The Sensual World

Kate Bush

EMI Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


So having returned to some level of activity here on the DV, I’m poking around, reading some of my own reviews. (Some of these are 21 years old, gang, and since then I’ve had a brain tumor and chemotherapy. I’m lucky I remember the English language at all.)

I will admit, though, the biggest surprise that I’ve found so far is that somehow I missed reviewing this CD. Kate Bush’s The Sensual World is in my personal musical hagiography a Completely Essential Disc. While longtime readers of the Vault know that Kate’s 1985 release The Hounds Of Love got a high rating from me (and in the background I hear The Editor grumbling that I give a lot of those…), my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Sensual World is a high-water mark she would not reach again until 2005’s Aerial.

And now, the standard Kate Bush Vocal Disclaimer: like Geddy Lee, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, and many other musicians of yore, Kate’s voice is unique. The best documentation I could find for her vocal range is C♯3 - Eâ™­7; if I remember my music theory correctly, that makes her range four octaves and some change. On the high end, it’s a hyper-soprano dog whistle; on the lowest, it’s a whimsical, warbling alto. You may not like her voice. That’s OK. I do.

And damn, but The Sensual World is a great disc.

Few discs kick off with the title track. Few title tracks take as their inspiration Molly Bloom’s speech from the end of James Joyce’s Ulysses; originally, Kate wanted to use the speech verbatim, but couldn’t secure the rights. “Sensual World” is a dreamy, rich, frankly sexual piece of music, accented with Davy Spillane’s uilleann pipes. And just when you’re in that vibe, the gears shift radically into “Love And Anger,” one of her more upbeat – dare I say rocking? – songs.

The tonal variance continues throughout The Sensual World. The bright, almost triumphant “Reaching Out” leads straight into the dark and ominous “Heads We’re Dancing” – which, by the way, is the best thing on the disc. The wistful and sad “Deeper Understanding” (which predicted the plot of the movie Her long before it came out) contrasts with the quiet and somehow defiant “This Woman’s Work.” Bush varies her palette on Sensual more than, perhaps, any of her other albums, and it shows. I confess not caring for “Rocket’s Tail”, but to me that’s the only miscue.

There are three great Kate Bush albums; Hounds Of Love, Aerial, and The Sensual World. All three are must-listens.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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