The album art was Kate’s idea; of playing herself as a child dressing up in the attic, expressing a longing back to a time at East Wickham Farm when she was free to immerse herself in her imaginations. Lionheart opens with the beautiful and profound Symphomy in Blue. While it might initially sound as an ode to the colour blue, it’s somewhat cryptic lyrics seem to carry an uplifting message of spiritual or emotional progress; “My terrible fear of dying no longer plays with me, for now I know that I’m needed for the symphony“. The song is uplifting and light with a melody that takes some very creative twists and turns. In Search of Peter Pan is another light affair with Kate and her piano. Again there are some interesting twists and turns and changes in mood within the song and a lush refrain where Kate sings to her own backing vocals. In the Warm Room is another song featuring Kate and her piano; slow, intimate and deliciously sensual, befitting it’s romantic, erotic lyrics.
Most of the songs are reminiscent of the sound from her debut, but Kate’s own artistic wish for more bite may have manifested itself on Don’t Push Your Foot on the Heartbreak. It starts out as the usual piano song before it bursts with life in the refrain, picking up a steady beat and brass section. Towards the end, we hear a Kate who sounds as if she’s screaming from the top of her lungs which is a first in her discography. The contrast between the slower, more lush parts of her song and the intense refrains makes for a wonderful combination.
Oh England My Lionheart is a beautiful ballad and an ode to England sung by a downed and dying warpilot (“dropped from my black spitfire to my funeral barge“) who hopes that heaven will be like the England of his youth. Later on, Kate would express embarassment with the song, but her words can’t undo the song’s undeniable beauty. In addition to the beautiful soundscape created by Bush with her piano singing on top of her backing vocals, the song features some lush flute (recorder) and even a hint of harpsichord. Hammer Horror is an ode to Hammer films, a film company that started specializing in producing horror films from the mid-to-late 50s. Bush’s character in the song is a replacement actor playing the role as the Hunchback of Notre Dame who then gets haunted by the jealous original actor. A (very nice) video was made for the video with Kate and a masked dancer dancing to a black backdrop.
The commercial star of the album is the song Wow which was the first single from the album. Wow was conceived sometime before Kate’s debut and is one of two songs on Lionheart played by her KT Bush Band, the other being Kashka from Baghdad (a song about a gay couple). The story Wow tells is less tangible than Wuthering Heights, but is roughly about theatre and theatrics. Musically, Wow is a reasonably straightforward pop song with a subtle verse and a powerful refrain. A very Kate Bushy music video was made for the song, complete with dance and a multitude of expressive faces.
Lionheart has a lot going against it. It’s largely made up of songs that didn’t make the debut, it’s production was rushed and did not live up to neither Powell nor Kate’s vision. Instead, it is an album flavoured by compromise. However, when listening to the record, many of these problems seem to vanish into thin air as it is still an impressive pop record with a lovely collection of songs. Like on her debut, there are lots of beautiful moments and many songs from the album remain fan favourites. The album does little to develop her as an artist, but there is a hint of development on songs like Don’t Push Your Foot on the Heartbrake which has a rockier flavour than anything from her debut.
Overall, the album does not have the sense of completeness which The Kick Inside had and does not, in my personal opinion, quite reach the same heights of excellence or replayability. I would argue that despite Kate getting to coproduce, the album overall sounds less personal. While the debut contains songs that directly relate to going ons in Kate’s life (The Man With the Child in his Eyes, Strange Phenomena, Them Heavy People), she seems a little more distanced in Lionheart which tells stories through the use of characters more so than her debut. Of course, storytelling her music through the use of characters is typical for Kate Bush and would be a continuing characteristic in her career.
All in all, despite a very few shortcomings, Lionheart plays on the same strengths as Kate’s debut and anyone who liked her first offering should appreciate her second and vice versa. Although it may represent the clichèd rushed second album, coming from someone like Kate Bush, it’s still one hell of a record. Warmly recommended, particularly those who like her debut and Never For Ever!