by Joe Mis
– Senior Columnist –
More of the same from Blackmore’s Night – but this is a good thing. More of Ritchie’s fabulous guitars, more medieval tunes ready to sing in Sherwood Forest, more odd and unique instruments, and of course – more of Candice Night’s sweet voice… Dancer and The Moon is all of what makes Blackmore’s Night memorable – and then some.
Dancer and The Moon is the latest release in a long line of folk-rock, progressive rock, medieval and Renaissance music from Blackmore’s Night. As always, the husband and wife team of Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night dig into the past to find inspiration for the future. They weave elements of medieval classical music together with modern rock to produce a unique and refreshing sound. Not hard rock or metal by any measure, the music of Blackmore’s Night is something special – a style that is equally at home in a concert hall, a small pub, or around a gypsy campfire.
The Blackmore – Night partnership extends back to the late 1990s, and the two have assembled a very talented and diverse group of musicians on this latest release. As usual, Blackmore and Night are joined by long-time collaborator Pat Regan, who contributes some keys and produced the album. They are joined by David Baranowski on keys and accordion, Mike Clemente on bass, mandolin, and rhythm guitar, David Keith on drums, Kelly Morris on the French horn, and Claire Smith on violin – most of whom are classically trained. The group really gels, and fans of the band will be immediately comfortable with the lineup and the songs. As is traditional, the band has done fully original material, a handful of instrumentals, and a few cover tunes (very unique and different versions of the originals). Candice Night’s voice is the anchor to the album, unifying this diverse musical package and helping the listener to feel at home through it all.
A flowing cover of Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” opens the CD with style. Blackmore’s trademark guitar work is nicely complemented by Night’s wonderful voice and a spirited performance by the rest of the band on this upbeat rocker. “Troika” is a galloping piece with a strong Russian-Cossack feel, driven by the drums and tambourine (and a healthy dose of rhythmic hand clapping). The tone changes drastically when the acoustic guitars back up Night’s amazingly smooth and expressive vocals on the simple and moody “The Last Leaf,” which leads into a well done cover of Uriah Heep’s “Lady In Black.” The latter features one of Blackmore’s best guitar solos on this release. “Minstrels In The Hall” follows as the first of the album’s instrumental tracks – a soft and pleasant piece.
Rainbow fans will appreciate the redoing of “The Temple Of The King” into a soft rock ballad. While radically different from the Ronnie James Dio version, this one simply works and Blackmore’s very bluesy guitar solo is the highlight. “Dancer And The Moon” is a rousing gypsy anthem rife with tambourines, hand claps and mandolins. ”Galliard” is a waltz-like instrumental which allows the full talents of the entire troupe to shine. “The Ashgrove” is another soft ballad filled with wonderful imagery and beautiful performances by all. A pair of related songs follow – the emotional orchestral ballad “Somewhere Over the Sea (The Moon is Shining)” and hard rocking “The Moon Is Shining (Somewhere Over The Sea).” The latter track is almost pop-rock with some great guitar licks and a near dance beat. “The Spinner’s Tale” is another fine acoustic ballad with strong vocals a great pennywhistle hook. The album wraps with “Carry On… Jon,” a bittersweet Deep Purple-esque instrumental tribute to friend and former bandmate Jon Lord.
If you enjoyed any of Blackmore’s Night’s earlier releases, then Dancer and The Moon will not disappoint. It is packed with the same styles, tones and tempos that made the previous albums a treat – and is a feast for the ears. If you don’t care for the “folk” aspect, or are hunting for the Ritchie Blackmore of Rainbow and Deep Purple – you will want to look elsewhere. If there is anything disappointing here, it is simply the fact that the Blackmore’s Night of 2013 has the same basic sound as the Blackmore’s Night of 1998 and all the ones in between. It would be nice to see the band stretch a little and push some musical boundaries, as it is difficult to see any real musical evolution from one release to the next. Despite this weakness the music is beautiful, the rhythms and melodies are flowing, and Candice Night’s vocals are simply jaw-dropping.
Genre: Folk Rock
Ritchie Blackmore -guitars, mandolin, bass, renaissance drums, tambourine
Candice Night – vocals, pennywhistle
Pat Regan – keyboards
Bard David of Larchmont (David Baranowski) – keyboards, accordion, pipe organ
Earl Grey of Chimay (Mike Clemente) – bass, mandolin, rhythm guitar
Troubadour of Aberdeen (David Keith) – drums, percussion
Lady Kelly De Winter (Kelly Morris) – French horn, harmony vocals
Scarlet Fiddler (Claire Smith) – violin
1. I Think It’s Going To Rain Today
3. The Last Leaf
4. Lady in Black
5. Minstrels in the Hall
6. The Temple of the King
7. Dancer and the Moon
9. 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
Label: Frontiers Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10