Sting – If On A Winter’s Night

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

December 9th, 2009

Sting is a bit of a curious fish. Part spiky haired pseudo punk, jazz idealist, tantric sex master, rainforest savior, dodgy film star and now classical musician, his credibility has often veered between naff and intoxicating. His recent musical leanings however have seen him take in an album of 18th century lute music, which was actually rather beautiful, and now this, his ode to the Christmas season. I’m always concerned about "Christmas" themed albums, invariably crap, I’m not a big fan of sonic powered "White Christmas" duets by rap superstars. However, on the back of his "Songs From The Labyrinth" which although pretenciously titled, was an exercise in 300 year old English folk, and as I said, rather good. Winter, rather than Christmas however is the theme on offer, and it is also, it transpires, the good Sting’s favorite time of year. Hence, rather than "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" we get a selection of seasonal songs, mostly dark in texture and hue as he summons up the ghost of Christmas in mildly scary, depressing form than any celebratory exercise. Pushkin would have approved. Songs invoking imagery such as "freezing", "bleak", "ice", "haunting" and "darkness" dominate here, in fields of snow far away from Roxanne’s red light lost angst. Accompanied by classical guitar, mandolin, harp, tuba, harmonium and the tablas of India, Sting has indeed pulled off again, somethig remarkable yet undoubtedly Sting-like. For a chameleon of rock, Sting in his middle age is still capable of producing the goods for a more selective, mature audience.