Under Review: Rufus Wainwright – All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu

In the twelve years since his self-titled debut, Rufus Wainwright has undergone some dramatic musical changes.  He first tried out pop with that debut and Poses, then split his personality on Want One and Want Two.  With Release The Stars, his songs got bigger than they had ever been and, while I was a fan of that album, many of his fans felt that he was going overboard.  I can only imagine what those fans though when Rufus unveiled his next project, Prima Donna, a full-on opera.  This foray into classic arts no doubt influenced Rufus’ new pop album, All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu.  The album combines Wainwright’s trademark emotionality with a strong Shakespearean influence.  Not only do three of the album’s strongest songs feature lyrics adapted from the Bard’s sonnets, many of the original songs contain themes and elements inspired by literary romance and tragedy.  What sets All Days Are Nights apart from Wainwright’s past albums (particularly Release The Stars), are the completely stripped-back arrangements.  If I didn’t know that Wainwright was playing the lone piano on the album, I might have pictured him perched atop it, lounging and writhing as the music moves him.  Though he might be planted behind the keys, Wainwright still emotes and captivates throughout All Days Are Nights.

The original songs on All Days Are Nights might not be the most immediate or catchy songs that Rufus has written, but they are some of the most show-stopping.  Few songs on the album are as playful as some of Rufus’ older songs, but opener “Who Are You New York?” and “Give Me What I Want And Give It To Me Now” are bright and exciting.  The rest of the set comprises mostly of ballads, often containing references to family and mortality.  This, unfortunately, comes as little surprise, as the album was recorded as Wainwright’s mother, folk legend Kate McGarrigle, was dying.  Early on, in “Martha,” Rufus makes a plea to his little sister (and the rest of his family) to put aside their differences.  Later, “Zebulon” reflects on both Kate’s illness and the departure of a former lover, creating an unusual bridge between various kinds of affection.  Elsewhere, Rufus showcases “Les Feux d’Artifice t’Appellent,” an aria from Prima Donna, and lets his voice soar on the stunning “The Dream.”  As impressive as it is, All Days Are Night isn’t the album that will bring Rufus scores of new fans.  What it will do, though, is cement his status as the preeminent fuser of classical traditions with timeless artistry.

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~ by E. on April 19, 2010.

One Response to “Under Review: Rufus Wainwright – All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu”

  1. I usually don’t post on Blogs but ya forced me to, great info.. excellent! … I’ll bookmark your site.

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