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Kate Bush: Hounds Of Love - A Classic Album Under Review
For my first 'A Classic Album Under Review' DVD it's the only Kate Bush album I own; the sublime Hounds Of Love. An Album Under Review dissects a particularly seminal recording by taking a careful look at the artist's career - generating context if you will - then allowing various experts to dissect the album track-by-track. For true fans the prospect is like catnip - a plus-sized commentary track for a favorite record.
In practice, the affair reads like a documentary; lots of talking-head interviews interspersed with still shots and, for this series, tons of snippets of music videos. Bush was a leading proponent of revolutionizing music videos, but time has passed, so those examples displayed from her first four albums, while arresting, are a bit loony by today's standards - lots of experimental dance and folks roller-skating around in dunce caps, for example. Yet by the time Hounds Of Love rolls around, her videos have become quite energetic and engaging, especially the rapturous 'The Big Sky' (which will have you up and dancing) - her Hounds videos are documents that truly enhance the audio experience like few videos are able, and it's lovely to see bits of each. It would be nicer to see them complete.
Kate Bush fans should certainly sit back and enjoy 90 minutes about her career, with almost a half hour of history leading up to the title album, we journey from her prodigal start in 1978 to the moment the needle runs out of the groove on Hound's final track 'The Morning Fog.' As a casual fan and sometimes musician who adores the album, I was entranced throughout. It's likely that people who have never heard of Bush will be interested as well, an achievement for such a specialized piece of programming - but not so special for an album featuring possibly the strongest A-side released in the '80s. The strength of Bush's music draws you in, while the care, intelligence and respect devoted to talking about each track is truly engaging and enriching. Among others, journalist/ DJ Kris Needs (Zigzag magazine) puts Bush in perspective with the times, and talks about how the album was received. Bush's biographer Lucy O'Brien places the artist in the firmament of other women rockers while examining the heady themes explored on the record. Pianist and historian Chris Ingham breaks down compositional motifs employed by Bush to give the record its unique feel, and drummer Charlie Morgan (who played on the album) provides real insight into the record's unique percussive feel, some of how it was recorded, and what it was like working with Bush. Lastly, archive interviews from 1985 find Bush herself talking about the album.
The enthusiasm each displays for an album almost 25-years-old is infectious, providing a thorough, well-rounded look for deepening your understanding of the disc and urging new listeners to check it out. Musicians especially will be invigorated by accounts of unfettered creativity and practical attitudes for recording that are refreshing. Bush or label EMI does not authorize this DVD; a shame as it would be nice to hear Bush reflect on the time. Packaging is a bit misleading as well, touting 'live and studio versions of every track on the album.' I'll assume this refers to when Morgan and Ingham play snippets on drums or piano during their interview segments, and when bits of the recorded versions are played in music video form, however neither example represents a complete version of the song - far from it - so don't come in expecting two whole iterations of the album, just examples woven throughout the 90 minute feature. Aside from those quibbles, this is a stellar effort that will have you reaching for whatever it is you play music on these days.
Fullscreen 1.33:1 ratio video is clear, sharp and detailed for interview segments. No issues with compression, mastering or any digital artifacts these may create are noticeable. Bush's vintage videos show softer images, though the colors - as with the rest of the footage - are rich, and, excepting some fading in the videos, black levels are deep.
Stereo Audio is on par with listening to the CD itself, very nice for highlighting the music and the interesting range displayed - thundering tom-tom drums and Bush's occasional vocal screech. Levels are not quite balanced, however, so you may find yourself lowering volume when the music swells, only to raise it again as interviewees speak.
Extras are slim. Biographies of all six interview subjects are of the two-pages-of-text-with-picture variety. 12 minutes of a 1985 audio taped interview with Kris Needs, When Kate Met Kris, (or vice-versa depending on what screen you're looking at) is for the hardcore fan only. Needs pops in occasionally in contemporary footage to talk about what's being talked about, to explain that this is just 12 minutes of a much longer interview, and presumably to apologize for the fact that the source for this audio renders pretty much all of it darn-near unintelligible mush that you'll need to have your ear straight up next to the speaker to have a hope of deciphering. A single screen promo for Beyond DVD points out top recording artist books on offer from chromedreams.co.uk.
Inasmuch as Hounds Of Love is a truly seminal post-new-wave album from the singular Kate Bush, fans will be delighted by this thorough investigation of the record. Interviews with journalists, musicians, biographers and historians cover almost all the ground you'd care to cover, bringing the record to life track-by-track. If you don't know the record, you'll likely want to after watching, and if it's one of your favorites you'll be eagerly listening to it with new ears. The lack of authorization from Bush herself denies us any new thoughts on her part, while a curious claim on the package of 'live and studio versions of every track on the album' is stretching things to be sure, but there's plenty there (including music video segments) to give you more than an idea of how rich the album is. For Kate Bush fans, this DVD is Recommended.