to bring this album out to remind me of this time that passed so quickly by. This album brings me back to 1985 immediately upon hearing those first winding synths, as if it was only yesterday.
(Editor’s note: Hounds Of Love , so far is the only Kate Bush album that got a remastered treatment. The 1997 remastered edition contains 6 bonus tracks. This also a part of the EMI’s 100th Anniversary re-issues.)
Reviewed by Prof on June 9th, 2010