Definitely agree with what you and others have written; this paragraph, in particular, jumped out at me because I, too, felt when looking at that photo that something was clearly wrong. And I had some inkling. I had read the short "Random Notes" blurb in Rolling Stone about Karen's health issues and weight loss (I believe that's the first time I read the term, "nervous exhaustion"). But it was all so vague that I didn't realize she had an eating disorder. (Strange, too, because a couple of years later I would march in a drum corps color guard with a young woman who had anorexia nervosa, which then prompted me to write a paper about it for a university nutrition class.) Anyway, the irony of all this is that there were much better photos from that session which could have been used for the album cover artwork. The photo of Karen playing with a kitten with Richard looking on, the photo that was used for for the "Interpretations" cover (still with the forced smiles, but they're not looking directly at the camera, so that minimizes the "cheesy" effect). Yet the photos that were chosen were the ones that hinted at darker things going on behind the scenes.I didn't love the photography; either picture. The outside had those cheesy grins, and that picture on the inside was the very first time I felt Karen may have been ill - due to the quality of her hair, and in my opinion, the sickly nature of her general aura. Had NO idea that this was a premonition worthy of real consideration, just thought she looked bad.
For me, the only song that stands out on this album is "One More Time" ... and it is one of my favorite songs ever, so it saves the album for me. But I no longer have the album in my collection because "One More Time" appears in the 40/40 collection. In retrospect, A Kind of Hush suffered the same career blip that all artists go through, but at the time this felt to me like a real downward slide in momentum, and it was ... but for reasons I had no inkling of. The sad thing is that because of what Karen and Richard were going through behind the scenes (and also because of the fickle tastes of the pop music public), they were never able to fully rebound, and the blip became more significant.