Chill­ing to Kate’s snowy flurry

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODSOUNDS -

MARK BEECH

KATE Bush’s al­bum 50 Words for Snow about bleak mid­win­ter may send chills down your spine.

The signs weren’t good af­ter a spate of iffy con­cept al­bums from fe­male singer-song­writ­ers, in­clud­ing Tori Amos and Bjork.

The fes­tive CD idea is also wear­ing thin. Tony Ben­nett’s The Clas­sic Christ­mas Al­bum fol­lows St­ing’s If on a Win­ter’s Night and Bob Dy­lan in 2009.

Yet Bush pulls it off with style. The seven rap­tur­ous tracks “set against the back­ground of fall­ing snow” are as well done as the water- themed The Ninth Wave in 1985. The al­bum starts with Bush’s 12-year-old son Al­bert’s choir-boy voice on Snowflake. Think of Robert Frost’s hedges freaked with bl­iz­zards or the end of James Joyce’s The Dead. This is mag­i­cal stuff.

Only rarely does it go wrong, as with El­ton John’s sten­to­rian per­for­mance on Snowed in on Wheeler Street.

The ti­tle track also is un­con­vinc­ing – an am­bi­ent mix with ac­tor­co­me­dian Stephen Fry recit­ing a list of fab­ri­cated words (Eski­mos are said to have 50 terms for snow).

Bush had a 12- year mu­si­cal pause un­til Aerial in 2005, and this al­bum comes months af­ter Di­rec­tor’s Cut. It’s so good to have her back.

I never thought I’d be re­view­ing a Ben­nett al­bum (apart from the pass­ing ref­er­ence to his Christ­mas com­pi­la­tion above).

Yet here we are, and it’s a pos­i­tive write-up too.

Duets II is ex­actly what it says on the box: the sec­ond of a col­lec­tion where the vet­eran swinger com­munes with more re­cent stars.

Ben­nett, 85, de­liv­ers a well­judged set. Apart from the much­vaunted Body and Soul duet with the late Amy Wine­house, also on her post­hu­mous Li­on­ess al­bum, there’s a hi­lar­i­ous ver­sion of The Lady Is a Tramp with Lady Gaga.

Michael Stipe an­nounced the demise of his band REM in Septem- ber, say­ing the art of par­ty­ing is know­ing when to leave. The band nearly quit in 1997, when drum­mer Bill Berry re­tired. Still, they leave a long shadow.

Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011 is the group’s pick of its best ma­te­rial, and all the big hits are there.

The main at­trac­tion for fans is three new tracks, in­clud­ing the string-drenched We All Go Back to Where We Be­long.

Still, there are other com­pi­la­tions of these kings of in­die rock and this one is ef­fort­lessly bet­tered as an in­tro­duc­tion by al­bums such as Au­to­matic for the Peo­ple and Out of Time. – Washington Post

SNOW JOKE: Kate Bush

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