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on 19 December 2017
I bought this album just before last Xmas, but never got around to playing it. This morning, with all the preparations for this Christmas complete, I had time to myself, and took out the album and played it. How beautiful, haunting, and poetic it is! Every song is good, but there are certain tracks that are so unusual, and they penetrate into your very soul. If you have an affinity with winter, you will love this. And you will enjoy sitting down with a hot drink, looking at the Xmas lights in your home, and feeling a warm glow coming over you when you let yourself be drawn into this enchanting music. The tracks where Sting sings low, drawn-out notes are particularly soothing. I love this album and will listen to it every Xmas from now on.
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on 9 February 2010
When I first found out that Sting was doing a winter album I was pretty sceptical. I didn't think it was a good idea to change from his style of song writing and songs to do covers of seasonal songs. I read an account of his thoughts on winter and the project on his website, which is the exact same one which is in the booklet, and I could see that he was passionate and serious about this album and the season that it's associated with. I felt a lot more at ease about this new venture and that this experiment might be a good change. Sting obviously took a big risk with recording this album and it's on a different music label than his other albums. The original idea was for Sting to do a Christmas album, but Sting being a bit of a sceptic on Christmas songs suggested that he'd rather do a winter album. This isn't just another Sting album, it's a seasonal special album, and that's why it must be set apart from comparing it to his other efforts. By all means bare in mind his previous work but that has nothing to do with this record because it is a concoction of covers of traditional songs with 2 of his own thrown in for good measure. You definitely need an open mind and an appreciation of the season and the history that this music brings with it.

The deluxe edition, which I waited for a month after release, has the CD with 2 bonus tracks and a Bonus DVD. It's presented in a hard back quality book form with slips cases for the discs. There are plenty of photos to get the feel for the creation of the album and there's Sting's very interesting and extensive account on his thoughts and feelings on the project. The account is in 3 languages, French and German as well I think. Then the lyrics are presented in all 3 languages too. The pictures with Sting with a fully grown beard represents how he has matured with age, and I think it takes a mature listener to really understand this album. Sting's appreciation of music is wider than his own untimeless style and his interest spans to music which is very different to what his usual listeners expect from him. Maybe he has different ideas now.

On the first listen I could really appreciate how mellow and beautiful sounding the songs were. You definitely have to appreciate the classical instrumental side of this album and the feeling that comes with that. The only problem was I couldn't work out what the hell Sting was singing about! Once you've listened to the songs while reading the lyrics then you become accustomed to his accent and it becomes an extra feature but it is a big downer when listening to the songs first off. Sting has adopted this Newcastle accent and he achieves the style by hardly opening his mouth when he sings. That's why some of the words seem mispronounced and strange to the listener. He must have chosen to sing in this style to fit in with these old songs and the seasonal period because he has never sung in a Newcastle accent before so he's definitely putting it on for this album.
Gabriel's message is the opener which is a slow and very mellow carol. Soul cake is my favourite song on the album. Sting got a good following for this album off the back of his live performances of this song, and of course his interviews to promote the album. It's catchy and historical being a begging song from the 19th century. The first of 2 Rose songs is my favourite. Both are soft. `Such virtue' being from the 16th century and `Blooming' being from the 18th. `Blooming' has Sting whispering about the bible. The 'Alleluia' from `Such virtue' is inspiring and majestic. In between is The snow it melts the soonest. One of my favourites with just guitar. This was totally an anthem a month ago with the downpour of snow. Christmas at sea is my 2nd favourite. The sound of the harp and that crashing intro's amazing. This song is pretty catchy and draws you in. The choris has Gaelic singing done by Mary Macmaster who brought to Sting a women's working song from the Isle of Skye. Sting fit the lyrics from a poem to this song and put it together. What we have is a masterpiece. Cold song is one of the most depressing song I've ever heard. The burning babe is very upbeat and joyful even if the lyrics aren't. The hounds of winter's been reshaped to a traditional style and is the longest song. Balulalow, a Scottish carol is mellow and nice. Cherry tree carol is beautiful. It tells of Joseph in such a human reaction to gathering cherries for a child which isn't his. Lullaby... is one of my favourites and the 2nd of his own songs. Hurdy-gurdy man is incredibly depressing too but Julian Sutton does such a great job tying in the melodeon. You only cross...is another very soft tune. The 1st of the bonus tracks Bethlehem down is fabulous. The sound is quite beautiful and the lyrics enchanting. Cradle song isn't so great but is a nice ending.

The DVD clocks in at 21:49 with Sting ending on `If I have a spiritual side then it's music. I play and listen to music like it matters to my soul'. You can see that Sting has become wise with age and his reflection on his own musical career has allowed him to be at one with these mysterious and historical songs and this seasonal album. The DVD shows the studio recordings and the process of creating the songs. It's very interesting and helps you understand the album better too. These songs work brilliantly together and if it wasn't for Sting's accent then I would give this 5 stars.
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on 15 March 2014
Three stars is supposed to mean "It's OK" but here it means that I'm pulled in two directions. The album certainly evokes a cold winter's evening as the candles flicker. It seems and indeed is very medieval at times. However I'd need several strong glasses of mead to listen all the way through at one sitting. Sting's voice lacks variation here but that, in part, is due to the choice of material. If the album was just tracks 1-6 I might have given it 5 stars. But it's not, it rumbles all the way to track 15 and I'm more than a bit tired by then. Having said that, I won't be re-selling it. The treasures, including "Soul Cake" and "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming", are well worth keeping.
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on 7 May 2012
It's the curse of over-promotion, in 2009 Sting appeared on every programme going and a different version of his cathedral concert was broadcast by the BBC, and all of those live versions felt better than this album, certainly for the best track in my opinion, Christmas At Sea. Still one for the collection for any fan but if you like the way the songs were performed on Jools Holland, get the DVD first.
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on 1 February 2010
I bought this album as i'd seen Sting talk about it on television a fair bit and then over the Christmas holiday there was a documentary about it with songs from the album being performed in Durham Cathedral.

It was just something a little different for me, and a folk based album using songs going back over 5 centuries i found unusual. I've never bought any of Sting's music before.

I'd say it is more suited for listening to over the Christmas period rather than just the winter season and it will most certainly be played often during holiday time by me and a nice addition to the Christmas music collection i have. There are most certainly some excellent musicians that have been used on this album too.

Would recommend the album to anyone who likes folk music or just wants something 'different' to explore in the music field. Really enjoyed it!
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on 17 November 2013
Must admit I've never written a review about anything before but had to about this!

I'm not a Sting or folk music fan & discovered this album by accident after hearing a track on the radio, but have to say it's the most haunting beautiful album I've heard in a long time.
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on 16 April 2018
Great cd, different
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on 26 March 2014
The quality is excellent, but then it always is with Sting. This album is packed with beautiful Christmas songs - old traditional songs but most you will never have heard before, and they are full of atmosphere and spirit and heart. Buy this - you won't regret it.
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on 30 December 2016
a winter themed christmas album - different to the usual stuff. Sting truly comes across as a musical with integrity.
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on 3 March 2017
very good album
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