Rufus Wainwright’s latest release isn’t a new record, but a 13 CD, 6 DVD box set including all of his studio albums, plus two live ones (Milwaukee at Last!!! and Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall, which captures his series of shows performing Judy Garland songs). The collection includes many rarities, such as a CD entitled Family and Friends (consisting of collaborations with family members including father Loudon, sister Martha and friends like Teddy Thompson), and another Rufus at the Movies, which is made up of songs he’s contributed to film soundtracks, notably his covers of Hallelujah (from Shrek) and Across the Universe (from I Am Sam). There is also a CD of the demos that landed him his record deal.
There’s a lot to choose from here, but despite the large amount on offer, for me nothing can beat his studio efforts Poses, Want One and Want Two. The Art Teacher from Want Two, an incredibly moving tale of unrequited love, is arguably his best song. Indeed, most of the highlights are from that album, especially Crumb by Crumb and the gorgeous Waiting for a Dream. Catchy ditty Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk from his sophomore effort Poses is also brilliant, and Go or Go Ahead from Want One is a stunner. Of his later work, Do I Disappoint You, Going to a Town and Rules and Regulations are the best from his poppiest, most accessible album, Release the Stars, but they still don’t compare to his earlier songs in my opinion. His last studio effort, the piano-driven Songs for Lulu, was difficult to say the least, but opener Who Are You New York? is a good’un.
Without a doubt, this box set proves that Rufus is ever the interesting and inventive artist, and it’s nice to hear live versions of the tracks and also to get the chance to listen to the rare and unreleased songs. The DVDs are also a good addition to any fan’s collection. However, it’s a large collection of music to take onboard for anyone, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend House of Rufus to someone not already familiar with Wainwright’s oeuvre; it’s rather overwhelming, and as such perhaps best left for the really big fans, or ones that already have the studio albums and want to delve deeper and discover more.