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Review of I WANNA BE KATE

By Chelsea Spear, "Consumable Online" #155, Sept 21, 1998.

In the liner notes for the tribute to Kate Bush, I WANNA BE KATE, executive producer Thomas Dunning talks of discovering the adventurous, innovative singer/songwriter through Pat Benatar's cover of "Wuthering Heights". Somehow I find this heartening. While I have a great deal of respect for Bush's considerable craft, and love the musicians to whom she's served as muse, I can't call myself a huge fan of her work. Sacrilege, I know, but if this die-hard can discover Kate through the leotard-clad forebear to Alanis Morrisette, there's hope for us all.

My main reason for wanting to hear this record was to experience Syd Straw's rendition of "The Man With The Child In His Eyes". Her spare, emotionally evocative and utterly beautiful rendition of the classic tune does not disappoint, though Straw's considerable voice sounds thin and strange from using her upper register so extensively. Nevertheless, her voice retains in emotional content what it loses in technical prowess - it still sounds like a nerve ending, crackling with life and imbued with deep sonic hues.

The other artists on the album succeed through different avenues. Susan Voelz' erotic reading of "The Sensual World" and the Celtic-flavoured "Jig of Life" as performed by Catherine Smitko remain faithful to the original recordings, while putting their own personality behind them to great affect. Justin Roberts' rendition of "You're The One" is better than it has any right to be, given the Casio instrumentation and Roberts' unfortunate vocal resemblance to Jim Creggan of the Barenaked Ladies, but his belief in and love of the material helps him to pull it off. The Moviegoers ride a bright, euphoric pop crescendo to excellent affect on "Hounds of Love", and the Middle Eastern tones that the Plunging Necklines and Trinkets of Joy respectively bring to "Kashka from Bagdahd/Babooshka" and "Love and Anger" complement the source material, with the Necklines' haunting vocal harmonies enducing goosebumps in this writer. Even The Baltimores' radical retread of "Running Up That Hill", which owes a significant debt to Butterscott's cover of "Karma Chameleon" and the playful indie-rock of Tully Craft, works.

So what doesn't work as successfully? Every compilation and artist tribute must have a few clinkers, and I WANNA BE KATE is no exception. The comp hits its nadir with Diamond Jim Greene's banjo-happy take on "Home for Christmas", which bears an inappropriate resemblance to something from the Lowell George songbook. Mouse put a stunningly awful grunge-metal spin on "Coffee Homeground", which left a bitter taste in my mouth, and the rap version of "There Goes A Tenner" by The J Davis Trio loses something in translation.

All in all, I WANNA BE KATE is a decent collection of covers that inspired me to dust off my old Kate Bush albums and throw them on. While this compilation will hold special appeal for die-hard fans, this reviewer recommends it especially to people who might have found her work intriguing but didn't know where to start.

- by Chelsea Spear, "Consumable Online" #155 Sept 21, 1998.


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