The Good: Amazing instrumental accompaniment, Great vocals/harmonies
The Bad: I’m not wild about the readings . . . Duration (of the original)
The Basics: A very cool album, Songs From The Labyrinth is, nevertheless, a Renaissance music album with limited appeal, no matter how awesome Sting is!
Back in the day, I was a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (reviewed here!). In the course of that brief series, Sting made an appearance as himself. The album he was promoting was Songs From The Labyrinth, his Elizabethan Era, Renaissance music album. So, as I listened to the album on heavy replay – now that Sting is my Artist Of The Month – I was eagerly listening for the one song I would recognize from Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. It was “Come Again” and I geeked out appropriately when it came up on the latter half of the album.
Songs From The Labyrinth is very much a niche album, unlike the first Sting album Sacred Love (reviewed here!) that I reviewed. No matter how cool Sting is, Songs From The Labyrinth is a Renaissance music album and it’s not exactly going to make one fall in love with the genre. That said, let’s talk about how cool Sting is for just a moment. Sting is a world-renowned pop-rock artist and he’s at such a point in his career that when he gets captivated by something, he has complete freedom to pursue it, economic interests be damned! Regardless of how lukewarm I am to the overall album Songs From The Labyrinth, Sting is able to do what he loves and share it with the world and I think that is absolutely awesome.
What Sting wanted to do in 2006 was play the lute and share the music and letters of the 16th Century musician John Dowland with the world. Accompanied by lutenist Edin Karamazov, Sting plays the archlute, sings, and reads the words of Dowland. The result is a very mellow album that is half poetry, half a biography of a man who appears to have been bribed to do something (which is not entirely clear) in Europe which seems to give him access to information about an impending military invasion. The contrast, is more stark than simply two different types of vocal presentations (song vs. spoken word); the love poems are mixed with an unclear narrative that (after eight listens) becomes no more interesting over time.
Sting has amazingly smooth vocals on Songs From The Labyrinth and it appears that on some of the tracks, he harmonizes with himself (which he does masterfully). Songs From The Labyrinth comes in many forms; the original release was a 23-track album that was less than fifty minutes long. That version (which was the one I listened to ad nauseum) is adequate to get the point across, but with two different Deluxe and Anniversary Editions released since, fans of Sting who want the most bang for their buck should probably go with one of those.
For other Artist Of The Month reviews, please visit my reviews of:
Modern Times - Bob Dylan
American Favorite Ballads (Boxed Set) – Pete Seeger
Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel
For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page where the albums are organized from best to worst!
© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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