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Release The Stars

4.4 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 15, 2007
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This is Rufus Wainwright's fifth album. Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys executive produced it. Producer Marius de Vries (David Bowie, Bjork, Madonna) mixed the record with Andy Bradfield, and it features contributions from Martha Wainwright, Richard Thompson, Teddy Thompson, Joan Wasser (Anthony and the Johnsons, Joan as Police Woman), and renowned actress Sian Phillips. Release The Stars makes its mark as Wainwright's first self-produced album.

Recorded in Berlin and executive produced by the Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant, Rufus Wainwright's fifth album offers an ounce of restraint from the man that dressed up as Sir Lancelot's crossed girlfriend Lady Shallott on the cover of his last. Well, not really. Having fallen in love and curbed his self-destructive streak, the New York-born singer-songwriter has certainly sharpened his wit on Release the Stars but the songs remain as ornate and over-the-top as ever, drawing as much inspiration from opera and the musical theater as the desire to purge personal demons. So while Wainwright spends considerable time here pondering the state of the world ("Going to a Town") and his own battles with drug and sexual addiction ("Sanssouci"), every note is punctuated by a choir, orchestral swell, or big burst of brass. It wouldn't be Rufus with anything less. --Aidin Vaziri
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 15, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Geffen
  • ASIN: B000O78LH8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,738 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
By now, I've completely given up on all attempts to discern any resemblance whatsoever between the musical stylings of Rufus Wainwright and that of his parents, Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. In their own time, both parents were musical iconoclasts as well, so I guess that is as much similarity as I am ever likely to discern. Judging from his lyrics and a few comments that he's made to the press, Rufus is too much the solipsist to resemble anyone else at all, least of all his parents, but that turns out to be a very good thing. "Release the Stars" is such a unique and thoroughly realized musical vision that it resembles nothing else I've heard, including most of Wainwright's previous work.

On previous albums, Wainwright's melodies were occasionally thwarted by his ambition and a tendency to overwhelm the listener. His debut album, as well as "Want One" and "Want Two," struck me as stunning statements of overachievement. As luminous as they were, I ultimately felt lost in his musical vision, as if there were too many disparate elements fighting for my attention. "Release the Stars" can be just as demanding, but it is superior because it is wholly cohesive in its vision and message. Recorded during a hiatus away from America, Wainwright takes the time to ruminate on a multitude of relationships, and the results are often compelling, and occasionally stunning. "Rules and Regulations" contains the observation "I will never be as cute as you...These are just the rules and regulations, and I, like everyone, must follow them." In Slideshow," he debates whether it was worth the expense to fly his lover to be with him in Berlin.
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Format: Audio CD
I was thrilled to be among the first to hear the album live, in SF, in its entirety, well before its release.

Some of the songs were preceded by a short story or context.

"Nobody's off the Hook" is about Teddy Thompson, whom Rufus often performs with.

"Rules and Regulations" is written from the perspective of an obese man watching the Olympics. To quote an understatement from Rufus: "He, umm, thinks a lot."

"Tulsa" is sung to Brandon Flowers of the Killers. (In concert, he performed this one--including all the string arrangements you hear on the record--on the piano. As you can imagine, it's *incredibly* difficult to play, and for him to sing over the rather obscured accompaniment attests to Rufus's impossibly accurate pitch sense and musicality.)

That said: the recording is phenomenal. It's produced perfectly, which is to say it's not overproduced. Rufus is melodically and lyrically at his best. Though certainly some of the melodies are immediately memorable, none are by any means conventional. As poignant as he can be, he's also cheeky. "Between My Legs," for example, offers a fleeting, campy tribute the "The Phantom of the Opera," which, like Rufus's corpus, is instantly recognizable but only to a select and lucky few. "Do I Disappoint you" layers his voice in a harmonic wall. The effect is frightening: it's as if he musters up the strength to wail back at the force that condemns him, and the force that he's afraid of disappointing.

When "Slideshow" begins with the ironic, sad line "Do I love you because you treat me so indifferently? Or is it the medication? Or is it me?"--we're moved from sympathy, to humor, to silence.
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Format: Audio CD
Is it too fanciful to call this pop opera? Here we have tragic themes of self-loathing and unrequited love, delivered in a rounded tenor frequently dripping with life's sorrows, set amid some of the most ambitious orchestral arrangements since George Martin got busy with the Beatles Love
Up to now, there just hasn't been enough French horn in pop, and Rufus is the chap to put that right.
Of course, you cannot do stuff this big without help.
Executive producer is Neil Tennant - a man well used to crafting camp, glorious pop - and there is a small army of arrangers, as well as guests such as Richard Thompson on guitar and Rufus's mother and sister Kate McGarrigle and Martha Wainwright.
What this congregation of talents produces is something which refines yet further the formula of his Want One and Want Two (CD/DVD combo) albums.
Here we have a new millennial gay Edith Piaf baring his soul with rare elegance.
Standout tracks include "Tulsa", the Oklahoma city hymned with oh-so-European piano and strings, "Release The Stars", a peculiar big band affair concerned not with galactic goings-on but the contractual arrangements of Hollywood actors, and "Do I Disappoint You", a magnificent brassy overture which elevates self-doubt almost into something noble and celebratory.
But two songs make this a mini-masterpiece. "Going To A Town" is a wistful condemnation of his home country, distilled into the ennui-laden line "I'm so tired of America".
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I call shenanigans!!!!!
While I certainly don't deny Rufus' immense talent (and he is a total blast to see in concert), I am one of those who gave this album a three star review. I also find the melodies to be slight or non-existent, the production to be overblown and the general proceedings to be lacking in expression.... Read More
Jun 12, 2007 by Tim Brough |  See all 4 posts
Going to A Town - A song about how Rufus hates America...
This is the most ridiculous posting I've come across in a while.

I've heard the track you're referring to and it is harrowing and honest and heartfelt. If you can't hear the deep sense of regret in the last verse of this song for the way that America has taken the world's love of America and... Read More
May 13, 2007 by Porchlight |  See all 22 posts
Does anyone want to trade my Rufus cds Be the first to reply
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