by Jessica Naley
1) This is not supposed to be a Christmas album – it is a Winter album, meaning the style and lyrical content pertain to the things of Winter, including Christmas but not dwelling on it. Another great recording of this kind, for example, is “Voices of Winter” by Herdman, Hills and Mangsen.
2) Some reviewers whine about Gordon Sumner’s (Sting’s) vocal performance here. The tone and vocal style of this album are clearly connected to Sting’s “Songs from the Labyrinth,” for which he did lots of historical research to achieve the style of vocal performances originally used in 17th century British song. If you can’t handle being transported through music to this time and place, this album isn’t for you. And try to listen to it on a good stereo system, not ear-buds or cheap car speakers.
3) It is posited that only hardcore Sting fans could like this recording. I am not a hardcore Sting fan and I think it is the best work he’s ever done. I also enjoy his work with the Police and certain selections from his solo catalog, but they each have their own appeal and should be evaluated on their own merits. I like this recording because the quality musicianship and “live” feel transcend contemporary holiday music muck. It has a rustic vibrancy enveloped in a haunting winter fog, vividly suggesting the British Isles or Scandinavian mountains in midwinter.
In summation, if you thing think Sting has been “washed up” since the Police broke up who knows why you are looking here in the first place, but it might be worth your while to return to Sting’s solo catalog and rework your way through up to this point – it might bring an understanding of what being an artist is about, and open new horizons for enjoyment of music in general. On the other hand, if you appreciate traditional music of Great Britain and Scandinavia (Karan Casey, Battlefield Band, Steeleye Span, Vasen, Savina Yannatou, etc. etc.) I can highly recommend “If on a Winter’s Night”.