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House of Rufus by Rufus Wainwright

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Reviewed on 12th July 2011.

 
 

House of Rufus

By Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright is a musician whose career unravels the more you stop to look back, and with this latest offering we see the release of Wainwright's entire back catalogue under the fitting title 'House of Rufus', an astonishing collection of songs which are of their own genre. Wainwright as a musician brings a genre until himself informed by all his musical experiences, from his love affair with opera and musicals to the obvious links to the Wainwright/Mcgarrigle dynasties, but one thing is sure and that is Rufus Wainwright makes unique and creative music that is nothing like any other artist out there.

This is a perfect collection for the first time listener to delve in the world of Rufus Wainwright and unravel the fact his music is ever present whether it be in film soundtracks or on the more obscure of radio playlists. In this collection we see his original albums combined with the collected cover versions he has performed for film soundtracks and with various family and friends, and there is the mixture of both studio and live performances.
This collection is admittedly my first proper encounter with Rufus Wainwright and over the hours of listening pleasure one record in the collection stands out for me and that is the 2001 album 'Poses' which is a seamless combination of exciting rhythms, interesting timbres and ingenious lyrics.

With songs like 'Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk,' a quirky song that could open a musical, rom-com or gig with ease playing with ideas from vaudeville, jazz and lyrically covering themes of desire and addiction. 'Greek Song' creates an almost theatrical link to Classical ideas of beauty and fame decked out with the grandeur of eastern strings that make this track exciting to listen to, adding a sonic timbre of intrigue. 'Shadows' turns the album in a different sonic direction with a modern blues/funk edge with a more stripped back texture and a flowing melody with beautiful vocal harmonies that glide. The song is further punctuated by exciting small phrases from the piano and flute to give it again something unpredictable and exciting. The lyrics have a feeling of grandeur with a theme of certain fame. This is how songs are written. After listening to this album alone I know Rufus Wainwright to be one of the most important songwriters of these modern times.

This collection includes all of Wainwright's work to date and it feels that with ever song listened to, a piece fits into place in a bigger picture with an exploration of all kinds of lyrical themes and sounds but all with a common link. Songs like 'Crumb by Crumb' create an alternative folk-swing almost fairytale metaphor that would slide into a musical. We know Wainwright has done an opera but surely there must be a musical to come! The music hall and vaudeville is always creeping in to song within this collection such as the wonderful 'Beauty Mark' to which we are treated to both the album and original demo versions allowing us to see the progression of the song. 'Beauty Mark' is a classic vaudeville song with beautiful lyrical imagery of 'easel eyes' and the romanticism of 'homemade clothes' and 'homemade curtains'. It is perhaps this romanticism of reality which makes Wainwright's songwriting style peculiarly comforting.

With all these musical theatre references in the collection one album is the point to which these song point to and that is Rufus Does Judy, a live recording of Wainwright's Carnegie Hall tribute to the formidable yet troubled Judy Garland and this recording is nothing short of a haunting tribute. Wainwright takes a glance behind Garland's masks and allows vulnerability to accentuate a fitting tribute.

This collection of Rufus Wainwright's entire back catalogue is a must have for the musician's record collection. There is an art to songwriting as Wainwright is an example of a sublime songwriter.

 

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