Release the Stars
Rufus Wainwright is the only singer who can wear lederhosen or borrow melodies from Phantom of the Opera and make it work. Apparently when Wainwright travelled to Berlin to produce Release the Stars—hence the traditional German shorts—he intended to leave with a minimalist recording. Maybe it was the baroque opera houses and the fact that Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant is the executive producer, but Release the Stars is a bigger-than-life, richly orchestrated piece of poetry. This album, which would boom blissfully live in a concert hall or scale down to an intimate club size, probably won’t win any new Wainwright fans—he’s an acquired taste—but Release the Stars should satisfy fans who love the Want series. “Between My Legs” is a contemporary take on love forever, concluding with a smoky soliloquy from British actor Sian Phillips. Pretty flutes flit through “Sanssouci” like in the old Disney movies. Then there’s “Tulsa,” where Wainwright cheekily sings about a real-life meeting with Killers’ singer Brandon Flowers, whom he speculates tastes like potato chips in the morning. There are choirs and camp, but what keeps this album out of the Ethel Merman discard bin are the personal moments. Simplicity rules on “Not Ready to Love” and the anti-America “Going to a Town,” proving that politics and beauty do make compatible bedfellows.
Sue Carter Flinn