Kate Bush Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

Kate Bush exploded into popular music with her first single, 1978’s ‘Wuthering Heights’. She became the first artist to have an entirely self-penned number-one single in the UK, and she achieved this milestone while she was still a teenager. ‘Wuthering Heights’ is still Bush’s signature track, inspiring the annual event The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever, but it merely heralded the beginning of a celebrated and creative career.

Bush hasn’t been very prolific, only releasing nine albums of original material in her forty years as a recording artist, but that just means that almost everything she’s recorded is worth hearing. The folk music from her Irish mother, the progressive rock that her older brothers listened to as teenagers, and radio-friendly pop like Elton John are all melded into Kate Bush’s distinctive art-pop.

I’ve only covered Bush’s studio records of original material. This overlooks 2011’s The Director’s Cut, which contains reworkings of material from 1989’s The Sensual World and 1993’s The Red Shoes. It also leaves out live albums – most recently, 2016’s Before the Dawn.

Kate Bush Albums: Ranked

Kate Bush Lionheart

#9 Lionheart

Kate Bush’s second album arrived less than ten months after her debut. It wasn’t rushed in terms of song-writing – Bush had written most of these songs before she released The Kick Inside – but in terms of recording and production. Bush later told Sounds that “Considering how quickly we made it it’s a bloody good album, but I’m not really happy with it”. The single ‘Wow’ is strong, showing off Bush’s vocal acrobatics in the chorus, and there’s enough personality throughout Lionheart to satisfy dedicated fans.

Kate Bush The Sensual World

#8 The Sensual World

Bush followed up the phenomenally successful Hounds of Love with the platinum-selling The Sensual World. After the unified album statement of Hounds, The Sensual World feels more like a collection of odds and bobs. Some songs are terrific, like ‘Love and Anger’, fuelled by David Gilmour’s aggressive guitar, and the adult contemporary of ‘This Woman’s Work’. Overall The Sensual World feels lethargic, although the Trio Bulgarka add some welcome energy and weirdness to tracks like ‘Rocket’s Tail’.

Kate Bush 50 Words For Snow

#7 50 Words for Snow

Bush’s most recent studio album is still 2011’s 50 Words for Snow. The title is taken from the urban legend that the Inuit have 50 words for snow – on the title track Stephen Fry drops in to recite 50 phrases like “anklebreaker” and “erase-o-dust”. Sir Elton John duets with Bush on the overwrought but enjoyable ‘Snowed in on Wheeler Street’, while veteran drummer Steve Gadd’s drumming is an important component. Often atmosphere takes precedence over songcraft, but 50 Words for Snow is still immersive and impressive.

Kate Bush The Red Shoes

#6 The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes was accompanied by a short film, The Line, the Cross and the Curve. It suffers from the CD bloat of the early 1990s, running for 55 minutes, and it’s stuffed with appearances with guest stars like Eric Clapton and Prince. There’s a solid collection of tunes here nonetheless, like the gorgeous piano-based ‘Moments of Pleasure’ and the madcap single ‘Rubberband Girl’.

Kate Bush The Kick Inside

#5 The Kick Inside

Released at the age of 19, Bush’s debut album provided a confident start to her career. Even more impressively, ‘The Man With the Child in His Eyes’ and ‘The Saxophone Song’ were recorded when Bush was 16. Lead single ‘Wuthering Heights’ remains Bush’s signature song, a soaring and romantic adaptation of the Bronte tale. There’s lots of solid album material too – the gentle beauty of ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’, the controversial title track, and the more rock-oriented ‘James and the Cold Gun’.

#4 Never For Ever

Bush rebounded from the disappointing Lionheart with a confident third album. Never For Ever was the first album of original by a female solo artist to enter the UK chart at number one. It’s more diverse than before – the singles alone furnish the record with the acoustic waltz of ‘Army Dreamers’, the intense art-pop of ‘Breathing’, and the energetic pop-rock of ‘Babooshka’.

Kate Bush Aerial

#3 Aerial

After a twelve-year hiatus, Bush returned triumphantly with the double album Aerial. The first disc is enjoyable, with songs like ‘Pi’ and ‘Mrs. Bartolozzi’ that revel in the mundane. The second disc is magnificent, a song cycle that tracks a day of a couple’s adventures in the outdoors. It culminates in ‘Nocturne’, an ambient and funky wonder propelled by the drumming of Weather Report’s Peter Erskine – “we stand in the Atlantic/And we become panoramic” is a great line.

#2 The Dreaming

The Dreaming was Kate Bush’s first self-produced record. She took advantage of her artistic freedom to spend hours in the studio with a Fairlight CMI digital sampling synthesizer. She explored different textures – Irish folk on ‘Night of the Swallow’ and indigenous Australia on the title track. The songs of The Dreaming are like mini-movies – a portrait of ‘Houdini’ and a tale from the Vietnam War on ‘Pull Out The Pin’. The album’s first two singles are heavy going, but The Dreaming presents Bush’s genius at its most unfettered.

Kate Bush The Hounds Of Love

#1 Hounds of Love

The Dreaming was a disappointing seller by Bush’s standards. Bush responded by taking time off, before building a home studio so that she could record whenever she wanted. Like The Dreaming, Hounds of Love was constructed on the Fairlight – this time Bush took her demos and polished and overdubbed them in the studio. The results are far more accessible, particularly the first side, loaded with hits like ‘Running Up That Hill’ and ‘Cloudbusting’. The second side is a song cycle about drowning, and songs like ‘And Dream of Sheep’ and ‘Jig of Life’ are gorgeous. It’s worth picking up an expanded version for phenomenal outtakes like ‘Under the Ivy’ and ‘My Lagan Love’.

What’s your favourite Kate Bush album?

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    • What I find really funny is when people rank her albums they are always in a different order and that is because her albums brilliantly create different moods and different eras and I think it is what you feel you can relate to or what touches you the most because she is brilliantly experimental and way ahead of her time. I have always observed Hounds of Love near the top but that is one of the few of her albums I never bought because I didn’t think it was as good as a lot of her earlier work. For me I have always loved Never For Ever as it absolutely transports me to the most beautiful fairy-tale world.

      • Thanks for writing in! I don’t think it would be any fun ranking albums if they were always in the same order. I’m surprised that you don’t find the second half of Hounds of Love transportation though – for me, it’s the perfect balance – singles on side one and the dreamy suite on side two.

  1. Strong agree on your #1 and #2 . . . but I’d have “Sensual World” nipping at their heels for the Bronze Medal on my Kate list, with a big gap after that. These days, I tend to listen to those three regularly, plus “The Whole Story” now and again to give me the earlier stuff I enjoy the most. (Though I wish “Delius” had made that compilation). I liked “Aerial” well enough, but “Snow” didn’t do much for me. And I’d have “Red Shoes” in the basement, by a large margin. Of course . . . her worst album still tops the best that a lot of other folks have ever put out, so it’s all a relative scale!

    • I’m well aware that Sensual World is the controversial placement on this list – I just find it a little slow and torpid, although there are some really good tracks. I think Red Shoes is probably objectively worse, but for me it’s way more energetic and diverse.

  2. I’m familiar with some of her songs (because of hunting for them) more than her albums. I first heard and seen her on SNL. She did not get the airplay over here.

    • I think she’s just about the most deserving person to not be in the rock and roll hall of fame too – the fact that Stevie Nicks is in as a solo artist from the same era shows a pretty big American bias IMO.

      • Would Joni Mitchell be a good comparison? Nicks was setup because of Fleetwood Mac’s fame…personally I like Christine more but that is off the subject. I get what you are saying.
        I’m not sure why Bush never hit over here. Maybe too British? I hate saying that because there is nothing wrong with being too British.

        • I’m gearing up to review The Jam at the moment, and I think they’re pretty much the most British band ever. Huge in the UK, obscure in the states. Lots of their best stuff on non-album singles and b-sides, which is a very British thing to do. Took me a while to understand Weller’s accent.
          Bush is up there close to Mitchell as a female solo artist I reckon? I’d probably throw someone like Bjork in the conversation too.

  3. I think the Dreaming is my favorite. All of her other albums are the kind of albums where I just enjoy the highlights but I never enjoy the whole thing. She needs a good Best of. The Whole Story is pretty great but she needs one that includes all the good songs from the later albums too. Especially Eat the Music and Top of the City and The Sensual World and a few more. Because I never listen to the whole albums that those songs come from. Hounds of Love and the Dreaming are the only ones I’d ever listen to. I even liked a couple of the remakes on Director’s Cut though.

    • Thanks for writing in! I went through our lists and compared them with Rate Your Music’s ranking.
      Your biggest outlier was The Dreaming – ranked at #2 by RYM users, but down at #7 for you.
      My biggest outliers were Aerial (me #3, RYM #6), Red Shoes (me #6, RYM #9), and Sensual World (me #8, RYM #5).
      Looks like we’re both quite unusual in not really appreciating The Sensual World much!

  4. yeah but every artist needs a really good official Best’of. Because as time goes on and an artist is more and more unfamiliar to new audiences, if they have the kind of best of that becomes identified with them it really does wonders for their reputation. And playlists are just too unreliable for someone who’s not that familiar with the artist’s stuff. Sometimes they’re more likely to turn someone off than to create interest in the artist. But a really well-chosen one can create a real interest in someone.

  5. I absolutely adore Kate Bush. I previously said on my site that most artists would die for a back catalogue so widely diverse and original in concept like Kate Bush. I still think that. You are spot on too with Hounds of Love at #1.

    • Yup, one of the best female solo artists of the rock era – maybe not quite up there with Joni Mitchell or Aretha Franklin, but it’s a travesty that she’s not in the rock and roll hall of fame.

  6. Great stuff. Hounds is clear far and away #1. Interestingly over the last 30+ years I have come to enjoy side 2 more than the ore commercially accessible side 1. “dream of Sheep” and the closing one two of “Hello Earth” and “The Morning Fog” are sublime. I’d argue “The Morning Fog” might be the greatest closer to any record ever…particularly given the journey Kate puts the listener through.
    I’d quibble with the ranking of Sensual World but whatever. She’s a true artist and I’m just happy I get to be a fan.
    Now if we can get her to tour….

    • Thanks for writing in!
      I’m well aware that Sensual World is the provocative placement on the list, but I’ve never really warmed to it (and I’ve owned it on CD for almost 20 years). Too many slow songs that don’t go anywhere.
      ‘Morning Fog’ is a great track – I’ve always assumed that it’s taken from James 4:14 in the Bible. “Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” Fits with the theme of drowning.

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