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Friday, August 1, 2014

50 Words For Kate: #26 - Soothing

There is a simple way to separate a fan from a casual listener: drop the name of an obscure B-side and see what happens. I suppose these days they're called "bonus tracks", but it amounts to the same thing. These are the songs that didn't make the cut; they either didn't fit the "feel" of an album, didn't work out quite as the artist hoped, or scratched an itch of experimentation. Sometimes they are the chance to cover a track they wish they'd written. Occasionally they're an early demo of a song, a chance for fans to see the sketchbook of ideas before the gloss is applied.


Regardless of why a track becomes a B-side, it would be wrong to assume they are throwaways. An artist like Kate Bush does not release anything that fails her stringent quality assessments, so over the years we have been treated to some true delights on the obverse of her better known A-sides. These gems used to be hard to find, but many now live again on YouTube and are worth the effort to locate. Here are three of the best of Kate's B-sides.

Under The Ivy (B-side to Running Up That Hill, 1985)

Given the all-conquering brilliance of its A-side, it could be easy to overlook Under The Ivy, if it were not one of the most beautiful songs Kate has ever written. At just over two minutes long, it is a perfectly formed story of secret tryst. It is, for me, the ultimate example of one of Kate's piano ballads. There is something so pure about those songs where she just sits at the keys and pours out her soul. This is not just Kate's greatest B-side, it is among the best songs she has ever recorded. Here she is performing it live at Abbey Road studios. Doesn't that smile at the end just floor you?



Warm And Soothing (B-side to December Will Be Magic Again, 1980)

Another piano ballad, this time Kate is in reflective mood. Given she was in her early twenties when this tale of wistful nostalgia was written and recorded, she manages to perfectly capture the ache of a tired relationship and a quiet desperation at the all-too-swift passing of time. As well as a precocious insight, Kate delivers one of her most haunting vocals on this track. Worth a listen if just to hear Kate purr the word "boozy"...



My Lagan Love (B-side to Cloudbusting, 1985)

Kate has often talked about her love of traditional music. For this track she took the well-recognised Irish air and, with the help of her poet brother, John Carder Bush, created a new set of lyrics to accompany it. It is remarkable amongst Kate's recordings as the only a capella performance she has given. This allows us to truly appreciate Kate's voice for the unique and extraordinary instrument it is.



I like to think of Kate's B-sides as little love letters to her fans, a "thank you" for our devotion. They show us sides of her craft we might not otherwise see and add to the richness of her body of work. The A-sides might hog all the glory and the limelight, but for me, Kate's B-sides will always burn brightly.




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