Sometimes you’ve gotta wonder: Why do long lauded artists of yester-decade seem so insistent on aggrandizing LPs of eras past in an age of evanescent attention spans? Ever enigmatic English chanteuse Kate Bush could’ve easily ignited the passions of her completists by unfurling her respective 1989 and 1993 efforts The Sensual World and The Red Shoes as deluxe editions, but neither of those expanded packages would’ve likely debuted The UK Albums Chart at number two, as this release, Director’s Cut, did this week. That said, she could’ve also opted to record and release an album of new material, but for fans this will have to do.
Not unlike Paul McCartney did by editing Phil Spector out of Let It Be with Let It Be Naked, and almost exactly like post-punk luminaries Gang of Four did on their 2005 reunion record Return the Gift, Cut is — true to its name — very George Lucas. On it, Bush revamps, revises and — in some cases — re-records 11 hand-picked Sensual World and Red Shoes gems in a predictably divisive act of musical revisionism.
How you judge and enjoy Director’s Cut really depends on where you fall philosophically on its plan of attack. If it isn’t a problem for you; if you’re not married to the time-capsule aesthetic of the original recordings, then there’s plenty to enjoy in an undeniably stellar set of songs, executed with a more resolute attitude, and with vastly varying changes in nuance — from stripped rhythm tracks to elongated intros. But if you just can’t abide Bush’s approach, then there’s simply no pleasing you, and you can expect to only be surprised at best, and frustrated at worst.
Some tracks, like “This Woman’s Work,” are stretched out in length while fairly preserved in sound, while others, like “Never Be Mine,” are not only made longer, but stripped of their momentum, tension and youthful vigor. Like most anything in the Bush catalogue, this record is gorgeous, shimmering with with an otherworldly air of resolve throughout, but at day’s end the effort doesn’t really reveal a “Deeper Understanding” of the original recordings it references. And therein lies the problem — none of these cropped and re-imagined takes are drastic enough to add huge insights into Bush’s output as they do her finicky outlook on her own work. Work that is, generally, great in any context.