Kate Bush's '50 Words For Snow'
- Article by: Daryl Sanders
- Posted: 12/26/2011
On 50 Words For Snow, her first collection of new material since 2005’s Aerial, legendary British singer-songwriter Kate Bush makes a transcendent artistic statement not bound by the time constraints of commercial radio.
Freed from the limitations of the three-minute-song, Bush was able to take her time with each of the compositions on 50 Words For Snow, allowing them to breathe and to progress at their own natural pace. The result is a breathtakingly beautiful record.
One of the shorter of the seven tracks included, the single “Wild Man,” clocks in at 7:17. This Asian-influenced number about tracking the Tibetan Kanchenjunga Demon or Yeti opens with the sound of whipping wind, then floats along on top of Steve Gadd’s tasteful drumming and Bush’s rhythmic electronic keyboard riff. The artist is joined on vocals by former British teen idol and Clapton sideman Andy Fairweather Low and their haunting harmonizing is a highlight.
Bush sets the mood for the album with the opener, “Snowflake.” It is a brooding piece, running 9:47 in length and featuring sparse, dramatic acoustic piano parts by the singer-songwriter and orchestral-style percussion by Gadd. Bush’s voice is clear and strong as she sings the refrain, “The world is so loud/ Keep falling/ I’ll find you.” Her son, Bertie, takes the lead vocal parts on the song’s verses.
On the 11-minute-plus “Lake Tahoe,” a song about a woman who drowned in the lake while searching for her pet and who now haunts its shores, Bush is joined by choir singers Luke Roberts and Michael Wood. Their angelic voices open the piece and provide an artful contrast to Bush’s smoky vocals.
Elton John duets with Bush on “Snowed In At Wheeler Street,” which references her 1985 hit, “Running Up That Hill,” in its lyric: “When we got to the top of the hill/ We saw Rome burning.”
British actor Stephen Fry makes an appearance on the title track, the record’s other uptempo number. Over a driving rhythm track, Fry reads 50 words for snow from various languages while the artist counts them off and gives him encouragement.
The album closes with “Among Angels,” a sparse ballad featuring only Bush’s voice and her acoustic piano. It is a song of reassurance, and a fitting way to end a record that is both enigmatic and highly accessible.