If on a Winter's Night
(Deutsche Grammophon, 2009)

Please note while this CD is frequently listed among "Christmas" music, the offerings are not totally holiday fare. In this case, the title is very indicative of the material within. These songs are musings for a cold winter's night. This also is a CD you can use to audition stereo equipment, as the recording is one of the best I have heard in a long time.

Four of the songs are Christmas themed: "Gabriel's Message" (which first appeared on A Very Special Christmas), "Christmas at Sea," "Cherry Tree Carol" and "Soul Cake." They're all lovely, but "Christmas at Sea" is the one song that's getting the most repeats from me.

This CD is a continuation of Songs from the Labyrinth, so do not be surprised to hear the balladeer style singing you've heard on the previous CD. Orchestration is simple and acoustic using quite a bit of old-time instruments including a hurdy gurdy, but it's also breathtaking and sets off Sting's voice beautifully. Much of the songs are of a minor key, so don't expect the music to precisely lift your spirits. For instance, "Hurdy Gurdy Man" is very much the busker's equivalent of "The Little Match Girl."

"Lullabye for an Anxious Child" is one of the loveliest songs on the album. How many of us would like to have Gordon sing us to sleep?

While Sting fans are going to love this CD, I think it's also appropriate for people who enjoy the 17th-century style music and audiophile level recording. There's not a bad song in the mix, but if you are looking strictly for Christmas songs, pick the four titles I mentioned above.

review by
Becky Kyle

12 December 2009

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