Rufus Wainwright: “Want One” Album Review

Written By: Edward Ramjuse 

Rufus Wainwright is a soldier! He’s fashioned as a forlorn knight of yore on this record’s cover, brandishing a three-foot iron sword, and shrouded in medieval battle armor. But this image misleads: Want One was more a drove casting of arrows than any detailed fencing bout with mythical demons and fire-breathing dragons. Rufus Wainwright is a small man with enormous talent and no attention span whatsoever. Call it the curse of the truly gifted: his albums veer from pop to cabaret to folk to opera, sometimes within the space of a few seconds. He clearly envisions himself as the Renaissance warrior he portrays on the album’s cover, and is blessed (or cursed, depending on whom you ask) with one of the most unique voices in music. There is no real taking or leaving him, which means, like Tom Waits, he must be doing something right.

But to say Wainwright was following anything but his own vision in the album, would be a misconception. His footsteps mostly lead him back to his earlier cabaret-infused theatre pop and maudlin, hushed anti-ballads. The result is a top-heavy album, with his best material– the more operatic and unconstrained works– all unfolded within the album’s first half hour.

Oh What a World” opened the album with a tuba’s reluctant elephant steps and some acoustic plucks, and slowly trickles in a full concert’s worth of accompaniment before deploying a string rendition of Ravel’s Bolero behind Wainwright’s plaintive warble. “I Don’t Know What It Is” followed in with a slow building, twinkling pop sensibility, and carried his most melodic vocal punch. “Go or Go Ahead“, the album’s most compelling portrait, fell in like fine China crashing to the ground in slow motion, reaching an epic chorus that carries the song just shy of the seven-minute mark. The lyrics carried mythological grandeur, but as with the rest of this album, they were shot through with vulnerability and emotional nudity.

The record is something of cinematic effort, composed of roughly half of the material recorded over the course of six months’ studio time that yielded thirty-odd products of his unique musical vision. A follow-up, Want Two, is scheduled for future release, and is said to boast the set’s more adventurous and cumbersome confections.  The album was full of just that. Amazing songs by Rufus Wainwright, a fantastic songwriter and wonderful composer. Even though the album was at times “weird” and “exotic” sounding, it’s still a hell of an album! And well worth your money. So go buy this album, and enjoy the immense talent of Rufus Wainwright.

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