The Red Shoes
Until recently I’d always avoided The Red Shoes, as it generally has a reputation as one of Bush’s weaker albums. To its detriment, it does feel bloated and commercially oriented – with 12 songs running for almost an hour, and stacked with guest cameos from Eric Clapton, Prince, and Jeff Beck. But fundamentally, the songs here are strong, and it’s a much more consistent album than The Sensual World, even if the commercial production can be distracting.
The Red Shoes is often informed by heartache; Bush lost her mother and her guitarist Alan Murphy, while she’d also ended her long-term relationship with bassist and engineer Del Palmer. This heartache permeates songs like the beautiful ‘Moments of Pleasure’, with its beautiful piano figure, while Bush plays guitars and bass on the angry ‘Big Stripey Lie’.
While some of the guest appearances are dispensable, the Prince collaboration on ‘Why Should I Love You’ is a highlight, with Prince production and a memorable organ riff. There are more left-field surprises on the funk beat of ‘Constellation of the Heart’ and the bouncy ‘Eat The Music’
It’s certainly not a masterpiece on the level of The Dreaming or The Hounds of Love, but there is plenty of strong material on The Red Shoes, and it feels like it’s been undervalued in Bush’s discography. Bush didn’t release another studio album for 12 years while she raised her son, while she later reworked many of these tracks on 2011’s The Director’s Cut.