Songs From the Labyrinth finds Sting incorporating passages from Dowland's correspondence in between his performances of the man's lute-based compositions. In the same way Sting picked up the saxophone to give Ghost in the Machine its punch, the aging rock star now grapples with a 15-stringed instrument. Although Edin Karamazov handles most of the lute-playing, it's Sting's interpretations of Dowland's lyrics that really shine. When, for instance, he digs into lines like "Seas have their source, and so have shallow spring / And love is love in beggars and in kings," it's almost as if the singer has been waiting all his life to inhabit this material--you know, rather than to star in Dune.
Labyrinth is a literary album that dutifully explains why the name Dowland still resonates in the classical community. Sting does audiophiles a huge favor by illuminating a forgotten mode of songwriting. Now, if only we could all forget that awful song "All for Love" he did with Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams.