While his career was characterized by no small number of unusual events, arguably the greatest concentration of weirdness about David Bowie’s career can be found in the 1980s. Within those ten fateful years, Bowie released albums which have come to be regarded as:
- some of his finest: Let’s Dance was the album which broke the singer into the Top 40 pop market and really helped to create the enduring image of the singer which would last until his death in 2016
- to some of the most artistically questionable: between the covers which appeared on Tonight and “Loving The Alien” and “Blue Jean,” when even the biggest Bowie fan might wonder if the singer was beginning to slip
- to some of the flat-out worst stuff which would appear in the singer’s catalogue: see Never Let Me Down).
The impressions left from album-to-album were just that different and really ensured that fans were always guessing at what they could expect. Simply, the eighties were a very unusual time for David Bowie, but the most unlikely hit in the singer’s catalogue proved to be the Labyrinth soundtrack.
Originally released in 1986, Labyrinth was a film directed by Jim Henson and produced by George Lucas. The way the story goes, Bowie had wanted to make music for a children’s movie and took the project because he saw it as his chance – but no one could possibly have imagined how enduring the appeal of both the film and its soundtrack have proven to be. To this day, Labyrinth (the film) is a broadcast event when it hits TV, and copies of the soundtrack have become incredibly collectible because it has long since gone out of print.
The new vinyl reissue of the soundtrack seeks to solve the ‘out of print’ problem, but also goes a step further by giving listeners the benefit of meticulously reproduced fidelity and the results are truly a bit of magic. Bowie’s songs leap of the vinyl on this reissue, and listeners will find they’re instantly entranced by the experience of it.
While there’s no arguing the obvious nostalgic value of the new Labyrinth re-press, there’s also no denying the improved aural experience and fidelity of this reissue. Right off, listeners will be able to note the clarity and delicacy of each song’s arrangement as well as how crisply the highs ring through as well as how cleanly the low end registers.
On the A-side of the album, songs including “Into The Labyrinth,” “Magic Dance” and “Chilly Down” all present as actually a legitimate improvement upon the original releases of the album as they play so cleanly and, while there is no shortage of cheasy/cringe-worthy synths which clearly mark each as ‘eighties soundtrack’ fare, it’s impossible not to rush to them with childhood joy upon hearing. That proves to also be true of Jones’ score as well; the obvious whimsy of the score doesn’t go out of its way to sound childlike or innocent (which is in keeping with the tone of the film), but it does build different thematic peaks which set up the poppier songs perfectly, in this context.
Now, it could easily (and rightly) be observed that most of the fireworks about the Labyrinth soundtrack are concentrated on the A-side of the album but, upon flipping the proverbial disc and sinking a stylus into it, listeners will discover that the B-side does have its charms. The more musically adventurous parts of the score ( “Goblin Battle” and “Home At Last”) really capture a better and more upbeat vibe which helps to build the music to a fever pitch clearly before the climax hits and the credits roll (which would be the progression that “Without You,” “Thirteen O’Clock,” “Home At Last” and “Underground” all take here).
In the end, “Underground” sees the light come up and helps to close out the proceedings as it should and, when it does, listeners will find they have a warm and satisfied sensation in the pits of their stomachs from the experience of listening to this reissue. As there should be, there is closure about the album’s running, but the way it leads listeners out is solid enough that they’ll have no problem restarting the whole thing over again for repeated listens.