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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Blackmore's Night

Autumn Sky

Review by Larry Toering

This review is from the import which comes with a nice package to help the value along. Blackmore's Night topped the new age charts on their last release, but I'm not one to really categorize anything, but to my ears their music does not begin to fit that genre. Here we call them “prog” for obvious reasons besides the fact that it's the best fitting category for them at MSJ. On this new release they top their last one Secret Voyage and leave it in the dust. Inspired by their new born daughter it goes deeper and stronger into their usual concept. With a Kinks cover and some stunning work from Ritchie Blackmore they hit home this time and take accurate aim at their fan base and add much more for the outside listeners in, as well. This is a real fine effort which succeeds at least a few prior BN releases of which I can think. Having them all, I'm still not of the biased nature in reviewing this, as I've had mixed feelings about this band since their second CD was released.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Highland

The disc opens with one of its cover tunes. Covers are always a tight fit for them as they tend re-arrange them in BN fashion, it does however work pleasantly well. They have a nice promo video that was done like a pop up book as well, but much can be enjoyed without those stunning visuals. I like this track for all it's worth but perhaps it is a bit of an odd choice for them to revisit. Overall, it is not a bad opener to say the least. Blackmore lets loose a bit here and there with outstanding, melodic fairy tale like guitar fills. This is electrically satisfying.

Vagabond (Make A Princess Of Me)
This track starts out with a sharp acoustic bite from Blackmore, then becomes as traditional as Blackmore's Night gets, with Candice Night singing beautifully. There’s not much else to say other than that, unless you know them, you will not hear anything groundbreaking on this one. It’s very reminiscent of so many other tunes they've recorded. This is not a bad thing, just an un-avoidable fact.
Journeyman (Vandraen)
Now we're talking Blackmore, but that's not all, this entire track is well delivered by all involved. Starting off with flutes and synth used to a great effect, it quickly becomes a story telling treat with Night singing very well over the hand claps. The winding road of a “Journeyman” is told before Blackmore breaks out with his best solo by far on the disc. He catches fire and uses some of his traditional synth playing in the first solo but comes back and lets things fly like no other. Just when you might think he has gone completely bonkers and would never play like this again, he surprises even his most loyal followers. How sweet it is, a long solo with blinding bits of bygone thunder.
Believe In Me
This track is a very sweet tune in BN tradition, a nice Night featured ballad. There are some more fine lyrics that really drive it home with a nice lovely guitar and classical inflections.
Sake Of The Song
This is one of those revisited BN tracks, but if you ask me they should have left it to the original version and just included it here for the first time on one of their CDs. I just tend to like the original version much better.
Song And Dance
A big percussive intro goes into an instrumental take on the prior track’s main melody, perhaps concluding the last one and making it a bit more fitting. But, all in all these two seem to be of the filler variety.
Celluloid Heroes
On this track we are treated to the Kinks classic, although of course quite re-arranged as Blackmore’s Night’s own version. It works surprisingly well on its own but does little for the entire disc. If compared to their version of “Diamonds and Rust,” the latter was an all-round better effort. It’s another odd choice of covers, but no loss there either.
Keeper of the Flame
This is an outstanding piece, as here they take repetition and use it to its best effect and Blackmore, once agai,n is at a high point on the recording. His soloing is nothing shy of brilliant. This is truly amazing!
Night at Eggersberg
At this point Blackmore gives an acoustic instrumental performance of very high standards, his playing is of the one-take with mistakes and all left in approach. This is dynamically raw and sublime.
Strawberry Girl
This is not one of my favorites on the disc but not entirely bad or anything, just a tad on the sappy side for my taste in this outfit.
All the Fun of the Faire
Things become much more complex here, reminding one of “Spanish Nights” from Under A Violet Moon. It's a stunning track with a hypnotic vibe.
Darkness
Dark? Yes, and it also very traditional medieval as more hypnotism sets in. This is a deeply fascinating track that features the usual fabulous melodies Blackmore’s Night are by now famous for getting away with constantly repeating. A very pleasant effort from Night makes this track. It too reminds of a number from UAVM; this time it's “The Wind In The Willows.”
Dance of the Darkness
This is a very percussive number with the usual hand claps and traditional arrangement. Some nice guitar and violin parts make it a low contender for one of the best to be featured on Autumn Sky.  It’s another brilliant track!
Health to the Company
If you like Candice Night, this track will not disappoint, as Blackmore complements her performance with subtle acoustic melodies. This holds a magical appeal to it, making it an overall very satisfying track both vocally and acoustically. It has great lyrics and a nice guitar solo.
Barbara Allen
Things close with a mellow refrain from Night as it builds nicely to a fine finish with flutes dominating the arrangement. With a tune or two perhaps out of place, Blackmore's Night deliver one of their best records to date.
 
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