Years after proving that he isn’t living in the shadows of his famous parents (folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle) or sister Martha Wainwright, Rufus Wainwright has finally come up with a greatest hits collection.
His biggest impact upon popular culture may be his cover of Leonard Cohen’s legendary Hallelujah (off the Shrek soundtrack). Despite this, Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright is evidence that Wainwright deserves to be recognised for his own potent, introspective contributions to the singer-songwriter genre.
Vibrate covers all of Wainwright’s studio albums except All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu (though a 2010 live recording of Martha appears on the bonus disc). Earlier promising tracks include April Fools and Foolish Love off his debut, as well as the lounge-y Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk and the title track off Poses.
The Want One-Want Two double album of 2003-2004 takes up the bulk of Vibrate, even inspiring the title of this very compilation. The comical, jovial brass of Oh What A World shines on its own. The sequencing towards the end of Vibrate however lumps six tracks from the Want One-Want Two era in a row. This is not a bad thing, as listeners may be confounded by how the brilliantly spooky, whimsical The One You Love and almost-too-saccharine orchestral piano ballads like I Don’t Know What It Is and Dinner at Eight are written and performed by the same person.
The exciting opener Going to a Town and quirky closer Tiergarden are taken from 2007’s Release the Stars, but a true gem is found in the title track off the Mark Ronson-produced Out of the Game. Fans of soulful 1970s soft-rock will eat up this feel-good, quality cut off Wainwright’s most recent studio album.
After Wainwright famously performed an entire tribute concert to Judy Garland on 2009’s Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall, it’s hardly surprising that he has a new track dedicated to her also-famous daughter. Me and Liza is a fitting observation of how similar Wainwright and Liza Minelli are, as they both grew up with famous parents.
The bonus disc of Vibrate is another feast for those who appreciate Wainwright’s work. Bitter Tears sparkles and should have been on the first disc. Wainwright’s soundtrack contributions in La Complainte de la Butte (Moulin Rouge!) and The Maker Makes (Brokeback Mountain) are here, in addition to impassioned covers of The Beatles’ Across The Universe and Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel No. 2. A mix of live recordings includes Wainwright’s cover of his father’s One Man Guy. There are also two more previously unreleased collaborations with Guy Chambers (best known for his work with Robbie Williams): the folky Chic and Pointless and the majestic WW111.
Vibrate is an ideal introduction for new listeners to Rufus Wainwright beyond THAT song on the Shrek soundtrack. Wainwright has built a strong legacy as a singer, songwriter and producer, so he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.