Songs From The Labyrinth


Deutsche Grammophone, 2006

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Who would possibly have thought Sting had a touch of pretentiousness in him?

I kid, I kid.  Very few artists other than Sting would have had the courage and dedication to release an album in the vein of Songs From The Labyrinth. That said, this sort of project begs its creator to indulge and revel in his or her own ego.

…Labrytinh  was a long and laborious project for Sting, according the liner notes he has been planning out this album for roughly 20 years. The end result certainly shows the effort; this is not the kind of album one could toss off as a fulfillment of a record company deal. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For those who are not in the know, Songs From The Labrynith is a classical album, with Sting interpreting the songs of the legendary lutist (how often does one get to say that?) John Dowland. If you haven’t heard of him, that’s all right -- the man died in 1626. One would have to think, however, that the man would be pleased with the work Sting has done here.

Sting himself did not play an instrument on this record; his main contributions were vocals. What results are some of the most affecting vocals of the man’s career. Each lyric is invested with spirit and a certain level of understanding; Sting’s efforts to interpret Dowland’s ancient words rarely seem inappropriate. Meanwhile, his main collaborator Edin Karamazov contributes some beautiful pieces, though nothing too radical.

The one major bone I have to pick with this record comes with the spoken-word pieces scattered throughout the album. Taken from Dowland’s letters, these “songs” truly reek of the aforementioned pretentiousness. Not interesting in any sense, they fail to reveal any deep potential connections between the modern listener and Dowland. I’d call them filler, but this album is short enough as it is.

The production is excellent, very much understated, but that was the point. In ye olden days, a man like Dowland would have no accompaniment save for his instrument. For the most part, Labyrinth plays out in this manner. The touches of modern technology are heard sparingly, with exceptions coming usually in a multi-tracking of Sting’s voices on a track like “Fine Knacks For Ladies.”

I most certainly respect Songs From The Labyrinth; again, this was not a throw-away album. Yet its uniqueness will probably prevent Sting fans from “getting it,” and newcomers seeking another “Roxanne” will be sorely disappointed. Still, it’s always welcome to hear a major artist attempting something this radical.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2007 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Deutsche Grammophone, and is used for informational purposes only.