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Want One is the third album release from Rufus Wainwright and it was my first introduction to him back in 2005. I had actually been given a free concert to see him so bought the album so I knew what I would be singing along too! As it turned out, it wasn't really a sing along concert!
Rufus Wainwright is the son of Loudon Wainwright III, a famous American songwriter, folk singer, humorist (he was the resident singer with Jasper Carrot in the 1980's show, Carrot Confidential) and actor (he played Captain Spalding in M*A*S*H). Rufus' sister, Martha, is also a singer/songwriter as is his mother, Kate Garrigle, so there is a clear love of music in the family!
Rufus has a truly unique voice and style which is probably what makes me like him so much. There is so much generic pop - don't get me wrong, I love that stuff too - that finding someone so different is a real gem. He has an amazing tenor voice and can play the piano and guitar. His style of music crosses many genres: pop - but in a more 'baroque' style, jazz, folk and sometimes verging into the operatic and rock. It's a mix that sounds hideous but he has a great feel for music and it's rare that any song does not work brilliantly.
1. Oh What a World - 4:23
A great, dramatic opener accompanied by a big band anchored by a tuba and a powerful kick-drum. The lyrics tell of Wainwright's view of the world he lives in - 'always travelling but not in love'. This was the second single released from this album. The title is a reference to a quote by the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz as she is melting "Oh, what a world! What a world!" 9/10
2. I Don't What It Is - 4:51
This was the first single to be released and is a more sombre affair at the starter easing into a merry tempo as the song progresses. This was written about his experiences of being in rehab and is another of the greater songs on the album. 9/10
3. Vicious World - 2:49
A complete slowing of the tempo here for a song with biting lyrics about how life can treat you badly. Rufus ethereal voice works exceptionally well here as he hits some beautiful high notes. 8/10
4. Movie of Myself - 4:30
With more of a 'rock' edge to it (well, as Rock-y is Rufus can do) Rufus sings about a lover avoiding commitment. 7/10
5. Pretty Things - 2:40
A melancholy song about defiance with a simple piano hook. Unfortunately, the stripped back nature of the song feels very sparse without more meaty lyrics. 5/10
6. Go or Go Ahead - 6:39
Rufus softly sings about being abandoned at the start before the drums kick in half way through the song to bring us to the impassioned chorus about his experiences of crystal meth. For me this is one of the best songs of the album. 10/10
7. Vibrate - 2:44
A completely modern love song (sung with one eyebrow raised) about longing to hear from a lover on the mobile phone. I love the lyrics in this which straddle the line between ridiculous and genius - "my phones on vibrate for you, but still I never ever feel from you". 8/10
8. 14th Street - 4:44
This song sounds as if it could have been written for a musical theatre production. A rousing chorus deals uses some clever play on words to make for an interesting listen. It also has his mother, Kate McGarrigle, playing a banjo solo and sister Martha proving additional vocals. 8/10
9. Natasha - 3:29
A slightly weaker track for me with overly gushing lyrics - "all I can do is write a song for you" - far too sickly sweet for my liking and seeming against character for Wainwright. It was written for his friend, Natasha Lyonne, an American Actress. 6/10
10. Harvester of Hearts - 3:35
A classic revenge song that looses some of the gravity compared to other songs on this album due to Wainwright's featherweight vocals on this track. However, it is reminiscent of his earlier albums which will please the die-hard fans. 6/10
11. Beautiful Child - 4:16
A more upbeat, slightly cuban-esque beat carries this song about growing up and old. This also has Martha Wainwright proving additional vocals. 8/10
12. Want - 5:11
A harp plays behind a guitar giving a very slow, soft feel to the music while he sings about who he 'wants' to be. Another track to please the die-hards. 7/10
13. 11:11 - 4:27
One of the weaker songs on the album which is a tribute to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and lyrics that are far too lazy "woke up this morning at 11;11/wasn't in Portland and I wasn't in heaven". 4/10
14. Dinner at Eight - 4:33
Written about a disagreement with his father and written as an open letter to him, this song also sounds as if made for a musical. Such a moving song could have ended up sounding schmaltzy but not with Wainwright at the helm. 9/10
Bonus tracks for the UK release:
15. Es Mus Sein - 2:19
A stirring piano composition with a beautiful cathedral-like echo to the recording. 7/10
16. Velvet Curtain Rag - 4:31
With only the piano for accompaniment, Wainwright sings his way through a beautiful song but for me it's sung a few octaves too high to make it one to listen to again and again. 6/10
Of the few criticism that could be levelled at the album, one is the lack of focus on themes. The album meanders from one subject to another never quite exploring one subject fully enough. Previous albums did not suffer this problem and perhaps felt more complete for it. Though, perhaps in his defence, Want One is essentially only half and album; Want Two (released a year later) contains all the other songs from this prolific song writing period that did not make it to this album. Want Two is much darker and fantastical but themes cross over to both albums.
Wainwright is an amazing talent but this type of genius is usually born out of tragedy, misspent youth and emotional instability - Wainwright is no exception and the lyrics can become overly maudlin, especially after 16 songs! It isn't an album I play all the time but each time I do something new usually jumps out at me - a poignant lyric, an inspired use of an instrument - that reminds me why he is worth persevering with.
The album is just over 65 minutes long in total and was released in September 2003 by DreamWorks Records
The album can be purchase by itself for about £6 from amazon.co.uk (used only) or £8 from play.com. This is also available as a double album set with Want Two called, simply, 'Want' but this is rare to find and amazon.co.uk are currently selling it for a costly £39.99 - better to buy the two albums separately really.
© of funkimunki. Also posted on ciao.co.uk under jonescraiga
"Want One" is the first half of American singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright's "Want" album. From start to finish, this album dazzles and delights. It is, at times, monstrously extravangant (check out the fully orchestrated rock-opera-style "14th Street"), marvellously adventurous (see "I Don't Know What It Is" - tales of life, travel, parents, heaven and hell) and heart-achingly beautiful (try "Dinner
Indeed, "Dinner at Eight" was described by the League of Gentlemen's Reece Shearsmith as one of the finest songs he had ever heard. It tells of Rufus's relationship with his father, also a master musician and formidable talent. Other highlights on the album (and there are many!) include the fantastic opener "Oh What a World" (cleverly borrowing from the classic "Bolero" classical melody), the epic "Go, Or Go Ahead" and the lovely (almost sickly sweet - or am I missing some hidden message?) "Natasha".
If you enjoy intelligent, well travelled and interesting songs - check out Want One. If you like it, you're in for a treat with Want Two - which is a slightly more mature work. Want One has a distinct "pop" feel to it - it's accessible, it's fun and it's grand. Don't ever let it be said that Rufus (or indeed any of the Wainwright's) don't know how to put on a performance.
Things to watch out for might be:
* Rufus's constant use of the "pain breath" - that is, when he inhales air, he sucks it in between his teeth. For some reason, the recording engineers (or perhaps Rufus himself) have captured each and every breath. It *can* be irritating. Now that I've pointed it out, you probably will notice it every time!
...I've been sitting thinking for a while - and that's the only negative point I can come up with. This really is a grand album - in every sense of the word.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Oh What A World
2 I Don't Know What It Is
3 Vicious World
4 Movies Of Myself
5 Pretty Things
6 Go Or Go Ahead
8 14th Street
10 Harvester Of Hearts
11 Beautiful Child
14 Dinner At Eight
15 Es Mus Sein
16 Velvet Curtain Rag
17 Weblink (Rufus Wainwright/Want)