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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Blackmore's Night

Past Times With Good Company

Review by Gary Hill

Ritchie Blackmore is certainly best known for his work in hard rocking bands Deep Purple and Rainbow. He has been showing a different face with his new band Blackmore's Night. The band is one that is very hard to categorize, and since there are definite progish elements present, I have chosen to include them in the progressive rock section of MSJ.

This 2 CD represents a live recording of the band, and is quite intriguing, the music ranging from olde worlde to fairly straightforward rock. The group even takes on one song by each of the aforementioned Blackmore outfits. Blackmore's Night is Blackmore, Candice Night, Robert of Normandie, Carmine Giglio, Malcolm of Lumley, Keith Dunne, Lady Rraine and Chris Devine. Together they have created a sound that should touch the hearts of a wide spectrum of music lovers.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Shadow of the Moon
Olde worlde gypsy type music serves as the extended intro here. Eventually it resolves into a more standard song structure, but these elements still remain as the icing on the cake. After a verse segment in this vein, another new melody, this one more mainstream yet, brings us into the next segment of the composition, a traditional sounding one. Instrumental wanderings throughout bring in both progish and Olde Worlde textures.
Play Minstrel Play
The dramatic melodies take this one right from the start, and it calls to mind a cross between Renaissance and Tempest just a bit. This is another that seems to weave together the old and new quite well.
Minstrel Hall
This instrumental is energetic and pretty all at once. It gets quite intricate at times.
Past Times With Good Company
This traditional tune was originally written by none other than Henry VIII. It is a fairly faithful sounding Olde Worlde tradition in the beginning. It eventually shifts gear to a sort of Renaissance era jazz arrangement (that is if they had had jazz in the Renaissance era). This serves as a short interlude here, but eventually returns after a reprise of the original themes. Those same early themes, with a higher intensity, return later.
Fires at Midnight
This one is an acoustic rock magnum opus. A pretty and poignant balladic mode starts this. After it works through this theme for 3 minutes or so, a high energy, fairly frantic jam ensues. Then a new prog type break leads into the reprise of the verse elements. Another verse, then the cut energizes and intensifies once more. The instrumental segment gets pretty complex this time out. It drops to a new, mellower instrumental break based on a violin solo. This gets more energized then drops back down toward the sedate once more. It works through, intensifying compositionally while maintaining the lower volume levels. It powers up to a potent finale.
Under A Violet Moon
This feels like fairly traditional tavern music. It is fun, but a bit of a let down after the powerhouse that preceded it.
Soldier of Fortune
This is the Blackmore's Night take on the Deep Purple cut Soldier of Fortune. It starts here with mellow, but expressive guitar work. The group makes an intriguing acoustic take on this, Night's vocals adding an interesting texture to this poignant ballad.
Disc 2
16th Century Greensleeves
This cut, originally recorded by Blackmore with Rainbow, is a serious hard rocker that feels a bit like Deep Purple.
Beyond the Sunset
This is a delicate and pretty accompanied guitar solo.
Morning Star
Beginning with violin, as percussion enters, this frantic cut begins to feel like a Celtic hoedown. It shows the common ground that is shared by the folk musics of much of the world. It is fun and wanders frequently into both progish and world musical textures.
Home Again
More fun bouncy Celtic textures make up this cut. It is essentially one of the more traditional pieces on the disc. It gets quite energetic and playful at times.
Renaissance Faire
This is another that shows a Renaissance approach. The cut combines the Olde Worlde textures with those prog elements and pop ones, too.
I Still Remember
Starting as a very evocative mellow ballad, this turns more mainstream hard rocking as it carries on, but returns to its overall style as a rock ballad. This is proggy and one of the most pleasant cuts on the CD. The instrumental break is especially powerful and prog oriented.
Durch Den Wald Zum Bachhaus
Another instrumental, this one starts pretty and almost neo-classical. It quickly shifts direction towards bouncy and fun Celtic veins.
Writing on the Wall
This tale of love, lies and deception is the hardest rocking and most straight-ahead track on the disc. It feels like DP at times, but has some definite progish changes, as well.
 
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