I don't know about you but, for me, one of the problems with a lot of music these days is the obsession with churning out more or less the same album time after time after time. For a vast majority of acts today, you know exactly what their next album will sound like. In the good old days, by contrast, one of the great joys of following a particular band or singer was not knowing exactly what they would come up with next. Sometimes it would work - sometimes it wouldn't. But it would always be enthralling to watch their 'journey'.
So I'm delighted that Sting has come from left-field again with "If On A Winter's Night...". Even better than that, he's produced what is (to my ears) a convincing, successful album of folky, wintertide tales and tunes that work extremely well as a collective, yet also furnish him with enough latitude to experiment with different vocal styles, introduce unfamiliar melodies (as on this version of the seasonal 'standard' "Gabriel's Message") and interweave a range of musical approaches (as on the excellent, jazz-tinged "The Burning Babe"). Sting's always been a master of musical fusion and this album is no different. And as a Warlock/Schubert fan, I'm delighted to see examples of their work slotting neatly into this superbly reflective, understated, bitter-sweet collection.
Stand-outs for me include "The Hurdy-Gurdy Man", "Soul Cake", "The Hounds of Winter" and "The Snow It Melts The Soonest". But the truth is that Sting puts his indelible stamp on all the songs.
So what next, Sting? Wait - don't tell me! Surprise me. Again!