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Rufus Wainwright - Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets / Arizona Daily Sun review

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Rufus Wainwright's ninth studio album, Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets, may be evidence that Wainwright is moving from the corporeal to the ethereal, becoming more of a timeless musical entity than just a singer. (Even the album's cover, a painting mash-up of Wainwright and Shakespeare, suggests Wainwright's persistent reveling in anachronism.) On Take All My Loves, his signature slackened vocals are nearly absent, replaced by recitations of the Bard's sonnets from actors like Helena Bonham Carter, William Shatner and Carrie Fisher. If that doesn't sound fancy-schmancy enough, the work was first staged at the German theater, the Berliner Ensemble, and partly commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony. And it was released by Deutsche Grammophon (note the little gold label on the album cover), the standard label of classical music. Despite the gravitas surrounding it, the album feels like an adult bedtime story: beautiful and playful. Wainwright teamed up again with BAFTA-winning composer Marius DeVries, who produced Wainwright's landmark albums Want One (2003) and Want Two (2004).

The title track begins with a phone ringing, then pizzicato strings, then African percussion until layered tracks of Wainwright join in. It cuts out midway to just a recorded recitation of the sonnet and a piano riff. It's dramatic, it's haunting, and, like any of the other songs, it doesn't matter at all if you understand what's being said. Wainwright still manages to communicate something timeless to us. "Sonnet 129" is nothing but William Shatner a cappella. "Unperfect Actor," with Helena Bonham Carter, Wainwright, and his sister Martha, is almost reminiscent of Sisters of Mercy. The album could easily be a soundtrack, given how well it sets a mood. But better than that, it's a perfectly executed reminder that Shakespeare continues to inspire 400 years after his death.

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