A Vivoscene Feature Review by Brian Miller
Vivoscene rating 8.0
Gorgeous melodies abound in Out Of The Game, the latest album by Rufus Wainwright, produced by no less than the retro-genius, Mark Ronson. It’s been an eventful time in his personal life recently, with the 2010 death of his mother, Kate McGarrigle, and the 2011 birth of his daughter Viva, conceived with a good friend Lorca Cohen. Then there’s the current news of his impending marriage to his partner Jorn Weisbrodt. Those changes might account for the somewhat languorous pace of much of the singing on this record, and also for the complexity of the songs themselves. Then again Rufus may simply be trying to channel the art of Harry Nilsson, who did this stuff better than anyone before him, and probably since. All that said, Out Of The Game is an artful record, and Rufus has proven his artfulness many times before with his previous nods to cabaret, Judy Garland, and lest we forget, opera.
You may stream the entire album Out Of The Game here:
However, forgive us for thinking that the title track is one hell of an outing from Ron Sexsmith; we were surprised to hear “Out Of The Game” on the radio. It could have been written by Ron and it certainly would have sung with exactly the same pace and phrasing that Rufus conjures up. It’s so damned radio-friendly we astonished to hear that it was the lead-off single from Rufus.
The album, though, refutes that impression entirely with the quiet bombast of “Rashida”, the eloquence of “Montauk”, a future projection of a visit from his daughter Viva, a truly wonderful song in its construction and instrumental beauty, and “Bitter Tears”, one of the record’s highlights that comes straight out of Van Dyke Parks. Special mention must be made of the closing tune “Candles” an obvious elegy to his mother Kate; the mournful tone and the weight of grief dominate the composition. It’s a brave and moving performance.
The key track on the record, however, is “Sometimes You Need”, three minutes of perfection that displays all of Wainwright’s talents: songwriting, singing, and arranging. It’s one of the best things he’s ever done, understated, tender, memorable and ultimately completely satisfying. Ten or twelve songs like this would render the album beyond criticism and into the realms of fanatical appreciation.
Guests on the album include his sister Martha, as well as friends Sean Lennon and Thomas “Doveman” Barrett. Also appearing are the Dap Kings and Nels Cline.
Mark Ronson’s production brings a burnished pop sheen to some very intriguing material, perhaps not wholly successfully, but nevertheless the fans of Rufus Wainwright will love this record. Newcomers may find this record a little slow, but those gorgeous melodies will bring them back time and again. It’s a record that grows on you.
Watch: “Out Of The Game”