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VINE VOICEon 12 April 2010
This song-cycle - and yes, it is a song cycle in the classical sense of the phrase - showcases Rufus Wainwright at perhaps his most nakedly emotional. Although his songs are always strong, occasionally their brilliance can struggle to surface through complex band arrangements. Here, voice and piano complement each other - sometimes one taking the melodic lead and sometimes the other, layering themes and taking us through varied tone colours and emotional moods. Subject matter is not uniformly dark, as some have said, although these songs are preoccupied with emotion itself; grief for his dying mother, love for his family, memory, loss and a faith in the future as much as nostalgia for the past. It's also a huge compliment to Rufus's skill as a lyricist that the three settings of Shakespeare sonnets don't seem out of place thematically or emotionally. It's a seamlessly brilliant album, and as such there aren't really standout tracks - well, perhaps the breezily neurotic "Martha" and the lovely, paralysed "Zebulon".
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on 13 April 2010
If you are have been a Rufus fan for some time and have loved the big productions on Want and particularly on Release the Stars, you could be forgiven for intially feeling this isn't what you want from Rufus. You may even feel that what you loved about Rufus' music was the flamboyance and to be fair most of this album isn't flamboyant at all - with just a piano it is very pared down even if some of the tracks have some complex piano playing in them.

A week ago when my copy arrived I really felt that way. I adore everything Rufus has ever done, but I played this album once and decided 'I don't like this - why didn't he stick with what we all like'. But I was seeing him in concert a week later and thought I ought to familiarise myself with some of it before I went. So I played it a couple more times and now...I just love it.

If you are an 'old fan' overcome your prejudices, listen to this album repeatedly until it sinks in and you'll love it.

If you are not familiar with Rufus and are just browsing to see if this is worth buying - it absolutely is. It's so clever and it's so beautiful. Just don't expect this album to give you a pop music immediate buzz - this isn't 'burger and chips' instant gratification, but 'Michelin starred' exceptional cuisine which feeds your soul.
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Those of you who recently heard Rufus Wainwright's excellent "Front Row" interview with John Wilson on Radio 4 will be fully up to speed with the background to this album. As "All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu" was being recorded Wainwright's mother the wonderful folk singer Kate McGarrigle was dying and eventually passed away. As he states "at the time I was writing this she was really up and down. She had incredible moments of vitality matched with equally depressing times. I had to do this kind of work". Similarly he reprises some of his own personal demons not least of all his experiences and problems with drugs, his uncloseted sexuality and parental opprobrium. Out of this sadness is borne an album of tender beauty and containing some of his most mature work and more importantly his best songs. It takes him firmly away from the recent theatrics of the Judy Garland Tributes and back in the territory of the more reflective parts of "Want"

Some reviews are suggesting that this is an unflinching and sombre listen. That is over simplistic, indeed it is absorbing and beautiful in equal parts and the those who have seen the great man live in concert will have no problems whatsoever with the spare piano accompaniment and that flamboyant tenor voice full of warm vocal timbre. Indeed in many respects the album feels familiar in terms of some of the excellent covers he does live, his version of Neil Young's "Harvest" springs to mind. Its pointless reviewing every song on "All days" since there are no bad songs on the album and you would quickly run out of superlatives. As such lets start at the finish. In "Zebulon" Wainwright has recorded probably one of his greatest songs. The rich ebb of Wainwright's voice runs over a dramatically slow piano and emotions run high as soon as he opens with the words -

"My mother's in hospital, my sister's at the opera
I'm in love, but let's not talk about it
There's so much to tell you"

"Zebulon" is truly stunning and please watch him perform it on Q Music. The journey to track 12 is littered with other enormous high points. The song addressed to his sister "Martha" is a fascinating list of lyrical phone messages that ends with Rufus urging a return call over a rolling piano accompaniment. The three Shakespearean based "Sonnet" songs are all excellent but "Sonnet 20" is gentle and tender piano ballad with an aching vocal from Wainwright which is the first amongst equals. Opener "Where are you New York" has lavish cascading arpeggios combined with a fine lyric and vocal, it segues into the mournful and heart rending "So Sad With What I Have" another huge highlight. "What would ever do with a rose" is the final song I will mention which is one of the purist and most stripped down songs on the album haunted by a Sondheim style melody.

Some have complained in the past that Wainwright has used theatrics and cabaret to hide raw emotions, it is "like listening to the most depressing lounge act in the fanciest lounge in the world" is the loudest criticism. I'm not certain that many would ever agreed with that judgement but in the case of "All days are nights" it becomes superfluous. This is Rufus Wainwright's most powerfully evocative album, he sings throughout like a baroque master and the depth of his song-writing is awesome. In terms of the terrible labels we use this is not "feel good" or chart music, it is an album that challenges, provokes and stimulates. It is classical music for modern times and deserves an audience that will be bewitched by its beauty and grace.
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on 18 April 2010
I'm bemused by some reviewers here complaining about the music Rufus has created on this album: calling it 'self indulgent'. What the heck do these people think art is if not the product of self indulgence. Rufus has looked inward at his soul, at a challenging time in his life and has been moved to create music that is different in tone and arguably greater in complexity to his previous albums.

What precisely is the harm in this? Why are people calling themselves 'fans' and then moaning that he doesn't stick, for the rest of his life, to one style of music, repeating the same sounds over and over. Just because you are so called fans does not mean an artist should shackle himself to your expectations. There is a reason why he is the world famous musical genius, and you are not.

With this album, and his live show which I've just seen in Sheffield this night, Rufus Wainwright is inviting his fans, and new listeners, down a new musical path. This path doesn't have to be the only one, there is still room for things more familiar to some of us. But Rufus wants at least, to have the chance to experience the less familiar. So he gives us a musically complex experience influenced by classical music. And who but the Music Police on this page can object to that?

Rufus Wainwright has a long career ahead of him. So why shouldn't he experiment and test new waters and allow millions of us to enjoy his adventures with him. But no, there are some people who think he should just churn out the same sounding songs over and over again. A position, which to me, is frankly weird.

So if you are not a selfish person who demands all music to be tailored for their own unimaginative and stale tastes, you will find much that is beautiful and engrossing in this album. Yeah its not easy listening, but there is a whole industry out there churning out easy listening pop music. Rufus Wainwright is one of those few islands of uniqueness in an ever rising sea of homogeneous pap. This album is his way of keeping himself, and us, from drowning in it.
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on 9 May 2010
As a long-time Rufus fan, this album has all the qualities I like about Rufus. Strong performances and melodies abound. Do not be out off by the initial starkness of the simple voice and piano arrangements throughout. Repeated listenings reward amply. HOWEVER I was rather bored by his current live performance of the entire album in the manner of a classical piece with no chat, no intros and no applause allowed! Pretentious Rufus! These are not lieder pieces. They are glorious show tunes in the style of the Gershwins. And they are very similar, in particular, to the songs on his first album.
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on 28 June 2010
This is a bit of a slow burner, but after a couple of listens the quality starts to shine through. I wish it was the same with the vinyl its pressed on. Wibbly and wobbly is probably the best way to describe this thin vinyl pressing.
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on 4 April 2010
This is a very personal and esoteric album from Rufus. Just his voice and piano, which works well. Most of the songs are about his mothers illness and demise along with three of Shakespeares sonnets put to music and even a touch of opera ("Les Feux D'Artifice T'Appellent" which was used at his mothers funeral). The outstanding track is the final one "Zebulon" Another standout is "Martha" a song to his sister. Not as easily accessable as a lot of his music but an enjoyable listen
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Mr Wainwright has had a year of highs and lows.
The loss of his Mother Kate McGarrigle was a
tragedy for him and in no small way for those
of us who loved her music too. Her unerring
belief in and encouragement of both Rufus and
Martha's abilities was never less than inspiring!

2009 witnessed Mr Wainwrights sortie into the world
of opera with the first performances of his two-act
contribution to the genre : 'Prima Donna'. A piece
generally well-received and more than worthy of
its moment in the sun.

'All Days and Nights : Songs For Lulu' is a more intimate
affair. Even an artist with an ego the size of Manhattan is
capable of quieter, more introspective moments (the
highlights of his live performances have always been, for me,
those where the band dissapears into the shadows leaving just
the man and his piano in the spotlight beguiling and enchanting
us with songs as purely magical as 'Leaving For Paris No.2')
and there are more than a few of them here.

Even when stripped down to nearly nothing , however, our
hero finds it impossible to rein-in his flamboyant vision.
The beautifully controlled arpeggios of opening track
'Who Are You New York?' are a fine example of a consummate
aesthete firing on all six cylinders. It is quite magnificent!

Both Mr Wainwright and his sister are no strangers to
the art of confessional composition. The contents of
their laundry baskets have continuously provided us with
entertainment and pause for thought (their Father Loudon has
come in for more than one musical pasting from his offspring!).
'Martha' is a heart-wrending call to his Sister in times
of trouble. His Mother's illness, Ms Wainwright's marriage
and his ambivalence about his relationship with his Father
would appear to have left him exposed and vulnerable.
Reaching out for an emotional anchor, it is a terrifying and
vividly moving cry from a dark and lonely place.

Bold as brass but with the lightest touch, Mr Wainwright's
take on The Bard (Sonnets 10, 20 and 43) are as brave as
they are profoundly successful. There are those who believe
that Mr Shakespeare's verses are evidence for "the love that
dare not speak its name". Mr Wainwright gives the works
glowing contemporary resonance and relevance with his
luminous arrangements. "He who dares wins" indeed!

'The Dream' is an another exquisite composition; the melody
in some ways more accesible than others in the collection.
The vocal performance is stunning; the piano playing a veritable
firework display of melodramatically confident technique!

Final track 'Zebulon' is a tenderly realised reflection of a real
(or imagined?) childhood friendship which quite took my breath away.
For my money it is among the most memorable songs
Mr Wainwright has written and a perfectly judged
ending to this extraordinary album.

'All Day's and Nights : Songs For Lulu' is a glorious achievement.

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on 24 April 2010
This is album is a grower. On first listen i wondered if i would like it but you have to give albums a chance. For me all the best albums are ones which have longevity, which take a while to get into, but once your their it stays forever. This album is no exception. For me, this is the best Rufus has ever been. Both vocally and lyrically. It is simply stunning. I just hope all you reviewers who have slated it have given it chance. If not then you are missing out on something very special.
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on 5 June 2012
The Mozart kids have lost a matriarch and a half= time to both celebrate the life and mourn the leaving of family and music.
Musically, RW is both in mourning and in awe of one of his inspirations. A mother's love is the purest form of respect for the creation of a person; Rufus gets that. He uses musical genius and his ability to hurt and celebrate in lyric and tune to enrich us with all of the emotions one experiences at such times.
Good job, handsome,
Mum's up there still proud!
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