Sting – If On A Winter’s Night (2009)

FrontCover1.jpgIf on a Winter’s Night… is the ninth studio album from British musician Sting.[10] The album is a collection of Christmas and winter-themed songs mostly written by others, including folk songs, madrigals and religious hymns from past centuries. Dozens of musicians appear on the album in various configurations, including jazz, folk and classical players.

It was released in most countries on 26 October 2009, on 27 October 2009 in the United States and 2 November 2009 in the United Kingdom. The album was released in several formats: vinyl LP, a single-disc CD, a limited edition CD and making-of DVD entitled The Genesis of ‘If on a Winter’s Night…’ in Six Chapters in hardback book packaging, an Amazon.com exclusive version, as well as various import editions (of note is the Japanese edition). The limited edition and Amazon exclusive both include bonus songs; the Japanese edition include them as well but adds “The Coventry Carol.” The album includes a reworking of “The Hounds of Winter” from his album Mercury Falling.

The title of the album is based on the novel If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino. (by wikipedia)

Booklet09AIt’s no secret that Sting is a serious man, so it’s only logical that his holiday album — his first new music since the Police reunion, not that it really matters — is a serious endeavor, thank you. No niceties for him, no comforts of carols; he favors formal over familiar, writing madrigals, not ditties. It is music made by someone who lives in a castle, which isn’t necessarily such a bad thing: the austerity is genuine, not affected, and the cerebral nature of the album is fascinating, albeit mildly so, as this is as sleepy as it is thoughtful. And it’s that thoughtfulness that does distinguish If on a Winter’s Night…; no other Christmas album exists in the head like this. It’s a holiday album for people who have never wanted to hear a holiday album, let alone own one. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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Sting relishes a bleak and beautiful season:

Sting eschews the conventional approach to holiday releases – slap dash versions of jingle bell-dressed carols and reverential hymns-with-strings – with this shivery homage to the season of icicles and introspection.

In the liner notes he explains that the snowy season is his favorite, calling it “both bleak and profoundly beautiful.’’ He expertly captures that mood on this mix of traditional songs, lullabies, hymns, and a pair of originals.

The ultra-tasteful arrangements trot the globe from Gaelic revelry to Middle Eastern rhythms.

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The upbeat, bluegrass-tinged “Soul Cake’’ offers pleasant Dickensian undertones in the poverty-stricken-yet-jolly lyrics. The melancholic “Christmas at Sea’’ finds Sting setting a Robert Louis Stevenson poem to windswept music. He recasts the midtempo pop song “The Hounds of Winter’’ from his “Mercury Falling’’ album with layers of bass clarinet, melodeon, and cello into a ballad of exquisite wistfulness. As is the simple voice and guitar arrangement of “The Snow It Melts the Soonest,’’ with Sting exploring a ragged part of his voice perfect for the tune’s mournful tone.

The disc absolutely veers into stuffy corners, thick with overemphasized, Sting-ian portent, notably on the mannered spoken word passages of “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming.’’ And the more contemporary energy of a tune like “The Burning Babe’’ doesn’t mesh as well with its throwback peers.

But mostly, with its wintry hush and flurries of harmonies, the album evokes the title, a not unpleasant vision of contemplatively gazing out a window encrusted with frost in a thick Irish wool sweater drinking a steaming cup of cider. (by Sarah Rodman)

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Personnel:
Chris Botti (trumpet)
John Clark (horn)
Ira Coleman (bass)
Charles Curtis (cello)
Jack DeJohnette (drums)
Daniel Druckman (drums)
Chris Dudley (trombone)
John Ellis (clarinet)
Kenny Garrett (saxophone)
Chris Gekker (trumpet)
David Hartley (harmonium)
Daniel Hope (violin)
Bashiri Johnson (drums, percussion)
Edin Karamazov (lute)
Ibrahim Maalouf (trumpet)
Mary MacMaster (harp, vocals)
David Mansfield (dulcimer, guitar, mandocello, mandolin)
Melissa Meell (cello)
Dominic Miller (guitar)
Daphna Mor (recorder)
Leslie Neish (tuba)
Dean Parks (guitar, mandolin)
Marcus Rojas (tuba)
Bassam Saba (ney, oud)
David Sancious (organ)
Dov Scheindlin (viola)
Vincent Ségal (cello)
Sting (vocals, percussion, guitar, lute, snare drum)
Julian Sutton (accordion)
Kathryn Tickell (northumbrian smallpipes, violin)
Peter Tickell (violin)
+
percussion:
Bijan Chemirani – Rhani Krija – Cyro Baptista – Daniel Freedman – Donald Hay
+
background vocals:
Joe Sumner – Lisa Fischer – The Webb Sisters – Jasmine Thomas
+
Stile Antico (vocal ensemble)
+
MusicAeterna (strings)

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Tracklist:
01. Gabriel’s Message (Traditional) 2.33
02. Soul Cake (Stookey/Batteast/Mezetti) 3.27
03. There Is No Rose of Such Virtue (Anonymous) 4.03
04. The Snow It Melts The Soonest (Traditional) 3.43
05. Christmas At Sea (Stevenson/Sting/MacMaster) 4.37
06. Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming (Praetorius/Baker) 2.41
07. Cold Song (Purcell/Dryden) 3.16
08. The Burning Babe (Wood/Southwell) 2.43
09. Now Winter Comes Slowly (Purcell/Betterton) 3.05
10. The Hounds Of Winter (Sting) 5.49
11. Balulalow (Warlock/Traditional) 3.10
12. Cherry Tree Carol (Traditional) 3.11
13. Lullaby For An Anxious Child (Sting/Miller) 2.50
14. The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (Schubert/Müller) 2.49
15. You Only Cross My Mind In Winter (Bach/Sting) 2.35

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