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on 3 March 2017
very good album
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on 29 October 2017
It's not even November and I'm listening to this again. Ok we've just put the clocks back and there's a chill in the air. There's a lovely chill coming from my hi fi as this collection of songs about winter plays. It's an album of such haunting delicate folk like beauty. Sting obviously put his soul into this and its one of mt favourites of his. How i wish i could curl up by a blazing log fire in a cottage miles from any where. Let the snow gently fall. I'm cosy with this album and a glass of whisky.
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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 9 November 2017
I bought this many years ago as I had heard one of the tracks, fleetingly, at a stranger's house and recognised that it was by Sting after seeing a documentary one cold evening close to Christmas. I play it every winter because it speaks to me still and so I am grateful to have it. I would recommend it.
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on 2 November 2009
The first thing I will say is that this is the first Sting album I have ever brought (or owned, copied, let in the house...). So I don't come to it with any baggage of claiming to be a fan. I think some previous reviews here suffer from assuming that this is a straight pop album. Its not. The Deutche Gramophon label should be your guide.

I was intrigued enough to buy it as an intrest in folk and classical music puts this right up my street. I have also had a strong intrest in winter / Christmas too. By which I don't mean Wizzard / Slade. Anyway.

There is much to intrigue here. At 50 minutes running time, the album covers a lot of ground, and repeat listens will reveal lots of subtle parts you may miss first time round. There is old English folk songs, poems sung and set to music. Sting covers five centuries of music, but blends it all together beautifully. If you want a winter album to soundtrack the party season, forget it. If you don't want to try something new, learn about something outside the usual pop/rock mainstream, or widen your horizons, move on. But if you do appreciate musicians playing really well as individuals and together, an education and entertainment, this is for you. If you want something to soundtrack dark nights and reflection on the passing year as you sit by the fire with your favorite tipple as the lights flicker across the walls, take a chance and invest in this. I suspect as winter rolls around year on year, this will make repeat appearences on the stereo. It certainly has me researching further some of the origianal inspirations for the tracks. Which is what great music should do. Lead you on to even more...It's not an easy listen at times. Not all the tracks have a hummable melody or toe-tapping rhythm. Most are slow and take time to unfurl. You will need to pay attention, but its a grower. Its rewarding. Good things come to those who wait.
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on 27 December 2009
As so many others have said, this record is a bit of a slow burner. When you first put it on, you may find yourself baulking at the Christmassy references lurking in the songs. Why (you may ask) was Sting so irritable with the record company for suggesting that he record a 'Christmas Album'? Hasn't he partly done just that?

You may also get a trifle irritated at the warbled 'serious singing voice' Sting has adopted on one or two of the tracks. You may even wonder to yourself whether they have bright Christmas lights, warming Glühwein, skating rinks, central heating and Yule logs in any place Sting happens to spend the festive season. It can't all be deep gloom in Winter, can it?

But a few listens will put you right. The Christmas references are in there because most of us have inevitably absorbed such things into our bloodstream even if we don't believe the whole account the carols and writings offer; they're part of our cultural landscape, if not our religious or spiritual one. And they are accompanied by the kind of reflective, unshowy music which suits precisely the period during which I write this: between Christmas and New Year.

I suspect the record will get a lot of plays in January and February too, as it is not a Christmas bauble. Suffice to say that this CD is something of a surprise.
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on 30 December 2009
I heard this album and was pleasantly surprised. In fact it's really good if you like folky, wintry, largely melancholy music. However having seen the BBC2 programme about it the other night I can't help thinking it's not as good as Sting clearly thinks it is. I'd heard that he's a bit `up himself' but blimey! In fact ... and this surprised me ... it rather put me off.

It seems that:-

a) He got a bunch of really good musicians together (like most `solo' artists do)
b) Found a load of lovely old songs (like most folk artists do, because it's ... er ... what folk music is)
c) Rehearsed and recorded them in his own house (like many musicians do these days, because modern technology allows this and in many cases, because it's cheaper ... not that it's a concern for Sting, you understand.)

But Sting does all this and somehow it's ground-breaking and brilliant and ... get this ... oh so `organic'. Other insights included that rock musicians play differently from folk musicians who play differently from classical musicians. Well heavens, Mr Sting, that is a surprise.

What this is, is a really nice collection of songs, well played and well sung, and left at that it's really very good. But the fact that 30 or so musicians from all over the world had to come and pitch in at his house in Tuscany does rather detract from the warm, cosy, intimate English feel of the actual music and for me rather spoils it. Like knowing that a favourite band is actually a bunch of session musicians directed by some shipped-in American producer (yes - we have one of those too ... one who came over as such a tosser on the TV that several of the musicians felt it necessary to make excuses for him), it detracts from the experience rather than enhances it.

I'd suggest that you get this and enjoy it, but avoid any TV programmes about it!

4 stars for the music, 1 star for all the rest of it.
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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 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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 March 2010
I am giving this disc a rare five stars, largely because it is an example of where the sum is more than its parts. Despite reservations on the initial play, I thoroughly warmed to the selection on each subsequent playing. Sure, there is often a disappointment to be had in Sting's voice - sometimes making you wince - but the intimacy and the imagination of the arrangements are warming.

Indeed, for a winter album, the opening is warm with the soft trumpet playing of Ibrahim Maalouf, but the harmonic vocal changes at the song's end gives an inkling of the little gems that litter this collection. The first track is called `Gabriel's Message' and might give an indication of explicit religiosity throughout the album. But there are only five songs that carry this connotation, and Sting makes plain in the fulsome accompanying booklet that instead the Christian story "and the older traditions of the winter solstice ... are our common cultural heritage, and as such need to be kept alive through reinterpretation within the context of contemporary thinking, even if that thinking is essentially agnostic." The only sound of a Christmas carol is that of `God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' played high above the song `Soul Cake'.

I have mentioned the problem with Sting's voice. On `Cold Song', one laments its presence, but when you read the lyrics one judges how well his interpretation fits. Equally, his voice on `The Snow It Melts the Soonest' is a voice with possibilities, but also one that is honest. The instrumental accompaniment is sometimes minimal, sometimes a crowd, with some fantastic seasoned musicians. The highlights for me are the strings in the atmospheric `Now Winter Comes Slowly' that successfully convey the cold, and equally the voices in the spine-tingling `Bulalalow'.

The songs are very well chosen and vary from the traditional to the modern, via such diverse composers as Praetorius, Purcell, Bach, Schubert, and Warlock. Sting includes a version of `The Hounds of Winter', whose interesting alternative arrangement makes the passionate lament more subtle. The only song on the album I would skip is the `Cherry Tree Carol', simply because its lack of modulation lends itself to boredom.

This is not a Sting album; it is an album about winter, so for those expecting something similar to the usual Sting album might be disappointed - or, like me, you might be charmed. It is far better than the reviews it received, probably because it relies on more than one listening. I will certainly pull it out of the collection for playing every winter.

So, Sting, when's the spring album due?
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