It's no secret that Sting is a serious man, so it's only logical that his holiday album -- his first new music since the Police reunion, not that it really matters -- is a serious endeavor, thank you. No niceties for him, no comforts of carols; he favors formal over familiar, writing madrigals, not ditties. It is music made by someone who lives in a castle, which isn't necessarily such a bad thing: the austerity is genuine, not affected, and the cerebral nature of the album is fascinating, albeit mildly so, as this is as sleepy as it is thoughtful. And it's that thoughtfulness that does distinguish If on a Winter's Night...; no other Christmas album exists in the head like this. It's a holiday album for people who have never wanted to hear a holiday album, let alone own one.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine