This is one of the songs that isn't going on the annual family Christmas CD. Why? Well, it's more than a bit long, I'm told.
It's from the brand-new Kate Bush album, also called 50 Words for Snow. You don't get to use the phrase "brand-new Kate Bush album" very often, and it's actually her second this year, after a reworking of her catalogue (Director's Cut) that was released this spring.
This is most definitely not a Christmas record, but it's great listening for this time of year. It's not about Christmas, but it is about winter, and particularly snow. It has a rich, complex sound, and while it's not something you'll want to play at, say, an office party (although I'd love to imagine the office where it would fit in!) I wonder what it would do for a snowed-in weekend morning.
The title track features Stephen Fry, in the guise of a character of (I think) a Siberian scientist, listing 50 words for snow, with Bush chanting back at him. Once again, it shows that Bush (whose talent for audio manipulation and sampling was many years ahead of her time) is sonically in her own league.
Today is June 16, which is one of those nice literary anniversaries, as it's the day that the events in James Joyce's novel Ulysses unfold.
To mark the occasion, here's the recently released remake Kate Bush did of her song The Sensusal World, this time as she meant to record it: with the lyrics of the Molly Bloom soliloquy at the novel's close. The James Joyce Estate had denied her permission for the original project, in 1989, but obviously came around.
The new version is called Flower of the Mountain:
Here's what the song sounded like when Bush wrote her own words; it's one of my favourites, and a great literary tip of the hat, too.
Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd had a hand in getting Kate Bush's career up and running; he tipped EMI off to the wunderkind when she was just 16, and has collaborated with her over the decades. This is a live performance made after Running Up That Hill was released in 1985; it sure seems dated just because of all that hair product! Always a great tune, though.
Kate Bush has released one great song about Christmas, but unfortunately not as a properly launched single. She did, many years earlier, release a proper Christmas single, but it, well, is a bit of an acquired taste, which is par for the course with the British singer, who has done things her way throughout her career (including taking a dozen years - 12! - to make her last record).
The good song is Home For Christmas, which was released in 1993 ... as a B-side, to the single Moments of Pleasure. Most people were not able to get the song commercially until the 2005 compilation Plugged In For the Holidays. (Interestingly, a cover version, by Diamond Jim Greene, was included, at almost twice the length, too, on the 1998 tribute album, I Wanna Be Kate.)
I love the song. It's short, charming, like a strummed gem perfect for late on a pre-Christmas night. I have a different reaction to Bush's one and only official Christmas-oriented single, December Will Be Magic Again, which was released in time for Christmas 1980, but was recorded a year earlier, as she set out to make songs like Babooshka and Army Dreamers. The song has that feeling, and the video below doesn't help it.
Here's the video (well, actually, it's just the audio) for Home For Christmas:
Almost for fun, here's the video from a much earlier, loopier time, and December Will Be Magic Again:
This is the 10th posting in a musical advent calendar I'm compiling this year, consisting of songs and albums I'd recommend. I'll have another one tomorrow, and each day through Christmas Eve.
I bought Kate Bush's Aerial a couple of weeks ago, and have played it intermittently since. It's actually worth playing more frequently ... it's good, and worth a long, long wait. I've always liked Kate Bush (I admire anyone who can turn a James Joyce soliloquoy into a hit song), but not with the passion of a lot of her fans. My colleague Kathryn described it well, of how Bush appeals to what she called "women of a certain age" ... that is, women who were young when Bush started out, and connected to her lyrics, music and/or image.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.