Vinyl Corner : Kate Bush ‘Before The Dawn’

Vinyl Corner is a new feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect, as well as a brief overview of the music itself. This time, we’re taking a look at Kate Bush’s ‘Before The Dawn’, a stunning live album documenting her return to the stage after a 35 year absence.

The Music:

When Kate Bush returned to the stage after 35 years, it was a cultural phenomenon of note unlike most other musical events of recent years. Practically the entirety of her discography re-entered the charts, tickets for the 22 night residency at London’s Eventim Apollo sold out in minutes and single tickets were frequently found to fetch in excess of £1000 on the resale market. The 2014 shows were an undoubted success and managed, somehow, to live up to hype. An incredible experience for all in attendance, certainly, but – when a live document of the shows was released late last year – there was some question as to how well it would hold up, seeing as the vital visual component of the shows would be absent.

Upon release, however, any fears were soon sedated as the album revealed one of the most immersive and richly luxuriant live albums in years. Not only were the performances themselves fantastic but the setlist, too, shone. A more traditional, rock-orientated set preceding two conceptual suites performed in their entirety – 1985’s ‘The Ninth Wave’ and 2005’s ‘A Sky Of Honey’.

The Pressing:

Spread over four LPs weighing in at a hefty 200g each, ‘Before The Dawn’ is an album clearly pressed with an audiophile’s attention to detail; no surprise given the quality of Bush’s other recent vinyl releases. The album sits nice and flat on the turntable and playback is excellent, with no surface noise at all. Dynamically the album is very lively, especially when played at a decent volume. Mastered by Bernie Grundman, it’s a dynamic set with plenty of presence in the album’s louder moments and subtle nuance in the quieter portions. Pressed by Germany’s Optimal Media, the LPs are visually in great condition from new, free of the handling marks and surface scuffing frequently found on cheaper releases.

The Packaging:

Visually appealing, ‘Before The Dawn’ doesn’t cheap-out on the packaging. Housed in a sturdy – if rather snug – box set, the four LPs all come in their own individual LP sleeves, replete with striking imagery on the covers. The records themselves are housed in custom-made cardboard inner sleeves, die-cut to show off the labels. They’re solid enough, although they’re not poly-lined and I personally swapped them out for Mofi inner sleeves for maximum protection. Also included is a 12″ x 12″ 24 page booklet, which appears to be simply a resized version of the tour program sold at the shows. In addition to powerful and sometimes candid imagery, there’s also some very revealing notes from Bush herself and a welcome additional track to the set.

Final Thoughts:

A famous perfectionist, Kate Bush has never been one to rush releases out of the gate and it really shows here. ‘Before The Dawn’ is a box set put together with real attention to detail, both sonically and in terms of presentation. It’s a genuinely fantastic live album with a vinyl pressing that fully lives up to the weight of expectation.