Album Reviews and
| Originally formed in 1997 with the release of their debut album, Shadow
of the Moon, Blackmore's Night has since caught much of the world by
storm with tours spanning European, Japanese and American territories.
Fronted by the stunning lead vocalist Candice Night the band's other half
is Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple and Rainbow fame. Musical Discoveries'
Blackmore's Night feature reviews the band's four albums, beginning with
their latest, the double live album Past Times With Good Company and
most recent studio album Fires at Midnight. An indepth exclsive
interview with Candice follows before the article concludes with reviews
of Shadow Of The Moon and their follow-up Under A Violet Moon.
Scott Bassin's review of the double live album begins our feature.
Past Times With Good Company Review
Fires At Midnight Review
Candice Night Interview
Under A Violet Moon Review
Shadow Of The Moon Review
Blackmore's Night Live/Past Times With Good Company (SPV (USA) SPV 092-7449A DCD, 2003) captures the band recorded live in Groningen Holland during May 2002 in support of their third studio album Fires At Midnight. It is a two-CD set.
The first CD begins with a fiery keyboard intro which then blends into a verse of "Written In The Stars" which is beautifully segued into "Shadow Of The Moon," the title track from their debut album. Candice Night's voice is in excellent form while Malcolm of Lumely handles drums giving the song a most percussive feel perfectly suited for a live rendition of this classic track. Ritchie's acoustic guitar flourishes mixed with Candices' soaring vocals to provide an excellent opening track. "Play Minstrel Play" and "Minstrel Hall" (also from the first album) are next. The former features a prominent violin solo while the latter--a gorgeous instrumental--features Ritchie's stunning acoustic guitar work.
"Past Times With Good Company," a playful track from their second album--Under A Violet Moon follows. "Fires At Midnight"--the title track of their third album--features a stirring violin solo and captures the band in excellent form.
"Under A Violet Moon" features some of Ritchie's most intricate acoustic guitar work along with gorgeous violin and a stunning church organ solo. This song perfectly captures the band's sound and plays even better in front of a live audience allowing the audience to handle singing chores during the breaks towards the end of the song. The disc concludes with "Soldier Of Fortune," a beautiful reworked version of a Deep Purple track. Handled here as a ballad, the song allows Candice and Ritchie both to shine.
The second disc starts with a rousing version of a Rainbow classic "16th Century Greensleeves." Ritchie's electric guitar work on this track is nothing short of spectacular, particlularly during the bridge. Candice's powerful vocals along with the sheer power of the band bring this song to a whole new level. Even Ronnie James Dio would be very impressed!
"Beyond The Sunset," a gorgeous instrumental feasturing stunning violin work from the second album follows. "Morning Star," also from the second album, is next with a strong Celtic sound this rousing number perfectly captures the band's live sound.
"Home Again," from the third album, is a song in the traditional sing-along fashion. It's a storytelling song that features excellent harmony vocals from Lady Rraine. "Renaissance Faire," a favorite track from their debut album, is next and probably more than any other song really captures the essence of the band's sound. Beautiful acoustic guitar work blended with gorgeous vocals make this a fan favorite.
"I Still Remember" features excellent keyboard work from Carmine Giglio, particularly the Harpsichord solo as well as a beautiful acoustic solo by Ritchie. "Durch den Wald Zum Bachhaus" is an upbeat instrumental featuring a stunning violin solo. Closing out the set is "Writing On The Wall." A theme written by Tchaichovsky is combined with Ritchie and Candice's original composition and creates a perfect end to a most amazing live set.
The North American edition of this two CD set also features two acoustic tracks that were recorded in Solingen, Germany. The additional rendition of "Fires At Midnight" is more intimate and "Mid Winters Tale" is absolutely beautiful making this version a welcome addition to any fan's collection.
Also available as a German and Japanese import in several different formats, you can read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the North American version from amazon.com here. Clearly an excellent introduction to the band or a welcome addition to established fans' collections, this album is a must listen!
Is time travelling possible? Yes, it is-musically at least. Blackmore's Night have made their third album combining historic medieval rhapsody with todays lively rhythm and splendid acoustic elements. The guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow) has shown his talent and turned all upside down by choosing a style based on guitar play from renaissance era. The message from medieval times is played and the fire is burning.
Fires at Midnight (SPV (Germany) 085-72432-CD, 2001) continues the line Blackmore's Night has represented since their debut in 1997. If the previous albums were made a bit more on the "street level," this one is made in the castle and the uplift continues, all meant positively.
The artwork shows the typical atmosphere of Blackmore's Night; castles, torches, old time clothing and enjoying the life. Musically the acoustic background supports very well the guitar play of Ritchie Blackmore and all the other band members play a highly remarkable role here. Not everything is acoustic, the electric instruments too have their place. All the combination of instruments is carefully balanced, yet leaving enough space to hear their speciality of sound. Old or new, they go hand in hand, from ear to another.
Last but not least, this is what the audience of Musical Discoveries are looking for; Candice Night is the purest princess with her clear and emotional voice on top of everything.
The opening track "Written In The Stars" gives you the opportunity to think the question of believing in destiny. On the other hand the rhythm sounds like bringing the knights on their horses running in front of you after one minute listening. What a great opening and combination!
"I Still Remember" is a very beautiful ballad creating a nice duet with Ritchie's guitar and Candice's vocal work. Now at last the music has captured you and the move starts. "Home Again" could also be "Let's Dance Friends!" Very lively, a bit gypsy like, partly melancholy track with so many additional voices there. This makes you feel good when realizing all you are searching for will be right at home.
"Fayre Thee Well" is a good presentation of instrumental feel delivered by the guitar wizard and the band. The title song of the album "Fires At Midnight," echoes Candice in a way it is no wonder why this song was selected to carry the name. A song for wide audience with a guitar solo we know Ritchie doing in the past years too. Noticed the rich drums holding the rhythm nicely together.
Blackmore's Night have gathered 16 songs on this great album. Learn more about the album, read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com. This is a detail attraction and a must listen!
There is anyway so much to say about each individual track, but how about letting Candice say a few things about their life, music and influences? We did succeed to catch her right after their European tour in our exclusive Musical Discoveries interview presented below.
Hello Candice! Musical Discoveries are glad to have you at spotlight today. Fires at Midnight is out and should we say, quoting the lyrics text; "the magic is here". How are you doing with the band now?
We're doing very well, thank you. It's taken quite a long time to find musicians that are so talented and great personalities as well. But I suppose its like a relationship, really. You need to date different people before you settle down and find the one that's just right. With each of the musicians we finally feel as though we've found the right people. Not only are they great musicians but they are friends also.
We've just finished the last European tour of the year for the Fires At Midnight album. Ritchie and I have actually spent more time in Europe than at home in New York this year! Between the recording and mixing of the album, the promo tours and the regular touring—my cat, who waits patiently at home for me, is starting to forget what I look like.
This is your 3rd album with Blackmore's Night. What kind of development or changes you have noticed from the first album till date?
The three albums that we've done are all very different—even though they still have the distinctive Blackmore's Night theme and individual sound which refuses to be categorized. The first album, Shadow of the Moon, was a wonderful but frightening experience to me. It was the very first time that I took the role of lead singer and I was very much still feeling my way. I hear it in my voice when I listen to that first album. Although I still love the songs as much as I did when we wrote them in 1997, the vocals came across as very relaxed, which, in retrospect, actually works out well because that 1st album was a tranquil album.
On Under A Violet Moon a lot of those songs were written to spice up the stage set because if we only played songs from Shadow of the Moon the show would have been too calming. So, songs like "Under A Violet Moon," "Spanish Nights" and "Gone With the Wind" were born. Now, with Fires At Midnight I think that we are more solid as a songwriting unit. I am a bit more secure with my voice and how to manipulate it and I love coming up with harmony ideas as well.
We've also got a very supportive record company—that's a 1st! And a wonderful, loyal fanbase. I think that the songs reflect where we are at the moment. A bit of Renaissance, a bit of rock, with some ballads and a taste of pop mixed in bit never in any one box. Always distinctively our own identity.
Quite often I have suggested people to listen "Shadow of the Moon" or "Mond Tanz" to get an idea if they were not familiar with your music. Do you think this was a good suggestion from the earlier albums and which ones you would propose from the new release Fires at Midnight?
Yes, I think those songs are a very good representation of what Blackmore's Night stands for. As for the newer songs I would have to include "Home Again" because it has that feeling of everyone in an old world tavern, spending time with friends and realizing that everything that you search for or want is at home. That warm, secure feeling of being with loved ones.
We term that feeling 'woody.' It's anti-cyber and the one dimensional computer world. It's building a bonfire and singing songs under the moon with friends. Lyrically, I think that "Hanging Tree" is my pride and joy on this album. I am really happy with the way she turned out.
As far as the incorporation of old into the new-the two songs I would choose would be "Fires At Midnight," which was originally written by King Alfonso the 10th of Spain around the 12th century, I believe, and then I wrote new lyrics and Ritchie arranged it differently and added his magic. We play an array of older and new instruments on that track. I play the harp, shawm, and pennywhistle and Ritchie is playing the string tambourine, guitar, renaissance drum and hurdy gurdy.
"I Still Remember" was originally a song called "Mon Ami" from the 1500's with a similar application as "Fires At Midnight." "Mid Winters Night" is a provincial French tune that is more of a lullaby. The 1st half of that song I play the electric bagpipe and sing in the lost language of that time and then I wrote the rest of the words in English, but it is really a lovely song from an earlier era.
The profile of Candice Night is definately interesting for Musical Discoveries' audience. How did your career start actually? What have you gone through till today, first performance,etc.?
My singing career began completely by accident. Although I had taken lessons as a child and performed in Little Theater Productions I never thought it would lead to what I am doing now. It was more of a hobby and a passion. Singing was my great escape from daily pressures.
I began working at a radio station when I was 18. I wanted a job that would allow me to be around music all the time. Through the radio station I met Ritchie on a soccer field. We became friends and in 1993 he asked me to accompany him on tour with Purple. He had, by this point, known that I could carry a tune because I have a habit of singing at home, in the car, everywhere. It is a release and a comfort to me—to sing. It's very therapeutic.
Ritchie asked me to do some background vocals over his solo on Beethoven's 9th. The stage manager hid a microphone behind the amps on the side of the stage so even the other band members didn't know I was doing it. The 1st night I did that was in the Czech Republic with 15,000 people in the audience.
After that, Ritchie left Purple and reformed Rainbow. The band was recording in a secluded farm in Massachusetts, usually under five feet of snow. After being there a few months, the singer was having difficulty coming up with lyrics for some of the songs. Ritchie knew that I had been a closet poet for years and he would call me at home and play some of the backing tracks over the phone and ask me to see what I could come up with.
I remember I was so excited at the chance that on the ferry on the way up to Massachusetts I wrote 14 verses on the 1 hour 15 minute trip. When I arrived, I showed them to the producer and Ritchie and that became "Wolf To The Moon." I became the co-writer of three songs that way.
"Ariel" was a song that Ritchie and I wrote at home and he gave it to Rainbow and they rocked it up more than our original version. That's my voice at the end of it. As for the Blackmore's Night songs, they are songs that Ritchie and I used to write and play around the house for our own pleasure. So, my introduction into the music business was a very natural evalution.
The 1st live performance I had to do as a lead singer was in front of 5,000 in Tokyo, Japan. In order to deal with pre-show jitters I had convinced myself that it wasn't actually going to happen. It was like a dream and I was sure I'd wake up at any second. Of course, about 30 seconds before I stepped on stage the reality of the situation hit and I was terrified! I don't think I stopped shaking until the 5th number. I was so frightened and self-conscious. I was really thrown right in at the deep end.
I learned a valuable lesson from that tour. But that was 1997 and now, although I still get nervous, I don't let fear inhibit me. Now I am much more comfortable on stage and I have fun with the whole experience. But I'd love to go back and play Japan again if only to show them the difference in what our band has become now.
Who are your favorite artists or bands you find yourself listening to all the time?
I tend to have favorite artists and stick with them. I love Sara Brightman's Eden and La Luna albums. Stevie Nicks is a standard favorite; songs like "Rhiannon," "Gypsy," "Sisters of the Moon" or "Storms" and Buckingham Nicks. I love artists with a sense of mystery—something that is clearly lost in today's music. Everything seems to be so 'in your face' and obvious. What happened to individuality? Same songs with different faces ... anyway... Don Henley, Maggie Reilly , Mike Oldfield's songs like "Moonlight Shadow" or "To France," Amanda Marshall. Right now I have Patti Smyth's I Should Be Laughing playing.
How did you develop your vocal style? Can you tell me about your "training/education"?
The voice is such a funny thing. It is a part of you so it gets affected by everything you do-lack of sleep, drinking, stress, etc. I am very aware of this so I don't do things in an extreme way-especially on tour. I don't drink or smoke. I take long walks or do yoga-when you're relaxed and healthy your voice sounds so much better. No dairy products before going on stage. I'm addicted to tea with lemon and honey! I do my scales everyday. I think the most important lesson I've learned is to sound like yourself.
I used to try to imitate whoever I admired at the time and I'd be frustrated if I couldn't. Then I realized that the reason that I liked so many kinds of diverse artists is because of their identity and even if I did accomplish sounding like them I'd be a second rate version of a style that someone has already accomplished. What's the point of that? I became comfortable with the sound of my own voice—which is more difficult than it sounds. I'm still getting to know its strengths and weaknesses and working on expanding the strengths each day. Its a never ending learning process. I now revel in the fact that—love it or hate it—I sound like only me.
It's interesting with vocals, it's really you against yourself. Quite a mental battle, but never boring. As for training, I began at 4 taking singing and acting lessons which lasted until I was 12. After that I joined the chorus in school—mainly because the choice was either orchestra, band or chorus and I didn't play any 'acceptable' instruments to get me into band or orchestra! My friends would ask me to sing for them and my little sister would settle into my bed at night and I'd sing her to sleep.
It seemed that people hearing me sing would become very relaxed—so much so that they'd often fall asleep in the middle of a song! I figured with a talent to put people to sleep I'd either be a singer or a politician. Music meant so much to me that I didn't have the confidence to think that I could create it. I always needed to be around it—but believed that only people who were somehow touched by God could perform it. I never would have imagined that I'd be doing what I'm doing now. It's a dream come true.
You teamed up finally with legendary Ritchie Blackmore. Who found whom and how did you match your musical ideas together?
Ritchie and I met while I was working for a rock station on Long Island and he was in Deep Purple. He challenged my station to a soccer match and then stacked his team with ringers so they beat my team very badly. We met in 1989 and after the game he asked me to meet him at a local tavern where we talked all night. We had so many things in common on so many different levels. He'd call me each night while he was on tour and we'd talk for hours. We always felt that even that first day it was an immediate familiarity. Like seeing an old friend again.
Musically, he'd be playing renaissance music around the house all the time and I'd get caught up in the fantastic melodies. I had never heard music like that before and because I'd hear it whenever we'd see each other it would have an immediate connotation of love and wonderful feelings.
The melodies were so soul stirring and intense and visual. I felt as if I had been transported into another time whenever they would play. Those melody lines are contagious! I'd walk around the house singing them—they would seep into my subconscious.
Finally, Ritchie asked me to write some words to the melodies as he played them. They became our songs. We'd play them at our parties for friends and when the people who heard them started requesting our songs more often than the traditional standards we thought "Hey, maybe other people might like to hear these as well."
We also noticed you play a great selection of instruments. Is there one to name as your special favorite?
All the instruments have such different personalities that its hard to choose ... I guess right now I'd say my trusty pennywhistle because it's easy to travel with and never lets you down like some of the electric instruments. And she has such an innocence about her sound. During the summertime I climb into this great old tree in our backyard and sit in the branches and play my pennywhistle to the birds. They always answer!
But in close second place is my shawm. It's the one I play in Fires At Midnight. I love the woody look of it and you don't often hear about shawms unless they are being played in a purist early music consorts. It's nice to be able to incorporate it into our music and give it a home in this century. Then again, I just ordered a Renaissance bagpipe and bought a Poumont in Czech and a Rauchpfife while in England so I may have new favorites by the time we go back on the road again.
Do you have a career outside music? We'd be interested to know the kinds of things if this can be shared.
When I first met Ritchie I was going to college for communications, working at a restaurant, doing work as a model and interning at a radio station. As music became my priority all the rest slipped into the background. The last one to fall by the wayside was the modeling which I stopped completely a few years ago. You don't have much time to yourself in this business let alone doing another job. What with the recording, writing,interviews, promo tours, rehearsals and shows the year seems to slip right through your fingers. I guess you could say I'm a full time singer, writer, wardrobe consultant, make up artist, home maker, accountant, cat sitter, liaison, personal assistant, therapist, cook, ... I think that's enough for now.
Please tell me about your live performances.
I think to understand the full intention of Blackmore's Night you would need to see a live show. It is a time travel trip through the ages. The mood is very mysterious but also fun. This time around our set was a castle with medieval torches illuminating the stage. The song list changes nightly depending on the audience and general mood so you'll never see the same show twice. The places we play are opera houses, theaters, churches and castles—places that would put you in a frame of mind to be aware that you are going to see a very different show.
Many of the audience members dress as we do, in Renaissance garb. It is really an amazing sight to behold. Of course, when you see people dressed like we do on stage—you're immediately connected with those people. You're all on the same level. There is no separation between audience and performer. It is as if we are all around a big bonfire telling stories and singing songs. A real unified party atmosphere.
I think people know by now that when they come to see us it will be a totally different show than what is standard these days in the industry. The other great thing is to see so many children and older people out there that are dressed up as well. The little boys and girls who still believe in fairy tales and that want to be princesses or Robin Hood. I feel that so many of today's female artists are trying to rob these children of their innocence too soon. Innocence is a wonderfully magical thing and should be cherished during childhood. These children at our shows represent hope to me. And they bring their parents and their grandparents come also. Looking into the audience and seeing how this show is a family show and how music can bring so many generations together I feel as if we have bridged the generation gap as well as the gender gap.
Ritchie says he's never seen so many women at his shows. Then again, he's used to the mostly male hard rock audiences. I'd bet if he knew there'd be so many women at the shows for the music we're doing he would have become a minstrel long before he met me! We've been known to play for over 3 hours—I think our longest show was 3 hrs 30 minutes and we take requests from the audience. We have fun with it.
All the lyrics are written by you. Where do you find the the inspiration for the lyrics?
I am very lucky to be inspired by many things. I find complexity in simple things. I can get lost in the colors of a flower or the depths of the ocean for ages. I'm inspired by mystery, by innocence, by sunsets and the energy you feel when you wrap your arms around a tree or take your shoes off and run through the grass, There is inspiration in love and loss, in a child's laugh or watching a bird dive through the blue of the sky. In the moon and the sunrise. I get so incredibly moved by nature and things that people are surrounded by every day but are too busy or preoccupied to really see and feel. I have a strong sense of wonder which makes me feel things very deeply and that inspires me to write about them.
Please tell me bout the various sequences you go through when writing the music and going into studio.
Usually the songs are already written before we go into the studio to record an album. On Fires At Midnight all of those songs were completed in the sense that we knew the melody lines, arrangement and lyrics before we went in on all but one song. "Village On The Sand" we wrote spur of the moment while the producer was doing back up work on another song.
There were a couple of songs that didn't make it onto this album that are ready to go for the next one, already. It's wonderful to be able to create with a person that is your life partner. For one thing, you're always around each other so one has a creative idea you can immediately share it and work on it together. Totally different than a band situation with the clocking in / clocking out mentality.
Ritchie comes up with the melodies and the line he has in mind for me to sing. His melodies are so visual that the song usually tells you what it wants to be about. Just close your eyes and see the pictures that the melody paints for you. It usually takes me about 5-10 minutes to come up with a complete lyrical storyline for a song. They just seem to flow. So our songs are written quite quickly.
When we've compiled about 16 or 17 songs we bring a producer and mobile studio into our home, Minstrel Hall, and do it one song at a time. Backing track first, then vocals and harmonies and the guitar solo. It took about 3 months to complete the last album.
The life of Fires at Midnight artwork could be anywhere in the old Europe. Is there a particular area that inspire Blackmore's Night for their music and style?
Actually, that cover photo was taken on my birthday at Lumley Castle near Durham in England. But, you are right, it could be anywhere and that is one of the ideas we wanted to get across. There are so many places that inspire our music and style. Driving through the fields and seeing so many castles on the hills in Germany, Tintagel or Glastonbury Tor, Avebury, Bodmin Moor or Stonehenge in England, any place that just makes you stop and be amazed; that has substance and the power to transport you to another time. Old Mother Shiptons Petrifying Well and sitting on the banks of Loch Ness. Walking the cobbled streets in Prague.
There are so many places that I have yet to see but would imagine have that older world feel. Brugge in Belgium or the Loir Valley in France—I would love to go and absorb the energy of all these places. There is a new inspiration from each new experience of each place. Although a lot of our music is based on the Teutonic style, songs like "Avalon," "Renaissance Faire" or "Clock Ticks On," the music is not exclusively inspired by one area. Many songs utilize middle eastern scales.
"Fires At Midnight" was written in Spain, "Past Time With Good Company" and "Greensleeves" were composed by Britians King Henry the 8th, "Mid Winters Night" is French Provincial and "Gone With The Wind" is Russian. Writing on the Wall was taken from the classical piece Swan Lake.
The music we gravitate to, like olde world Europe, really has no boundaries and is not confined to one area. Any place that has lanterns and cobblestones and old style architecture is inspirational to us.
The picture on the cover of Under A Violet Moon for example looks to me like the medieval town Bernkastel-Kues in Germany. Am I right with this guess?
Actually, it is the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany. It is an incredible town—but now I am curious about the one you have mentioned. If it's like the artwork I'd love to see it! The most interesting places are discovered upon recommendation.
Can you tell me about the making of the artwork for Fires at Midnight? I personally liked most the fine harmony and colours of the pages for "Hanging Tree" and "Waiting just for You."
The booklet for the album was done by our record company. They have really taken a personal interest in this project and Ulrike Rudolph at SPV made sure that visually, colorwise, everything would correspond and be beautiful.
We also used photos taken at Lumley Castle in England and the artwork for the "Hanging Tree" was done by Heather Findlay who is a wonderful artist, singer in our opening band Mostly Autumn, and a good friend of ours. She did an amazing job on the artwork. All other photos are personal ones from our collection. The photo of the hanging tree is a picture of the actual tree that is around the corner from our home—the one that inspired the song.
Artists use to do some promotion work for their new albums. Do you have some scheduled plans for this new release?
Yes, actually in May we spent a week at Lumley Castle doing small intimate shows at their Minstrels Gallery for press from all over the world. We did four shows and the record company sent out the invitations and flew the press in.
We also did lots of interviews, television and radio as well as daily papers and magazine interviews and photo sessions at that time. And we shot the video for "The Times They Are A Changin'". After that we flew home for a few weeks to rehearse the band and then we started the German tour. When the tour was over we shot three commercials that will be used in different territories with in the next couple of months and we also did television shows in Germany before doing an additional promo tour in Czech.
After we flew back home, we rehearsed our new drummer and left for the 2nd part of the European tour, which we have just completed. It has been pretty constant since the release. Right now the 2nd single, "Home Again," is going in for a radio edit and we'll be doing more interviews when that is released. I think we've done more TV shows and press for Fires than for any other album we've released so far.
And what are the future plans for "Blackmore's Night"?
Since we just finished a tour, the immediate plan is to go home, see my cat and get over jet lag. Then I'll go back into the studio to record the vocals again for "Home Again" in German and possibly Greek also for the record companies to release in their territories since that is the next single for Europe.
"Waiting Just For You" is going through the radio edit process right now for the US territory. We may do a couple of low key shows at the Normandie Inn for the holidays. Thats our home away from home. And of course, we'll be writing new songs all the time throughout all of this. Then back on the road in either February or April and maybe record a live CD and DVD at that point.
Well, thank you Candice for your time and sharing thoughts with the audience of Musical Discoveries. We have one last question for you as farewell and with these words we hope to bring the listeners one more step closer to your music.
The music of "Blackmore's Night" has an incredible load of creativity and touch. The listener is really taken out from this time and life. Candice, opening your eyes when the music plays, where do you find yourself and what do you see at that moment?
I find myself in another world. There is so much depth of emotion. The colors are vibrant. A place that may make you smile or make you cry—but always makes you feel. There is beauty and magic. Mystery and innocence abound. And freedom—freedom to escape, to fly or to just be ...
Richie Blackmore is the driving force here, combining pop hooks and sensibilities with medieval-themed compositions and cleverly arranged traditionals. His wife, Candice Night, provides the sweet and beautiful vocals that bring it all together. The opening track, "Under A Violet Moon", is an upbeat sing-a-long, and I dare you not to tap your toes while listening. It features a great organ solo and very good classical guitar work from Blackmore.
"Castles And Dreams" benefits from very strong lyrics, and Night's delivery is very wistful, almost remorseful, as "it always seems those castles and dreams fade with the morning light." "Past Time With Good Company" adds some regal trumpets to the mix, and it begins almost as a march. A very rhythmic piece, this could be perfect for a minstrel dance. "Morning Star" begins with a pounding bass drum and violins playing a mournful melody atop it. Filled with energy, and almost sounding like an Irish jig at times, this rush is tempered by Night's gliding vocal, which at times is very laid back. The chorus makes good use of sharps and flats, which makes it sound almost Egyptian.
"Avalon" is beautifully arranged piece which talks "the days of Avalon where magic ruled as king". It almost makes you wish you were back in those times. The chorus is very catchy and almost pop-like. "Possum Goes To Prague" shows Blackmore's strength as a classical guitarist, as, in this instrumental, he plays such a quick moving melody and the song is over before you know it. "Wind In The Willows" is my favorite track on this CD. In it, Blackmore and Night share co-lead vocals, with him taking the verse and she providing beautiful harmony in the chorus. The lyrics tell a story, and the chorus is as catchy as any pop song out there today.
"Gone With The Wind" starts off with a galloping horse and intense kettledrums. The instrumental background almost sounds like a battle song, and Night's vocals are more forceful in this track. The added electric guitar here is done to great effect. "Beyond The Sunset" is a slower instrumental which, again, has great guitar work in it in combination with Enya-like pizzicato strings. "March The Heroes Home" combines beautiful harmony with the hope that the soldiers will arrive home victorious and in one piece! Beautiful trumpets, drums, and Blackmore's classical guitar complete the mix. I have a feeling that you, like me, will be singing this chorus for days to come.
"Spanish Nights (I Remember It Well)" lives up to its title. A beautiful Spanish flourish on guitar starts the song, and then its driving rhythm kicks in. Castanets and furiously playing violins make you want to move. The energy in this song is not equalled in any other song here. "Catherine Howard's Fate" tells the story of a poor woman who happened to "love more than one man". Beautifully played by Blackmore and beautifully sung by Night. "Fool's Gold" has a more pop-like chord structure and instrumentation. Night's vocals sound particularly good on this track. "Durch Den Wald Zum Back Haus" is the most medieval sounding instrumental on this CD, though Blackmore's guitar is backed by a full string section.
Another track that showcases Night's voice is a the slower "Now And Then", which was also written by Night. A pop-influenced song, this song would acutally do quite well on the radio. Lastly, we come to "Self-Portrait", a remake of an old Deep Purple song. The arrangement has been changed to more of an accoustic/medieval arrangement, and as you progress more into the song it becomes more intense. In the bridge Blackmore unleashes a very well done accoustic guitar solo, and the song keeps building until the end. A perfect way to end the CD. Now, it's up to you to buy.--(amazon.com)
The tracks on Under A Violet Moon are certainly worth a journey. Released in various territories with a slightly different package, the Japanese version includes an extra glossy colour photo booklet. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com. While not universally supported as the band's debut or their latest release we certainly think that Under A Violet Moon is a must listen!
Ritchie Blackmore has for years been synonomous with the being the father of the flashy, classical-influenced style of raw and powerful rock guitar playing (Deep Purple, Painbow). On this effort, he let's the acoustic guitar take the front seat to really show the "normal" listener the joys and beauty of the 16th century renaissance music that have influenced him over the years. This further proves that "tone" and "passion" in music do not necessarily come from 200 watt Marshall cabinets and a Fender Strat, but acoustic guitars, violins, flutes, violas, mandolins, and other medieval instruments.
Yes, the classical riffs are still existant throughout the entire disc (the trills, the scales, reminiscent of harpsichord) as well as some electric guitar overlays in the background and foreground by this reigning Master of the Stratocaster (...and an occasional whammy bar riff, or two).
But what really makes this CD? The angelic voice of his wife, Candice Night. This young lady provides such a smooth quality to the tracks that you actually wind up listening to her and not her husband! You'll really be taken away from the subtle beauty this album portrays.
The songs for the most part, are first rate, catchy tunes that deserve attention. Most notable are the songs "Shadow of the Moon," "Play Minstrel Play" which includes a fantastic flute solo by Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), "Ocean Gypsy", "Magical World", and "Spirit of the Sea". Another bonus is to hear Blackmore's beautiful solo guitar playing on such pieces as "Minstral Hall", "Memmingen", and "Possum's Last Dance"--(amazon.com)Blackmore's Night Shadow Of The Moon reached new heights on 19 June 2002. The album went out of ths world! Kalpana Chawla, a crewmember aboard the space shuttle mission STS-107, requested that the title track be played for the wake up music and brought her Shadow of the Moon CD with her.
Certainly worthy of a trans-Atlantic journey, this debut album by Blackmore's Night will appeal not only to fans of renaissance music but also of the progressive rock group Renaissance. Released in various territories with differing bonus (instrumental tracks), one European version includes "Possum's Last Dance" and the Japanese pressing includes an alternative mix of "Mistrel Hall". Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com. Shadows of the Moon is a must listen!
Review & Interview © Mauri Osterholm
A special thanks to Musical Discoveries for allowing us to reproduce their interview