Sound — 10
In the decade that taste forgot, Kate Bush's 1985 release, Hounds of Love, proved to be a major artistic and commercial breakthrough for the UK based artist. Her previous work, 1982's The Dreaming was received with mixed reviews and low sales leading Bush to drop from the public eye for three years and build her own private home studio. After The Dreaming, there were no compromises. Bush was in full control of her work and worked on her own time. The album's first single, "Running Up That Hill" was debuted on the Wogan Show and quickly climbed up the charts giving Bush her highest charting single since 1978's "Wuthering Heights". A whopping three other Top 40 singles were released from the album, which itself climbed to #1 on the UK Charts, knocking Madonna to #2. Yet even though it was a commercially successful album, it was by no means less artistic than The Dreaming. While her previous album relied heavily on the Fairlight CMI, Bush incorporated more eclectic instruments and covered a wider range of musical styles and emotions. Side A is a collection of 5 unrelated pop songs beginning with "Running Up That Hill" and concluding with a majestic finish to "Cloudbusting". Bush truly utilizes the LP's second side by making it wholly unrelated to the first, resulting in a half art rock, half concept album. Side B ("The Ninth Wave") contains a suite of songs relating a woman drowning at sea and her fight for survival. It begins with a soft ballad and builds to the truly frightening studio engineered voices of "Waking the Witch". An Irish jig is another musical style Bush experiments with in "Jig of Life". Overall, the sound is absolutely incredible on both sides of the album as Bush is able to create wide, vast soundscapes reflecting the ocean itself. Her wide range of musical styles is shown in the 80's pop of "Hounds of Love" and "Running Up That Hill" compared to the Gregorian- like chants of "Hello Earth" and the free form, percussive "The Big Sky".
Lyrics — 10
Bush is a natural storyteller, utilizing the power of music to weave her tales. "Running Up That Hill" deals with the desire to swap places with one's lover, for men and women are so different. "Hounds of Love" and "The Big Sky" both talk about letting go of inhibition, reflected perfectly by the free form flow of the verses. Yet Bush isn't afraid to tackle more difficult and obscure subjects such as the case in "Cloudbusting". The song is based on a novel dealing with a father/son relationship. (In the music video, Bush played the son while Donald Sutherland played the father.) The father is a scientist who built a machine to create various weather patterns. He is taken away by the government, yet the son is able to continue the work and be successful at it. Difficult topic, but simply stunning when backed by its march-like cello phrases. Yet it is "The Ninth Wave" that ultimately impresses lyrically, as Bush is given ample time to tell a story instead of the usual 4 minutes of a pop song. "And Dream of Sheep" is the soft opening to the suite a the woman struggles to stay awake. She knows if she falls asleep, she will drown. Yet as she sings "They take me deeper, and deeper... " she begins to sleep leading into the nightmare soundscape of "Under Ice". She wakes up to the various voices of family and friends urging her to stay awake ("Waking the Witch", but a devil-like voice intrudes and attempts to drag the woman underwater. Moving along into "Watching You Without Me", the woman reflects on how her loved one at home is waiting for her yet she cannot reach out for him and his aid. "Jig of Life" is pure poetry as the woman is confronted by her future self, urging her to continue her fight. A poem is read at the end of the piece, leading into "Hello Earth", the suite's beautiful and powerful climax, and ending with "The Morning Fog". As a lyricist, Bush has never been so creative and expressive as in the case of "Hounds of Love". Her singing matches perfectly with the subject matter she writes about and her lyrics are pure poetry.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall, "Hounds of Love" is my favorite album of all time. It's daring, dreamy, bold and beautiful. It gave Bush immortality as she was inducted into The Songwriter's Hall of Fame following the release of the album. It's cultural impact was huge as Bush finally started seeing sales in the US because of the 12" mix of "Running Up That Hill" selling high on charts. The music videos for the four singles are equally impressive, especially that of "Cloudbusting" which moves like a true film piece and "Running Up That Hill" which is a pure modern dance work. Bush, as time goes by, may prove to be as the single greatest influence on female artists, for it was her who truly pushed the boundaries of pop music and how much art it could take. In the decade taste forgot, Bush pushed all boundaries and still turned out the successful Queen of UK Pop that she is now.