Stan Deely on 12 Albums in 12 Months – Lionheart
In early 1977, as a precocious 13 year old, I started reading the NME. This acquainted me with a new phenomenon to me, being aware of, and hearing the debut album by artists. That year’s soundtrack was Rattus Norvegicus, The Clash, In the City, Damned Damned Damned etc. Shortly after I become acquainted with a subsequent phenomenon – the disappointing sophomore second album syndrome typified by No More Heroes, Music for Pleasure, Love Bites etc – albums that seem to follow the same template as the debut just with weaker songs. (Although I’ve got a soft spot for the oft derided ‘This is the Modern World’ by the Jam. Despite a couple of shockers written by Bruce Foxton, I reckon Paul Weller’s writing goes into new territories and that there’s a couple of minor classics on it.)
On the first few listens Lionheart, released just over half a year after her eclectic and totally wonderful debut, seemed to conform to this stereotype. The songs are broadly from the same template as the Kick Inside, but seemed weaker, more mannered and with less variety than on the debut.
So will that remain the case, or will the album win me over? Let’s go through the tracks
RHAPSODY IN BLUE
Starts on a high. Satie influenced piano. Killer tune and probably the most thought out and impressive lyrics on the album. Kate alone in her blue room (A nod to Bowie?) musing on life, love and the universe. Light, effortless and catchy. Nicely symphonic without overdoing it – the kind of light symphonic pop that 10CC were doing at the time.
IN SEARCH OF PETER PAN
First few listens I just couldn’t register this song. It seemed to pass without making an impression but then it started to come into focus a bit.
Similar in style to a lot of tunes on the first album. Piano led ballad, the vocals in a high register that I find borderline challenging but it seems to soften as the song moves on. Picks up with a jaunty rhythm and gets pretty theatrical with some dramatic chords and chord changes. Builds nicely. Nice chorus. Then repeats. Competent but doesn’t really go anywhere the first album didn’t.
A hit after the lead off single Hammer Horror failed to make the top 30. Spooky beginning, possibly featuring a synth. Manages to be quite minimalist and understated yet forceful. Explodes in the chorus. Similar in many ways to Wuthering Hieights with its restrained verses leading into a lush, operatic, slightly over the top chorus. In fact you could almost sing the chorus of Wutherig Heights to this. A tribute to the actors life, treading the boards etc. Probably helped by an iconic video which I’m not sure I know but can imagine. Watching her on a recent Kate Bush at the BBC programme it is amazing how wide she could open her eyes whilst staring right into the camera. .
DON’T PUSH YOUR FOOT ON THE HEARTBRAKE
The first three songs all seemed to have a similar pace and rhythm but this one ups the tempo and the excitement. Starts with pacey piano, the band join in giving it further tension and pizzazz and then into a beakneck four to the floor beat for the chorus. Second verse ups the pressure featuring the whole band. At last here she seems to match the variety, playfulness and general WTFness of The Kick Inside tracks like Kite and Room for the Life
I’m not a Queen fan except for the odd song (I like all the ‘novelty ones – We Will Rock You, Crazy Little Thing and Another Bites the Dust) but this one reminds me of Queen in its control of dynamics
OH ENGLAND MY LIONHEART
What would have been side one ends with the title track – just Kate, her piano and strings. A heartfelt meaningful piano ballad a la ‘The Kick Inside. Can’t say that I am particularly taken with this one. It sounds meaningful to Kate but as someone, who due to inept teachers, has a shocking ignorance of British history I don’t really get what she is on about. And isn’t she of Irish descent. Maybe like Morrissey she too is Irish Blood, English Heart.
Very archetypal early Kate Bush. Contains all the ingredients. Mid paced, mid 70’s pop rock..A bit non-descript but I can imagine it working well interpreted in theatrical dance on the Tour of Life. Her vocal reminds me of Lyndsey De Paul – remember her.
IN THE WARM ROOM
Just Kate and piano. For me it works better than the similar Lionheart. . Shades of Lady Grinning Soul – a piano led ballad about ‘getting it on’ I think her vocal works well on this. It can get a bit too much when she is using her high pitch and the song is over arranged but here stripped down with just piano it is very affecting.
KASHKA FROM BAGHDAD
Continues the rather subdued theme of the previous song. Slightly eccentric arrangement, featuring a secondary piano line, with a touch of Aladdin Sane about it, that at first sounds a bit incongruous and unnecessary but ends up adding to the overall downbeat mood.. More of a mood piece than a complete song. Picks up a bit towards the end. Once again I wonder how it was portrayed on the Tour of Life. All things considered I like this one – it’s a bit different and breaks up the album.
This Music Hall waltz takes me back to 1970’s BBC Light Entertainment, – Good Old Days, Seaside Special, guest act on the Two Ronnies etc.. Chrous sounds like she is singing ‘Healthcliff’ but it is in fact ‘Crippen’. A jokey song about poisoning and murder! How serious is she?
There are also shade of Eastern Europe/Weimar republic in the melody. Definitely crosses into theatrical rock. Okay as an example of what the band can do but not one I will be returning to very often.
The first single from the album released October 1978 and only made it to number 44 which is weird as it’s a tune and a half. Dramatic opening chords. Operatic first verse and then the signature almost ompah pre chorus verse. Catchy chours.
Slightly strange subject matter for Kate. I though her more high culture, English Literature A level than the schlocky Hammer Horror films. However one has to remember that they were on every Friday evening and premier background sexual wallpaper for getting it on with your first girlfiend whilst she was babysitting for the posh young couple down the road. Would this have been young Kate’s experience?
Not me though. At the time this virgin was listening to John Peel on Friday nights. I believe he had a one hour slot 10 – 11pm before being bumped off for Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show exactly when this single was released.
Shame she didn’t continue down this path. She could have done the Carry Ons or even the Confessions films. I would have liked to have seen that on the Tour of Life.
Speaking of the Tour of Life I half watched but mostly listened to a whole concert on dodgy Youtube video whilst on a night shift recently. The bands sounds pretty good, especially on some of the Lionheart songs. The theatrics veer between corny and inspired but you gotta hand it to the girl singing, acting, dancing and changing costume without a breather for almost two hours. I was surprised how estuary the breathless song (and dance) bird sounded at the end when she addressed her loving audience.
I think it’s because she set such a high standard with The Kick Inside that this album feels a bit disappointing. If this had been her debut I think it would have been just as lauded. Along with the high points, Rhapsody in Blue (single in Japan), the two singles and Don’t Put your Foot on the Heartbrake,the songs that seemed a bit disappointing and uninspired on the second half of the album continue to reveal new facets and grow on me.
Your opinions as ever are valued. A worthy sophomore effort or disappointing one? Where does it stand in the canon? And I would love to have your opinions on the Tour of Life album/DVD/concert. Judging from your responses to the Kick Inside review I don’t think there’s anyone on the site who saw the Tour Of Life but I’d love to be proved wrong.