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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Blackmore's Night

Under A Violet Moon

Review by Larry Toering

This is the second coming of Ritchie Blackmore's pet project that started off as if it wouldn't last so long, but has proceeded to find no end in sight. It's slightly darker than their debut release, and full of more complex arrangements and imagination, as well. Not quite topping that first release, but certainly progressing well from it and this probably sits near the top of the catalog for me.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Under A Violet Moon
A dark vibe instantly establishes the mood as it tries to take away from the bright theme. This is an example of how well Night progresses from her performance on their debut Shadow Of The Moon. The chorus is spectacular, as is the use of organ. Blackmore's subtle acoustic guitar leads fits that bill, too. There is the usual sing along approach to the vocals that mark this band's approach to songwriting in an elusive way, complete with 'hey's' and handclaps.
Castles And Dreams
This is yet again moody, but a lot more so. This is basically carried by Night's melancholy vocals and mystifying lyrics. Blackmore himself plays a lesser role but at least fires off some fabulous fills. This is a dear enough track to them to title their first live DVD after it.
Past Time With Good Company
Once again, a title used later for another live product, this is captivating from the get-go. A melody that’s featured here is one that shows up in various forms in Blackmore’s Night’s music. That’s either a joy or an annoyance, depending on the specific listener’s preferences.  This is a tune in which Night can be noted for getting rather heavy along the way. It has a chanting appeal that a lot of this release contains.
Morning Star

This features a violin but carries about the same weight as the previous track, I prefer this one. There is a lot more imagination to make it a more satisfying song. So far, not much going on with Blackmore's role, but perhaps that is all worked out behind the scenes. But he doesn't tend to shine much to speak of, yet, but does command the listener nonetheless.

Avalon
This is more of a traditional piece, probably more akin to “Past Time With Good Company” than the previous track. Put the two together and this is what you have. Blackmore begins to be heard more at this point, with some brilliant acoustic sweeping.
Possum Goes To Prague

Now things become Blackmore dominate with an acoustic instrumental piece that only he can pull off properly. Some of these arrangements contain traditional factors but I'm honestly not sure if this is one of them. This has simply brilliant guitar work!

Wind In The Willows
The disc begins to reach its peaking point here, if there is one. This is the traditional story sung in duet fashion by Night and John Ford (The Strawbs). The vocals here by Night are some of the prettiest in the BN catalog. Ford adds just the right touch without marring her beautiful sound. This is one of my daughter’s favorites, as she marveled at this and the first release when I would play them around the house. Both releases just have that everlasting quality, unlike that of at least a couple of their titles. Night pretty much established her abilities and overall sound on this showing.
Gone With The Wind
With a percussive vibe, as several of these tunes have, along with a horse and buggy intro, this is where things completely shine for all involved. I love the horns of the intro and Blackmore pulls off one his his most intricate solos in his entire post-Purple career. The chanting toward the end of this is quite the medieval touch, as Blackmore solos over it in the outro. This is absolutely stunning!
Beyond The Sunset
This is another beautiful guitar instrumental by Blackmore, with some fantastic melodic strings to back it. Talk to anyone who follows this guitar master and they will tell you this is up to his utmost standard. It’s another thing of complete perfection and grace.
March The Heroes Home
This is a home-coming tune with a traditional arrangement and a very pleasant one at that. It somehow works no matter how you look at it. I find this pretty hard to skip as the end builds up into more hand claps and plenty of involvement from Blackmore. It all ends nicely as Night's voice whispers at the fade.
Spanish Nights (I Remember It Well)
This is one of my favorite BN tracks with a killer acoustic intro that sets up a very easy to dance to number. There is no sitting down to this, with Blackmore flying to a swift beat as Night cries out the repeated line “and they cried Malaguena,” which suits the whole Spanish arrangement perfectly. The use of dueling violin and guitar here are simply out of this world with insane complexity, yet delivered effortlessly like some kind of magic. Traditional and modern factors collide here so well that it's one of the more culturally vital tracks.
Catherine Howard's Fate
Another tune of the melancholy variety, not far removed from tracks like “Morning Star,” here Night carries the tune above Blackmore's guitar notes, matching them with ease and finesse. This is not my kind of thing really, but obviously Blackmore doesn't agree.
Fool's Gold
This is one of the harder tunes to get into for me, but that leaves me exploring it more and more as it ages. I find it to have qualities that just take a lot of getting used to, as it still grows on me.
Durch den Wald Zum Bach haus
This is another instrumental by Blackmore, one of the traditional style but credited to him. It’s another fine one at that.
Now And Then
This is fantastic, easily one of my favorite BN tracks, indeed. I love how Night once again matches Blackmore's singular notes and pulls off a killer tear jerker in the process. This is absolutely chilling!
Self Portrait
Things end with a fine reworking of the Rainbow track. Some of their choices over the years to do certain covers of previously recorded Blackmore numbers have been questionable depending on who you ask. The same goes for their covers of folk artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Beaz. This one isn’t open to compliants, though. On this attempt they succeed so well it's like splitting the track’s qualities in half and properly distributing them. Both have their differences but Night gave it wings to fly so well that it does massive justice to this classic.
 
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