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A Grown-Up Kate Bush Veers Closer to Earth : KATE BUSH "The Sensual World." Columbia ****

November 05, 1989|STEVE HOCHMAN

Goddess or gooney bird? Even some of this English progressive popstress' loyalists sometimes have to wonder. Though on 1985's "Hounds of Love" Bush stripped away many of the quirks of youthful exuberance that had marred her unique approach, some will always find her attention-getting vocals precious and her quasi-cosmic outlook and naked emotionalism off-putting. But this, her first album since "Hounds," is even more mature and accomplished. As Bush herself sings in "The Fog," "You see, I'm all grown up now."

The glorious Trio Bulgarka sings on three songs, further expanding Bush's already thoroughly developed world vision--perhaps only Peter Gabriel melds so many cultural elements with such seamless flair. But it's the how , not the what , that distinguishes her accomplishments.

Listen to the mournful Balkan wail that punctuates "Deeper Understanding's" look at loneliness in the computer age. No Post-Modern irony or juxtaposition here; rather, the combination transforms the song into a wide-eyed-wonderful essay on the human condition, with all the sensuality promised in the album title. It's enough to make you go, well, gooney.

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