Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
If On A Winter's Night...
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Rock
If on a Winter's Night presents an arc of songs that conjure the season of spirits, the eerie silences of the snow; days of solitude and reflection for some, a time of re-birth and celebration for many. With traditional mu... more »
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If on a Winter's Night presents an arc of songs that conjure the season of spirits, the eerie silences of the snow; days of solitude and reflection for some, a time of re-birth and celebration for many. With traditional music of the British Isles as their starting point, Sting and his guest musicians draw the listener in through a collection of songs, carols, and lullabies spanning the centuries - such as The Snow it Melts the Soonest (traditional Newcastle ballad), Soul Cake (traditional English "begging" song) Gabriel's Message (14th century carol), as well as two of Sting's own compositions - Lullaby for an Anxious Child and The Hounds of Winter. Also featured on the album is Hurdy Gurdy Man - a musical reworking and English translation (by Sting) of Der Leiermann from Schubert's classic winter song-cycle Winterreise. For this exploration of the themes and emotions of winter Sting is joined by friend and long time colleague, guitarist Dominic Miller - and an ensemble of three remarkable musicians from Northern England and Scotland: Kathryn Tickell (fiddle and Northumbrian pipes) Julian Sutton (melodian) and Mary MacMaster (metal string Scottish harp). Additional guest artists include Vincent Ségal (cello), Daniel Hope (violin), Chris Botti (trumpet), Ibrahim Maalouf (trumpet), Stile Antico (vocal ensemble), Cyro Baptista (percussion), Bijan Chemirani (percussion) and the Webb Sisters (vocals). Together they've created an album with a wonderful, warm, and unique ensemble sound - an acoustic meditation on winter.
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Setting the record straight
Mr. Yule | Hollywood | 10/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, a response to faulty information in other reviews:
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 (such as Robert Zimmerman's (Bob Dylan's) recent mistake of an album). 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"."
Not what I expected
Rushmore | CHICAGO, IL United States | 10/27/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The liner notes are really good. Sting explains that winter is his favorite season and he deliberately stayed away from holly-jolly merry Christmas songs. The photos are also awesome, particularly a scene of all the musicians gathered around a bank of candles playing their instruments. That sets the mood of the piece - rather quiet, introspective and kinda gloomy. Also on many of the numbers Sting does this really weird thing with his voice, like he stayed up all night smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey.
Several years ago Sting contributed a version of Gabriel's Message to one of the Very Special Christmas CDs for the Special Olympics. The version on this CD is vastly inferior.
I did like Soul Cake, which I remember from the Peter Paul & Mary Christmas CD many years ago. Also You Only Cross My Mind in Winter, where Sting adds lyrics to a Bach piece. Christmas At Sea, which is a Robert Louis Stevenson poem set to a traditional Gaelic song, is pretty good.
The musicianship is extraordinary. Sting's vocals, not so much. It seems like a good CD to hunker down with in January, when the wind is howling and Christmas is over and you're already pretty depressed. It sure isn't like any other Christmas CD you have in your library."
We Are Spirits in the Material World
Lightman | New York | 10/27/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
Contrary to Dylan's slapstick Christmas In the Heart, this is a serious work of reverent and inspired musicianship.
About half of the fifteen songs celebrate what Sting describes as the "magical elements" of Christmas. The rest are more generally seasonal in focus. As Sting explains in the very comprehensive liner notes, "...we are gathered here to celebrate and explore the music of Winter, the season of frosts and long dark nights".
And yes - the otherworldly mood of winter is conjured up as seven musicians "wrapped in scarves and coats" collaborate and improvise with uncommon excellence.
Traditional instruments, Celtic overtones, and the voice of the former Police lead vocalist now sounding decidedly choral, come together to warm the heart in a most surprising way.
I particularly like Soul Cake, with background vocals by the Webb Sisters (the sublime Webb Sisters according to Leonard Cohen), which weaves the melody of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen into the music of Paul Stookey. Gabriel's Message with haunting horn work by Ibrahim Maalouf, and Sting's own The Hounds of Winter are other standouts.
The low points for me are Cold Song and Now Winter Comes Slowly, the two pieces with music by baroque composer Henry Purcell. Sting reaches, but clearly can't pull off the basso profondo needed to do justice to these works.
Nevertheless this is a very good CD that I'll be going back to time and time again, even though it clearly isn't what Sting fans might expect from the erstwhile rocker. Interestingly, the iTunes database identifies the genre as "pop". It's decidedly not...
Notwithstanding Sting's disclaimer as to his agnosticism, this is a profoundly spiritual work. As he writes, "...the sacred symbolism of the Church's art still exerts a powerful influence over me".
Indeed. As he put it many years ago when writing for the Police, "We are spirits in the material world"..."