(Fish People / EMI)
Kate Bush has not performed in concert since 1979, but imagine for a moment that she had staged an intimate, one-off live show in the early 2000s and recorded it for posterity. And that restricting the set list to songs from two of her previous albums, The Sensual World (1989) and The Red Shoes (1993), she played for around an hour, sometimes subtly tinkering with the material, sometimes radically revamping it.
It never happened, of course, but if it had the resulting album might have sounded a lot like Director's Cut. The follow-up to 2005's Aerial finds Bush, an artist generally opposed to revisionism, selecting 11 songs from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes and shaking them up with the kind of direct, re-energising vigour that defines a memorable live performance.
Both albums were very much products of their time. Synthetic, somewhat cluttered and overly compressed, the overall sound didn't always do justice to the material. On Director's Cut Bush has recorded new vocals and drums for every song, often adding several more musical touches. She has also stripped away much extraneous detail. This process liberates songs such as Never Be Mine and Song of Solomon from the tyranny of dated production techniques and allows them to really breathe - and, in the case of Lily, gives Bush sufficient elbow room to roll out one of her most abandoned, furiously thrilling vocal performances for decades.
Generally speaking these are not radical reinterpretations but vibrant acts of sonic restoration. The songs sound more soulful, full of a new-found sense of space, with the rhythm playing a far more significant role thanks to a big, meaty bass kick and Steve Gadd's rolling drums.
The big news on Director's Cut is that three tracks have been re-recorded in their entirety. This Woman's Work is the boldest and most beautiful. Bush's reimagining of one of her most famous songs transforms a piano ballad into something chilling and almost ambient. It's deeply moving, as is the soft, sorrowful Moments of Pleasure, stripped down here to just voice, piano and choir. Rubberband Girl, meanwhile, is perhaps the biggest surprise, an extemporaneous off-cut that channels the spirit of The Rolling Stones. Bush has slightly dropped the keys to many songs to accommodate the deeper timbre of her voice. On Flower of the Mountain - a new version of The Sensual World on which she sings Molly Bloom's Ulysses soliloquy, having finally been granted permission from James Joyce's estate - she sounds startlingly close, her low, sensuous vocal perfectly evoking a middle-aged woman looking back to her early life. Yet what should be momentous ends up sounding oddly detached and static.
There are other misfires, most notably the overly literal Deeper Understanding and a disappointingly tepid reworking of And So is Love, while the project as a whole lacks the genuine sense of event an album of new material would have engendered. Hearing Bush grappling with her legacy is a rare enough occurrence to prove compelling, but ultimately Director's Cut is likely to be chalked up as an enjoyable curio rather than a classic.