Kate Bush’s cult following might understandably recoil at Theo Bleckmann’s remakes of her material: There’s no way to approximate the impact of the interlocking of her elaborate song structure and astonishing vocals, so why go there?
But the jazz singer does go there on “Hello Earth! The Music of Kate Bush,” and at the very least, his passion for Bush’s songs is obvious.
Bleckmann is also ambitious as he maps out provocative jazz-adjacent art music, creating minor miracles and only a few blatant fails.
His miscalculations include his bored/drunk-sounding delivery on “Hello Earth,” an awkwardly grandstanding “Saxophone Song,” and an ill-fated revamp of Bush’s psychological freakout “Suspended in Gaffa,” which he converts into something akin to “Peanuts Gone Wild.”
Bleckmann and his supporting band of four employ piano, keyboards, percussion and more to better success elsewhere. The collection is book-ended by fine takes on two of Bush’s more popular songs — opener “Running Up That Hill” (striking with its spartan atmosphere) and closer “This Woman’s Work” (achieving tender beauty by way of the cooing harmonies of Bleckmann’s looped vocals).
Also, the group cleverly tweaks the source material while staying true to its original spirit on “Under Ice” (which builds with suffocation-based anxiety), “Watching You Without Me” (which replicates Bush’s apparitional tone complete with reverse vocals) and “the Man With the Child in His Eyes” (which marries earthy warmth to subdued mystery). The rousing rhythm of “Love and Anger” and marching drums of “Cloudbusting” are also nice touches, and “Army Dreamers” inspires with its contrast of grim lyrics and merry pace.
So the collection is replete with inventive touches that help offset the gratuitous nature of the album and its out-of-context sequencing of random songs from Bush’s catalogue.
Bleckmann’s studied, dutiful vocals may be no match for Bush’s hot-blooded expressiveness, but his love for the material comes through. And you can’t help but think Bush must be flattered by the effort.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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