Rufus Wainwright "Out of the Game"

Rufus Wainwright is a musical thespian with an acute sense of high drama. His albums, particularly Want One and Want Two, over flow with orchestral flourishes and choral crescendos. An opera aficionado, Wainwright produced his first opera Prima Donna in 2009. Following the death of his mother, legendary folk artist Kate McGarrigle, Wainwright released All Days Are Night: Songs For Lulu, a dark introspective album.

Out of the Game finds Rufus Wainwright rebounding with an accessible, dance-pop oriented album. Producer Mark Ronson gained fame by creating modern music with nostalgic over tones, his greatest success coming from his association with Amy Winehouse. Ronson employs synthetic sounds like drum programming and electronic instrumentation, mixing and matching them with Wainwrights classical references.

The title track works as an introductory piece as it sets Wainwrights mood. He’s a mature 38 years old, about to marry his long-time partner, is a new father but, despite his settle life, he admits to wistful carnal longings. Wainwright steps away from his main instrument to play acoustic guitar. The second track, “Jericho” plays off of biblical themes and introduces the string section. Ronson’s production becomes apparent on “Rashida” with its ‘60s R&B arrangement, complete with sax, horns, and girl backing vocals. Victor Axelrod, pianist of the Dap Kings, supplies the rhythmic keyboards. That track is followed by “Barbara” with its distinctly ‘70s soul ballad vibe. “Welcome To the Ball” feels more like the Rufus of early releases, with symphonic horn section and lithe strings.

Many of the songs on Out of the Game seem to be autobiographical but the details remain obscure. In the grand tradition of the Wainwright McGarrigle clan, Rufus writes about his daughter Viva. “Montouk” captures the reality of alternative family concerns, but also finds Rufus examining his own behaviors in light of his child’s perception. The song also alludes to Viva’s deceased grandmother, Kate McGarrigle, as “the woman who is now a shadow.” “Bitter Tears” is a classical pop tune, imagine a jacked-up Mozart sitting down at an electric harpsichord. “Respectable Dive” offers another U-turn as Wainwright creates a countrified ballad. “Perfect Man” mixes classical lyrical references with Dap Kings R& B arrangements and features backing vocals from sister Martha Wainwright.

Out of the Game ends with a beautiful tribute to Kate McGarrigle. Wainwright gathers together family and close friends of the late musician including Martha, Loudon, and Sloan Wainwright, Lucy Roche, Jenni Muldaur, Chaim Tannenbaum, and Kate’s sister and musical partner Anna McGarrigle for “Candles.” The song features Anna playing accordion, an instrument associated with Kate's music, and ends with bagpipes, drums, and a rising chorus from the people who knew and loved her best. Rufus Wainwright will never get over the loss of his mother, but he’s found a way to move on and continue the celebration that is life.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Host)