Award-winning performer releases two top-notch albums
During the summer of 2002, the producers of the Festival of Lights announced there would be a special guest artist on the program for that year’s Canada Day concert in Charlottetown.
Because segments of the concert were to be broadcast nationally on CBC Television there was widespread speculation as to who this special guest might be.
Could it be Shania Twain? Lightfoot? Rush? Who?
The guest’s identity was kept secret until the last possible minute because it was going to be a big surprise.
And it most certainly was.
When they announced that the special guest was singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, I almost fell off my chair.
I had been a fan of Wainwright’s for about three years by that time and couldn’t believe he was actually coming here.
While my enthusiasm was characteristic of people within my own circle of friends, it was not exactly typical. If I heard it once, I heard it at least a dozen times, “who the (deleted expletive) is Rufus Wainwright?”
Some 12 years later I suspect any suggestion that Wainwright might be headed this way would be greeted with far more enthusiasm.
In the years since that Canada Day appearance, the multiple Juno Award winner and Grammy nominee has achieved widespread critical acclaim and commercial success, routinely charting in Billboard’s Top 200 Album charts and the European Top 100, as well as the Heatseekers chart and several other charts.
He is widely regarded as one of this country’s finest songwriters and one of its most engaging performers
If you’re not a fan of Wainwright’s you’ve probably stopped reading by this point. But if you are a fan I’ve got some news for you.
No, he’s not coming to Charlottetown. You can still, however, treat yourself to an amazing concert experience.
Wainwright has just released Live From the Artists Den, a concert recorded in New York at the magnificent Church of the Ascension on Manhattan’s lower Fifth Avenue.
Recorded in May of 2012 for an episode of the long-running PBS series of the same name, this set features 16 songs from that show, the vast majority of them from the Out Of The Game album. Included in that number are
gems like Montauk, Bitter Tears, Song of You, Candles and Respectable Dive.
But there were songs from several other albums as well.
He plucked 14th Street from Want One and both The One You Love and The Art Teacher from Want Two. One Man Guy from Poses is included here. One of the record’s most endearing offerings is a cover of On My Way to Town, penned by his mother, the late, great Kate McGarrigle.
Wainwright is backed up here by the same band he used on the Out Of The Game tour but he also brought in some special guests, among them singer/guitarist Teddy Thompson, singer Krystle Warren and producer Mark Ronson, who also added vocals.
Wainwright delivers a brilliant performance here and the production values are wonderful.
But wait, there’s more. In a move that some marketing people will applaud but others will likely question, Wainwright has also chosen to release a second album.
The second offering is Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright. That set features some 18 songs chosen by Wainwright from throughout his career.
Featured here are such classic offerings as Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk, from Poses; I Don’t Know What It Is and Go or Go Ahead, from Want One; Sometimes You Need and the title track from Out Of The Game; April Fools, from Rufus Wainwright; and Tiergarten from Release The Stars.
You’ll also find his version of Hallelujah from Shrek and a brand new entry, Me and Liza.
A deluxe edition of Vibrate is also available. That edition includes a bonus disc with 16 rare live and studio tracks. Included in that cluster are The Maker Makes, from Brokeback Mountain, La Complainte de la Butte, from Moulin Rouge and a new song called Chic and Pointless.
Sadly, it’s not buy one, get one free day but both these sets are worth having.
Serious fans will likely want both. If you’re still unfamiliar with his music, either of these sets would make for a good introduction to one of the most original, most extraordinary artists of his generation.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at email@example.com or 629-6000, ext. 6057.