Friday, June 29, 2018

50 Words

From an opening line that evokes the quiet of snowfall  (she's falling, falling, falling as she sensually cries, "Let me hear your 50 words for snow"), 50 Words glistens at a glacial pace. This is no Santa-ridden, cliched Christmas album - obviously, it's not a Christmas album at all - rather something akin to Joni Mitchell's "River" as a part of an extended winter-laden mix. The chill moods of these songs are such that one sees his breath in the winter air and feels the weight of snow-covered trees. It starts with "Snowflake" a stunning hymn that echoes Robert Frost's "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening." The song's haunting piano coda plays out over nearly ten minutes in which Kate's 13-year-old son, Bertie, offers an eerie "Snowman" choirboy quality as he intones, "I can see horses wading through snowdrifts/ My broken hearts, my fabulous dances/ My fleeting song, fleeting." 

Bush's vocal is a joy which she then goes on to better in the next two exquisite songs that proceed against the backdrop of a musical whiteout. "Lake Tahoe" is over 11 minutes and starts with the dulcet tones of English counter tenor Stephan Roberts. Its piano meanders, carving out blissful melodies over Kate Bush's best vocal on the album, in a song infused with an almost Talk Talk ambiance. Next up, "Misty," is about the love of a human for a snowman, which suggests frivolity, but far from it. Starting like a Keith Jarrett jazz composition, Bush proceeds over nearly 14 minutes to chart the inevitable waning of doomed passion. By any standard, these songs represent an opening of near perfection, and combined with the glorious finale, the sublime "Among Angels," one could not ask for more.

Nevertheless it would be uncharacteristic without its indirect routes and quirky detours. The single "Wild Man" is the nearest to her "traditional" style as she embarks on a Yeti hunt accompanied by Andy Fairweather Low. "Snowed in at Wheeler Street" is a duet with Elton John, and finally the title track sees the ubiquitous Stephen Fry reciting 50 [often made up] words for snow over brilliant drumming by Steve Gadd and exhortations by KB with shouts of "come on man you got 41 to go." Kate has captured the pristine, fragile quality of snow in the same way that Vivaldi on the Four Seasons somehow seized the drama of icy rain in the winter Concerto No. 4.