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Damaged Dames and the keyboards they love: Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor

One of my very favorite novels is Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” (she is absolutely my favorite) but as novels go it doesn’t translate well into other mediums: even the Olivier movie was wrecked by Merle Oberon’s performance. So it is is bizarre indeed that in 1979 the nineteen year old English girl Kate Bush’s first single “Wuthering Heights” was such a brilliant transmogrification from one medium to another.
Keyboardist Bush had a restrained hysteria more than apt (and something of a calling card) for the sentiments and central to both the album, the terrific and eccentric “The Kick Inside.”
Fast forward three years and you will find Kate releasing “The Dreaming” and me nervously waiting to interview her for Creem. I had heard rumors about her difficultness (the day before my interview she had walked out of somebody else’s). Kate hated the business of business, complained bitterly about the manipulations of the record companies and left back to England before i got the chance to speak to her and promptly cancelled her tour and had a break down…
Meanwhile, Tori Amos was born into the church and rejected the church before forming a band who went nowhere in the late 80s.
And then she was raped by a guy she was giving a lift to.
And then in the early 90s she rode her keyboards and Alternative rock on two quirky to put it mildly, femalecentric, off beat classics and then a third “Boys For Pele” -a great album I consider her best. I caught her on tour and thought she was a revelation: a halycon of desire and dementia.
Since then she has released a number of albums, some (“Strange Little Girl”) better then others (“Scarlett’s Walk”). Tori’s latest, “Abnormally Attracted To Sin” is a major disappointment.
But more hysterical then either Bush or Tori is Fiona Apple: raped at the age of twelve she took up the keyboards and released an album, “Tidal,” I consider brilliant and some women I know consider a flat out masterpiece (my friend Diana wrote a very revealing piece about it -I wish i could find it- but the connection between artist and consumer was amazing).
Yet she was another mess, cursing out the biz, melting down on stage, hiding and embracing and hiding from fame. until in 2005 releasing my fave album of that year, the jazz-pop confection “Extraordinary Machine”. Fiona was nervous but absorbing on the tour.
I bought tix to see Regina Spektor next June at the Beacon and got two free songs from her upcoming album “Far”.
Regina is a Russian keyboard player and her last two albums (I haven’t heard her first) are first rate. “Soviet Kitsch’ is underproduced and a touch too quirky but her voice is a marvel and the follow up “Begin To Hope” is a pop triumph that has broken her out of the New York underground with a vengence.
Last year I saw her play with an orchestra on Cyndi Lauper’s “True Blue” benefit for gay rights… which, along with “Lady,” would appear to lay to rest gossip about her sexuality. A year before that she recorded the best Beatles cover I have ever heard, “Real Love”.
The two songs I’ve heard from “Far” don’t seem to completely fix the question of production (and since Jeff Lynne -JEFF LYNNE?????- has produced some songs on “Far” I doubt the album will) but both are excellent and “Blue Lips” is more than that.
Which leads me to a question as to whether the female keyboard songwriter is always going to end up some Ophelian hysteric pounding her fears away? Or whether it even matters?

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