The fact that Ritchie Blackmore has always had a medieval vein in his body is hardly a secret to anyone who knows anything about The Man In Black. He has always talked about medieval music and Deep Purple actually threw a release party once that had a medieval theme. So when he left Deep purple in 1993 and formed a new version of Rainbow, no one was surprised, but when he disbanded the group to form a Blackmore’s Night with his wife Candice Night in 1997, a lot of people, including me, really were surprised – despite the fact that we knew very well of his medieval interest! But I remember thinking, that he might do just a couple of records to get it out of his system and then return to rock again, maybe even reunite with Ronnie James Dio. Now, that never happened and I truly believe that we will never see the day when Ritchie plays hard rock again. Blackmore has received lots and lots of criticism for abandoning hard rock for playing a lute wearing Robin Hood like costumes and I too think that it’s a shame, but part of me really admires people who are true to themselves and don’t give a crap what anybody thinks. And the fact is, I still think Blackmore’s Night’s two first albums, Shadow Of The Moon (1997) and Under A Violet Moon (1999) (anyone noticing some kind of theme here….?) are two brilliant albums. I don’t think that Blackmore’s Night has ever released a bad album, but somewhere along the way it feels like they have gotten stuck in a rut and that they have a pretty hard time getting out of that – if they even want to do that.
Half of their eight albums sound repetitious sound wise in both melodies and arrangements and that is not very Blackmore-like. Their last album Autumn Sky (2010) changed some of those things, however not in a good way. Where you certainly recognised the Blackmore’s Night sound, the production felt sterile and plastic and the whole soundscape lacked emotion. So, on the good side, they have gone back to the more “alive” sound that they have always had, but that is also the downside of this album. Now it sounds just like the other releases and frankly, I’m getting bored. But I’m not gonna totally bash this album, because just like every other Blackmore’s Night release, this is not a bad album. Now, Ritchie and Candice have never had any problems with recording covers on their albums and this album is no exception to that rule. The opening track is a cover of Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today”, It’s a cute and catchy little tune, but at the end of the day it’s a pretty ordinary pop song. Things get lots better by track number two, “Troika”, also a pop song, but here they have mixed their usual style with some Russian influences – good job. By song number four, cover song two comes up and this one is both unexpected and fun. Here they have chosen to interpret “Lady In Black” by Uriah Heep – and this one is really good. It’s dark, grim and heavy and has a lot of the old Blackmore elements that we miss and love and this might be the closest thing to a hard rock song this band has ever done. What Ritchie and Candice also love to do is to record remakes of old Deep Purple and Rainbow songs. Many times it works surprisingly well and so does their version of “Temple Of The King” from Rainbow’s debut album from 1975. Still, Candice Night is no Dio and the original is much better – but no shadow over this attempt anyway. I also like the happy-go-lucky catchy and swinging title track, but “The Ashgrove” is so dull, a big yawn – sounds too grown up.
But with “The Moon Is Shining” things are looking brighter again. I think this is one of the best Blackmore Night songs ever and this is also very close to being a hard rock track – maybe we shouldn’t be so fast to rule out a hard rock comeback for Ritchie. But the best song on the whole album is the very emotional and heartfelt instrumental ballad “Carry On… Jon”. This is of course, Ritchie’s tribute to his former band mate, friend and musical companion Jon Lord who died of cancer almost on the day one year ago (July 16 2012). All in all, this is an ok album, but the fact is, their brand of music is starting to get old and I feel that I have heard almost everything on this album so many times before on earlier Blackmore Night records, plus this album contains too many fillers that go nowhere. I’d still say that this album is much better than their last one, but Hell Ritchie, it’s time to rock again, to be the Man In Black again, to do what you do best. Candice Night is a fantastic singer with a clear and beautiful voice and she happens to be a gorgeous woman as well and she would have a solo career going before you could say Rainbow. How does that sound? Would you try that, Ritchie? Please?
Jon Wilmenius (5/10)
01. I Think It’s Going To Rain Today
03. The Last Leaf
04. Lady In Black
05. Minstrels In The Hall
06. The Temple Of The King
07. Dancer And The Moon
09. The Ashgrove
10. Somewhere Over The Sea (The Moon Is Shining)
11. The Moon Is Shining (Somewhere Over The Sea)
12. The Spinner’s Tale
13. Carry On… Jon