Sting, If On a Winter’s Night…
(Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Classical)
Whenever musical artists stray from their customary paths, there is invariably an outcry from fans around the world. People, in general, fear change. They thrive in their comfort zones. But it is only with change that one can truly grow. Sting discovered this in 2006 with Songs From The Labyrinth, a medieval, lute-laden collection of tunes from the songbook of John Dowland (1563-1626). He created an album that was close to his heart because he could. Do we really want to hear “Roxanne” being regurgitated by Sting for the rest of his life? Not me.
So, it was in a similar vein that Sting has released If On a Winter’s Night…, his very first “holiday” record. Holiday is in quotes because Sting has expanded the idea into a collection of traditional winter songs from the British Isles covering roughly five centuries. This, in fact, is where he was born and raised as Gordon Matthew Sumner. At 58, Sting has deserved this journey of introspection and beauty.
The fifteen tracks on Winter’s Night are mostly made up of old English carols, lullabies, and traditional tunes. You may, however, recognize a couple of these. The lead off song is “Gabriel’s Message,” originally found on the Special Olympics charity album A Very Special Christmas (1987); and “Hounds Of Winter,” from Sting’s Mercury Falling (1996). Both have shed their pop-song sounds for a much folksier, personal arrangement.
Track five finds Sting singing the Robert Louis Stevenson poem “Christmas At Sea” (Lyrics by Stevenson, music by Sting). “Soul Cake” could possibly be considered the first single from Winter’s Night. It’s the closest to a pop song that exists on this album. Sting’s other offering is “Lullaby for an Anxious Child.” Other selections that may relate the general mood of the album are, “The Snow It Melts the Soonest,” “Cold Song,” “Now Winter Comes Slowly,” and the Bach inspired “You Only Cross My Mind in Winter.”
This music may remind us of cold, dark, and lonely winter days when the deafening silence forced your mind to look inward. However it affects you, Sting has once again followed his heart and created a wonderful collection of songs showcasing his musical aptitude through a deep gaze into his soul.