Recorded in Berlin and executive produced by the Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant, Rufus Wainwright's fifth album offers an ounce of restraint from the man that dressed up as Sir Lancelot's crossed girlfriend Lady Shallott on the cover of his last. Well, not really. Having fallen in love and curbed his self-destructive streak, the New York-born singer-songwriter has certainly sharpened his wit on Release the Stars
but the songs remain as ornate and over-the-top as ever, drawing as much inspiration from opera and the musical theater as the desire to purge personal demons. So while Wainwright spends considerable time here pondering the state of the world ("Going to a Town") and his own battles with drug and sexual addiction ("Sanssouci"), every note is punctuated by a choir, orchestral swell, or big burst of brass. It wouldn't be Rufus with anything less. --Aidin Vaziri
Special edition double CD & DVD cardboard fold-out, 2007 Geffen Records release with 12 tracks, original insert. DVD contains interviews & live footage.