The third album from the precocious singer-songwriter makes an even greater grab for mainstream acceptance. Recorded at Woodstock, it features instrumental touches from former Bob Dylan guitarist and Texas legend Charlie S... more »exton as well as drums laid down by the Band's Levon Helm. Marious Devries (Bjork, Madonna, Massive Attack) helms the producer's chair on this one, bringing young wainwright a polished sound.« less
The third album from the precocious singer-songwriter makes an even greater grab for mainstream acceptance. Recorded at Woodstock, it features instrumental touches from former Bob Dylan guitarist and Texas legend Charlie Sexton as well as drums laid down by the Band's Levon Helm. Marious Devries (Bjork, Madonna, Massive Attack) helms the producer's chair on this one, bringing young wainwright a polished sound.
Christopher Schmitz | Rocky River, Ohio United States | 10/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rufus Wainwright's opening song "Oh What a World" has simple lyrics which, as they repeat, build layer after layer into fugue-like bombast. It stresses from the start that this album is abouts sonics. It will have a dense complex sound and a cleanly produced real orchestra throwing harps and horns into the mix."I Don't Know What It Is" starts slow and builds to a crescendo as well. By its finale, it sounds like Phil Spector movie music. Wainwright and his producer Marius Devries parlay this excess into camp charm."Vicious World" is a romantic lament backed by a vibraphone from a Mirwais producers album or a chill-out disc."Pretty Things" is just Rufus and his piano proclaiming his Wildean aestheticism."Go or Go Ahead" starts with a lovely Wainwright vocal over acoustic guitar and builds to a blistering rock 'n' roll climax--at least by tuneful Rufus standards. Shades of 70s bands like Queen or Boston: power chords and creamy harmonies. A masterpiece of production, it's one of the album's best songs."Vibrate" is a bit throwaway but it's clever fun."14 Street" ushers in the album's finest moment where Tin Pan Alley melody, saloon piano, and witty poetic lyrics come together in a tasty mix."Natasha" is pleasant but unexceptional."Harvester of Hearts" may be the best vocal on the album. Rufus' voice, in its higher register, sounds delicate and expressive. The song is lovely too, though it repeats the word "people" too many times."Beautiful Child" is a nu-gospel stand-out that reads like a Blake poem. Again, dense busy production makes for a layered treat that may requires headphones to fully appreciate."Want" and "11:11" are slower songs with the occasional lyrical highlight, but they're not among my favorites here.The album concludes with "Dinner at Eight," another contender for the album's finest moment. A beautiful melody wed to lyrics of David-and-Goliath combat, it's both a father-son love letter and piece of oedipal hate mail. The orchestra is used to great effect here, especially the harp whose ripples mimic "the drifting white snow" of the lyrics.Rufus Wainwright, along with Ryan Adams, Beck, an underrated Joseph Arthur, and a revived Tori Amos, are the singer/songwriters to watch in the new millenium. Rufus has kicked it up a notch with "Want One." I wait eagerly for his promised sequel "Want Two.""
A beautifully Audacious & flamboyant album......
fetish_2000 | U.K. | 06/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not many singer/songwriters these days, would choose to follow the career path of Rufus Wainwright. Having come from the 'Wainwright' family, of whom his mother, father (& now Sister), are all accomplished performers, musicians. Rufus specialises in a theatrical form of expressive Chamber Pop/ Singer-songwriter music that takes in: Cabaret, Theatrical Pop, Adult orientated Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative & even opera & literate pop. Shamelessly overblown and Passionate, some would argue that this form of sophisticated, literate music, died a century ago, along with the music it references, but you see, Rufus isn't your average Pop star.
"Oh What a World" rams home the point admirably, with a huge lush orchestrated sound, largely operatic in approach over which Rufus muses "Why am I always on a plane or a fast train, Oh what a world my parents gave me, Always Travelin' but not in love....", and chimes wonderfully with his cabaret-infused theatre pop, and the addition of plucked strings, only serve to highlight that Rufus is aiming for the highest echelons of Adult-orientated pop.
"I Don't Know What It Is", follows with a gradual, slow building melody, that solidifies critics various mentions that Rufus is something of a Renaissance man musically, with an ear for emotional complexity. With a song that places an emphasis on melody and production, over which Rufus sings: "Take a lookin around At friendly faces, All declaring a war on far off places, Is there anyone else who is through with complaining about what's Done unto us" shows his sentiments, in no wavering fashion, but the richly textured and layered songs, belie the incisive wordplay.
"Vicious World" opens with gloriously shimmering strings and backing vocal harmonies, and gentle slow piano chords, with Rufus' delicate vocal intone of: "Thought that maybe we'd fall in love over the phone, Thought that maybe I'd really love being alone, Everybody but Heaven knows how I was wrong!!", in the softest and sweetest of vocal deliveries, it's feels like a extremely low-key ballad of the subtlest kind, and is as poignant as it is restrained, and neatly highlights some of the very broad musical scopes with which Rufus pitches his lyrical tent on which to draw upon, his multitude of musical influences. This may be a little too subtle for some, but the albums refusal to follow conventional musical methods is extremely impressive.
"Pretty Things" is far more sombre in tone & mood, with the barest sketches of instrumentation (Piano, organ), making the perfect musical backdrop for Rufus to sing over, (think, midnight mood Torch-bearing chamber-pop), with the lyrical theme largely about not feeling guilty for liking pretty or superficial things, as Rufus boldly declares: "Pretty things, so what if I like pretty things??, Pretty lies, so what if I like pretty lies??", without a dash of irony, and cleverly twisting the listeners disbelief at his superficiality, by saying: "This time will pass and with it will me, And all these pretty things......Don't say you don't notice them??"
And so there you have it.....gloriously pretentious, shamelessly overblown, impossibly romantic, and probably a little too literate & cerebral for widespread mainstream acceptance, it's pitches its tent firmly in the Adult-orientated market, and asks listeners to meet it, on Rufus' terms. And frankly....some listeners may not want to, as the album has layers that are gradually peeled away, to reveal hidden depths of lyrical intricacies that will be missed the first time, knowing little references that will begin to make sense on repeated listens, and phrases lifted or modified from literature. And few would argue that what Rufus, has created here, isn't uniquely his own!!, and so seemingly out of step with what music is currently being made, that you have to wonder, how many audacious & left field albums, can he make such as this, before his record label pulls the plug?? But then again, anything this bold, brave, artistic, painstakingly detailed or not easily catergorisiable, deserves all the (limited) recognition it can get. Finally!!!....an artist not afraid to take chances, and have to simplify his music, in an effort to bend to the almighty dollar, or have to make a bland commercially viable album....and you know what???, his music is all the better for it. Buy Now!!!"
Rising to new music heights...
Ravinia | our nation's capital | 10/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album is simply one of my all-time favorites. While "Poses" and Rufus's early albums had wonderful moments (and definitely a less orchestrated feel), this one takes him in a new direction, taking his unique voice and compelling lyrics and adding beautiful and complex arrangements of horns, orchestra, and vocal harmonies interwoven with a rich musical heritage that really sets Rufus apart as an artist and musician - you'll hear references to everything from Bolero to Queen, bossa nova to blues .Some other reviewers are not comfortable with this move; others needed time to really get into it. For me one listen was all it took. These songs are still about Rufus trying to understand a complicated world - as we all are. Everything about this album is reminiscent of a phoenix rising from the ashes and soaring into new heights of musicality. Given Rufus's personal struggles and recent emergence from rehab, it's not surprising."
Shades of Sgt Pepper and Pet Sounds
Larry White | AdultPop.com | 01/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Until now, we were only lukewarm towards Rufus Wainwright. We bought his first critically acclaimed cd, enjoyed one or two melodious cuts, but found the rest pretentious and boring enough for us to simply pass on his next album. After hearing only one instantly captivating song from 'Want One' on the radio, however, we purchased it with fingers crossed, skeptical yet hopeful of finding more music of worth. Jackpot. If this is not the best pop album of the year, it is likely the most gorgeous and certainly the most epic. The first thing that grabs you is its grandeur. With 'Sgt. Pepper' and 'Pet Sounds' as the prototypes (pretty good prototypes to have, we'd say), nearly every track is thickly layered with complex, majestic orchestrations and luxurious choral arrangements. While there are subtle touches to be found amidst the opulence, one must listen carefully (headphones will help) to catch the wisp of a softly uttered "doo-doo" or the twang of a banjo. But that's like focusing on one mere jewel in the royal crown. Needless to say, one would be as remiss not to mention producer Marius de Vries (whose mere name exudes nobility) as if one were to not credit George Martin for the sound of 'Sgt. Pepper'. But it is Wainwright himself who is responsible for the visceral impact of this work. His nasal vocals are, nonetheless, powerful and moving, enhanced, not overwhelmed, by the production. His lyrics are personal, heartfelt, poetic, witty (with a line like "I tried to dance Britney Spears, I guess I'm getting on in years), and touching. This record is a long, long way from rock & roll as originally conceived by the genre's founders, but a wonderful listening experience nonetheless."
One of the Best Albums of the Last Decade!
Moyesii | 02/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rufus Wainwright's soaring vocals, combined with his intriguingly obscure lyrics and sumptuous melodies, make this an album worth listening to over and over again. A true masterpiece!
The ambitiousness and sophistication in the production of "Want One" set it apart from his earlier works. Wainwright has shed some of the recognizable influences in his early sound and has come up with something truly his own and unique with this album. He has established himself as a visionary artist along the likes of contemporaries such as Tori Amos and Bjork.
There is something profoundly touching about Wainwright's voice that pierces my heart and can move me to tears. My favorite song on the album is probably the euphoric "11:11". There is a particular passage in the song that I find uplifting, when he sings, "But I was alive/And kicking through this cruel world/Holding a notion of you at 11:11" as he playfully modulates the key and shifts the phrasing in his vocals. I also enjoy listening to "I Don't Know What It Is", "Go Or Go Ahead", and "14th Street". The words float endearingly on Wainwright's voice.
Wainwright's lyrics are very personal and can seem very oblique on one level. They are about very specific times, places, memories that would be difficult to contextualize without a proper map to Wainwright's soul. But whether you deconstruct the music or just allow yourself to be immersed in it, the experience is very intimate. Few artists are able to take their listeners to such places.
On Rufus Wainwright's website, you can learn more about the stories behind each song. There is also interesting background info on the dvd, "All I Want"."