Remastered Kate Bush Fish People/Warner In 1978, as punk reached its peak as the voice of Britain’s disaffected youth, a 19-year-old woman released an exquisitely odd album made with prog-rock session hands and featuring a lead single about an Emily Bronte TV adaptation. That Wuthering Heights and parent album The Kick Inside each went to No 1 was early proof of Kate Bush’s peculiar genius and an indication that she was not to be defined by prevailing musical trends. That’s made abundantly clear throughout her career-spanning 10-album, four-decade box set split into two remastered CD sets or four vinyl collections.
Volume one presents the young artist finding her voice over four wildly idiosyncratic albums spanning her debut through to 1982’s The Dreaming, and it’s these albums where the remastering especially shines. Even familiar songs such as Babooshka, The Man With the Child in His Eyes or Army Dreamers reveal new sonic elements: a percussion flourish here, a buried vocal harmony there. The second vinyl collection begins with what’s generally regarded as her masterpiece. Hounds of Love from 1986 was the second entirely Bushproduced album, pieced together using a Fairlight computer. It’s the one that seemed most at risk of the remastering showing the limits of its technology. Thankfully, it’s still a thrilling listen with those synthesised drums at the beginning of Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) sounding full and solid, and the side two concept suite of The Ninth Wave popping out of the speakers.
The third collection picks up with 2005’s Aerial, Bush’s comeback after taking a break from music — intended as one year, stretching out to 12 — following the birth of her son Bertie, immortalised on the track of the same name. And here’s one surprise, indicating that this remastering process has involved the odd cheeky remix: vocals by the disgraced Rolf Harris have been quietly wiped and replaced by her now-adult son.
The final collection soaks up the odds and sods: 12-inch versions, B-sides, soundtrack contributions and covers. While this feels a bit like browsing through an op shop, there are some essential gems: the Hounds of Love remix is an entirely different song, and her take on Elton John’s Rocket Man is a rare cover that is (arguably) superior to the original.
With much of her early stuff out of print, this set is a welcome reminder not only of the consistently high quality of her music but also that she never stopped being — well, weird. Her range is astonishing, from a cockneyaccented single about safecracking ( There Goes a Tenner) to traditional Irish music ( Jig of Life) to adult contemporary pop in 1993’s The Red Shoes and the dominant voice and piano of 2011’s 50 Words for Snow. As a document of her work, Remastered makes an elegant case for Bush as one of the most important artists of the past 40 years.