Neo Geo innovator and international musical collaborator Ryuichi Sakamoto has run the gamut in his lengthy career, from the Kraftwerk-inspired work of the Yellow Magic Orchestra and a handful of high-profile soundtracks, to several solo albums and various guest spots with Arto Lindsay, David Sylvian, Thomas Dolby, and Public Image Ltd., among many others. And on the heels of the YMO's breakup in 1983, Sakamoto jumped right into the fray with this soundtrack to director Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Sakamoto also co-starred along with David Bowie). While not as sophisticated as the music he wrote for The Sheltering Sky and The Last Emperor (a collaboration with David Byrne), Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence does sport one of Sakamoto's most fetching pieces, "ForbiddenColours" (given many treatments, including a fine David Sylvian vocal version), and a few successful Asian and Western classical hybrids. Unfortunately, though, the music often bogs down in bloated, synth-washed musings and staid rhythmic underpinnings. Not the best introduction to Sakamoto's work, but certainly worth a cut-out bin price for the lovely variations on "Forbidden Colours."
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook