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Kate gets flakey over Christmas

In England they have a special category of oddity that's defined as a National Treasure. For starters, there's Betty, creator of Betty's Hot Pot, a culinary concoction at the Rover's Return on Coronation Street. There's ukulele icon George Formby. It's an endless list.

The entire cast of the Carry On movies, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Sid James, Charles Hawtrey and the rest, fit the bill. Skanger pop-princess Cheryl Cole is regarded as a National Treasure.

The title track of this album features two such worthies. Ms Bush herself and gobby Oscar Wilde tribute act Stephen Fry.

National Treasures can do nothing wrong? That's a fallacy. Just like the nonsensical myth that folk who live in the Arctic region have 50 words for snow.

Not one to be put off, Kate Bush gives it a jolly good rattle and creates her own 50 words. Most of them are daft. "Spangladasha. Albadune. Icyskidki. Robber's veil . . ."

Fry intones this litany over a skittery jazz-funk backing track with Bush urging him on. "C'mon, you've got 32 to go . . ."



blizzard

It's an elaborate groove that goes nowhere which, I suppose, is what it's like dragging a sledge through a blizzard. After repeated listening you might feel like inventing your own terms. "Crystalscutter . . . Santa's snot . . . Whiteshite . . ."

Although featuring just seven songs, these sprawling jams amount to more than an hour's music.

Sonically, the album is a delight. The opening track, Snowflake, is built on a repetitive piano and bass refrain, with drums occasionally approximating a snowfall from a roof. Stylistically, it sits somewhere between New Age and Ambient Jazz. But it's hard to shake the suspicion that this is a weird Aled Jones Walking In The Air re-mix.

On the spectral Snowed in at Wheeler St, the narrative is delivered by two starcrossed lovers who flit through time. After their adventures down the centuries, here they meet in the snow. It's intriguing and is spoiled only by Elton John hamming it up. "We looked so good together . . ." Yeuch! Elton came runner-up in the National Treasure stakes.



yeti

Wild Man, Kate's ode to the Yeti formerly known as BigFoot, is the only upbeat groove on the album and bears an uncanny echo of David Bowie. Perhaps invoking the spirit of the Thin White Duke is an in-joke. Luckily, it's a good one.

Misty is another clever Bush conceit. A woman's romantic tryst with a snowman. "He lies down beside me . . ." Talk Talk were never this inventive. Or outrageous. "I can feel him melting in my hand . . ." The phrase "I want to make a snowman" will never sound innocent after this.

50 Words For Snow consolidates this artist's reputation as a daring, wacky and musically versatile visionary. But, while the musicianship throughout is, as they said back in the '80s, tasty, it is also a tad tiresome.

If Frosty the Snowman was good enough for Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, why not Kate Bush? HHHII


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