Here, There be a Writer

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What is a Blackmore's Night?

It's June and it's basically over, so I need go out with a bang! What says bang more than Renaissance music, right? ~sound of record needle scratching~ Renaissance Music? But...but...but, how is that the bang to end the month of June on, Cindy?

I mean a bang and I am going to give you a bang. Ever here of Ritchie Blackmore? SONG!
~gives the audience a chance to click on the link~

Yes? No? Ritchie Blackstormageddon?

You might be familiar with this Ritchie Blackmore, who was (and still will be) a member of Deep Purple from 1969 thru 1993 (off and on again), before he went onto form Rainbow (his post Deep Purple band) from 1975 to about 1997, which lead to the reason for this blog, Blackmore's Night a (quoting Wikipedia here) "Celtic, Folk, Neo-Mediaeval" band created circa 1997 to the present. Their newest album "Dancer and the Moon" was released this month.

Ritchie and Candice Blackmore
Blackmore's Night is more than a Celtic band, more than a Folk band, it's more than anything I have run across in my musical travels. I prefer to call them Renaissance Rock, as they certainly know how to rock and many of their songs in their repertoire are based on Renaissance songs, or at least depicts the feel of the Renaissance (without the Black Plague and the rats, which is more Middle ages, but many people will understand picture I am trying to paint).

Basically if you go to a Renaissance Festival, that is the world that Blackmore's Night creates; frolicking with the fields, dancing under the moon, or enjoying nature. It's also very Paganistic in nature and quite popular with Witches, Wiccans, and Heathens. It is not limited by any one group of people, there is something for everyone with the scope of Blackmore's Night.

Blackmore's Night is made up of a husband and wife team, Ritchie and Candice (Night) Blackmore, whom met at a Rainbow concert in the 80's. Candice Night was a Rainbow fan and at a concert in 1989 and got to meet Ritchie (to get an autograph) and ended up formed a friendship that has spanned an over twenty year friendship. Both had a deep love for Renaissance music and that was the basis for what Blackmore's Night became. Where Deep Purple was a rock band and Rainbow seemed to become something more poetically lyrical, with a rock edge, BLackmore's Night was something more. By the time of Blackmore's Night some would have thought that Blackmore had done a 180 degree turn with the band's debut album in 1997, "Shadow of the Moon." It is vastly different, but I do want to point out that Blackmore and Night have transformed this genre into something quite respectable. Okay, that my opinion, but it seems very true nonetheless, as their popularity has grown. While the beginnings on Blackmore's Night feels more like a Renaissance Faire act, their later endevours are quite the magical, musical masterpiece that exists now.

I was introduced to Blackmore's Night in 1999 by my best friend at the time, Kerry, who came to visit me at college one weekend. She brought a couple of CD's that she thought I would be interested in, this included Mediaeval Babes (for another blog, another time) and a couple of Blackmore's Night's albums, "Shadow of the Moon" and "Under a Violet Moon". My boyfriend at the time (now husband, David) was kind enough to make me copies (back before all this copyright crap and when CD burners cost almost 200.00). I tell you this, I was in love! The combination of the lyrics that flowed like poetry, Candice's amazing vocals, and the my deep love for anything and everyone Renaissance based, it was match made in heaven.

Candice writes most of the songs, her lyrics are striking and beautiful. Many of the songs are story based songs (which are songs that I love), simply because of that reason. Not of the songs are of original, Blackmore's pulls a number of traditional songs that range from the 10th century to modern rock ballads from many of Ritchie's former and current colleagues. They have covered everything from Greensleeves, a folk ballad written about 1580, near as one can tell from records at the London Stationer's Company (the place to publish music back in the 15th and 16th century), Rainbow songs such as Self-Portrait, to Elvis Presley, Jethro Tull, Joan Osborne, The Kinks, and now Randy Newman to name a few. Also, Ritchie, who composes all the music, has 3 or 4 short instrumental tracks on each album. So each album usually has quite the collection of material on it.

Not to exclude the band, so what can I say about Blackmore's Night band? They are as eclectic as Ritchie and Candice are and that makes them a perfect fit. Over the years the members have changed, much in the same way as Deep Purple and Rainbow (I see a theme here), it has not diminished the music at all. I think in many way the different band members over the years has been liken to a changing of the guard (s), they all serve the greater purpose, to make amazing music!

Their first two albums are strictly in the realm of Celtic Folk, really Minstrel Folk would be a better title, but once their  third album "Fires at Midnight" came out, you can tell that Ritchie and Candice were building something different, something amazing. There was a return to the rock sound of Ritchie's history, probably more like Rainbow than Deep Purple. I will admit that I have never heard much of Rainbow before 2000, but in the recent years I have come to realize that Deep Purple morphed into Rainbow, which in-turn morphed what Blackmore's Night is currently, a rock band that is rooted in poetry and the Renaissance. Note: check out their website: Blackmore's Night

Okay, it's recommendation time, if you are interested in Blackmore's Night, but prefer the edgier rock sound and the awesome guitar playing of Mr. Blackmore, I would say that you start with 2001's "Fires at Midnight", it's more of what you would expect from Rainbow, not quite Deep Purple. Now with that being said, I am quite fond of the Minstrel folk sounds that they started off with and would recommend their first to albums 1997's "Shadow of the Moon" and 1999's "Under a Violet Moon". "Under a Violet Moon" is my person favourite.

"Shadow of the Moon" (1997): It's an early album. They are clearly testing the waters but the are some amazing songs here. Incidentally, the song "Wish You Were Here" is a cover of a cover by the Swedish techno/bluegrass group Rednex, and yes you have that song stuck in your head now. Blackmore's Night's cover is WAY better, in my opinion at least, but hey, at least it's different, right?
1. Shadow of the Moon
2. The Clock Ticks On
3. Renaissance Faire
4. Greensleeves
5. Wish You Were Here

"Under a Violet Moon" (1999): I feel this is the quintessential minstrel sound of Blackmore's Night. I could cite that I love every single song, and it would be true, but I am sticking with a 4 song limit. Covers include: Self-Portrait  (a Rainbow song). The lead male vocal on "Wind in the Willows" in Jon Lord one of the founding members of Deep Purple.
1. Under a Violet Moon
2. Wind in the Willows
3. Spanish Nights (I Remember It Well)
4. Self Portrait

"Fires at Midnight" (2001): Here is where the rock claws come out. Blackmore hits his stride and Candice's vocals have come into their own. Covers include: Bob Dylan's "The Times They are a Changin'". The lyrics here have evolved from college era poetry (not that that's a slam) to truly something to be published in poetry anthologies, such as "I Still Remember" or "Hangin' Tree" which is basically tied with "Benzai-Ten" on this list. Fires at Midnight is a song written by King Alfonso the X (10th).

1. The Times They Are a Changin'
2. I Still Remember
3. Fires at Midnight
4. Benzai-Ten (A Japanese Water Goddess of Music/Art, has Dragons has her Guardians)

"Ghost of a Rose" (2003): There are a lot of story songs on this album and I have a really hard time picking the 4 for this one. This is probably my second favourite album. There are some haunting melodies here and some of Candice's best lyrics and singing. Covers include: Rainbow Blues from Jethro Tull and  Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust". I would say that if you are seriously looking into Blackmore's Night, this album is a key one to test drive. "Lorelay" is a song about the lonely mermaid, river queen. Dandelion Wine and Ivory Tower are other great tracks. If it means anything, I always think of the Ivory Tower from the "Never-Ending Story", not sure if it's connected, it's just a really lovely song.

1. Loreley
2. Way to Mandalay
3. Ghost of a Rose
4. Rainbow Blues

Beyond the Sunset (2004): A compilation of love songs and features a few re-recorded versions of some songs and a previously unreleased track.
1. Once in a Million Years

2. Ghost of a Rose (re-recorded version)
3. Now and Then (re-recorded version)
"The Village Lanterne" (2006): Ritchie and Candice brought more of the old gang on this album, mostly Joe Lynn Turner from Rainbow. Here they cover Rainbow and Deep Purple, "Street of Dreams" and "Child in Time". It's a darker album and utilizes more Eastern European influences in their music, from using a Balkan folk song "25 Years". A more mature album to say the least and one that I need to revisit more often. They also cover St. Theresa by Joan Osborne (of "One of Us" fame).
1. Street of Dreams
2. Village Lanterne
3. Olde Mill Inn
4. I Guess It Doesn't Matter Anymore

"Secret Voyage" (2008): I think that by now Ritchie is used to pulling out some of the old material from Rainbow and Deep Purple and re-tooling it for Blackmore's Night. NOTE: Blackmore's Night use many musical instruments from a forgotten time that range from the Hurdy Gurdy, Rauschpfeife, Cornamuse, Domra, some from the Renaissance others from the 1800's.  This works to their benefit, as now they are introducing a whole new group of fans to Rainbow's repertoire and making the songs new and fresh. Covers include: "Rainbow Eyes" (Rainbow) and  Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love." I feel as though "Secret Voyage" is a return to the minstrel feel of their earlier work while still keeping the rock.

1. Locked Within the Crystal Ball
2. Can't Help Falling in Love
3. Sister Gypsy
4. The Circle

"Autumn Sky" (2011): Where "Secret Voyage" leads us into a familiar feeling, "Autumn Sky" transports us into another world. Here we have the minstrel sounds that Blackmore's Night started out, but with the catch is that they have matured much and it shows. The playful lyrics of Candice are more refined and the her voice has matured. This album came out after their first child Autumn was before and it's clear from the album as a whole is a return to innocence. Covers include: "Celluloid Heroes" is probably the odd one out, as it is a cover of The Kinks version, but their own unique spin on the song is no less valid.

1. Highland
2. Sake Of The Song
3. Vagabond (Make A Princess of Me)
4. Health To The Company

"Dancer and the Moon" (2013): I have just received this album and it's still very new to me, but I will say that what I have heard in the last 3 or 4 days of preview it, Candice's voice has once against matured and she has made something amazing with Ritchie. Covers include: Rainbow's ("The Temple of the King"), Uriah Heep's ("Lady in Black"), and Randy Newman.
1. I Think It's Going to Rain Today (Randy Newman, from the movie "Beaches")
2. Dancer and the Moon

Whew! That's 8 studio albums in 26 years, that includes 2 live albums ("Pass Times with Good Company" and "A Night in York")  2 concert DVD/CD's ("Castles and Dreams" and "Paris Moon", and a Christmas Album ("Winter Carols"). Quite the prolific group and that's not counting Ritchie's work with Rainbow or Deep Purple.

Oh, and Candice Night even released a solo album in 2012 called reflections, it's basically "Shadow of the Moon" but mature, and all song were written by her, so there is major lyrical poetry going on there. I like it1
Candice Night, "Reflections" (2012)
1. Gone Gone Gone
2. Wind is Calling
3. Now and Then (2011 version)

1 comment:

  1. I am a hereditary Witch and I absolutely love your inspires me and you have beautiful voices and sounds and makes me feel when I close my eyes I am back where I belong....Thank you for your inspirational music....EVERYONE needs to listen to your music!!! Most Blessed Be!!! ~*~Lilith Autymn~*~


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