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Blackmore's Night

Winter Carols (2017 Edition)

Review by Gary Hill

Tis the season for holiday music. You can't go wrong with Blackmore's Night. This is a newly remastered version of their classic Winter Carols album. Well, at least that's the first CD. The second disc includes some live recordings and a number of mixes of the song "Christmas Eve." Those various versions were originally released as a single in 2013. All in all, this set lands in the folk rock category with a folk prog angle. It's a very entertaining set. The music is great, but Candice Night's vocals are a completely different level of magic. This is such an effective set.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD1
             
2017 Digital Remaster
         
Deck the Halls

They do a little stripped down version of this that's quite traditional as the intro. Then it powers out to a bombastic symphonic prog kind of rendition for the vocals to join. This is quite entertaining and solid. It's a great way to update the cut while retaining a lot of the original magic.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
A very stripped back approach makes up the start of this with acoustic guitar and bits of percussion creating the only sound. The vocals come in over the top of that in a classy way. After the two minute mark it powers out to a more full arrangement, but with a real traditional old world sound. This is another winner on a disc that's full of winners.
Oh Christmas Tree

I love the beautiful arrangement on this. It has a lot of traditional sound with great strings and some electronic elements. The vocals really soar. This is so strong.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing / O Come All Ye Faithful
I can't believe how strong the vocals are on this two-fer piece. The cut is quite symphonic in nature. The sound is fairly tied to traditional Christmas music.
I Saw Three Ships
The traditional musical concepts on this are so cool. It's bouncy and fun.
Winter (Basse Dance)
This is a beautiful acoustic based instrumental.
Ding Dong Merrily on High
This is a very pretty and potent folk prog kind of piece. The vocals are soaring and really the stars of this version.
Ma-o-Tzur

Guitar and voice are the main elements of this arrangement. It's another pretty one.

Good King Wenceslas
With a pronounced percussive element, this has a pretty traditional arrangement. Again the vocals really shine. The later segments get powered up with more of a pure folk prog sound. This is so strong.
Lord of the Dance / Simple Gifts

Bouncy old world music is the concept of this cut. It's just what you'd expect here.

We Three Kings

This is an amazing version. It starts fairly traditional. It works out to a full on folk prog arrangement as it continues.

Wish You Were Here
This is a somewhat mainstream cut. It includes some electric guitar. It has a bit of Beatles-like vibe to it. Overall it still fits in the vein of folk prog.
Emmanuel
This is intricate and quite pretty. Acoustic guitar and voice make up the arrangement here.
Christmas Eve
This is an energetic folk styled piece. It is soaring and gets proggy elements in the mix on the chorus.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
This has a bouncy kind of arrangement to it. It's mostly traditional. The folk elements are all over this. There are multiple layers of vocals adding to the majesty of it.
CD2
       
Live from Minstrel Hall
          
Hark the Herald Angels Sing / O Come All Ye Faithful

With a playful little opening bit of confusion, they bring the actual song into being with a great acoustic folk prog arrangement.

Emmanuel
Blackmore's acoustic guitar leads this out with a bit of intricate work before settling into the song proper. From there flute joins the arrangement. The flute drops away before the vocals join. The flute returns for the instrumental break. This is a solid live rendition.
We Three Kings
I love the energy and vibe of this live version of the classic cut. It's very much in keeping with the acoustic folk rock stylings we'd expect. The pipes add a lot to this rendition, bringing a real Celtic edge to the more rocking section later.
Ma-o-Tzur
This is a pretty cut, but I'm not sure what language it's sung in.
Good King Wenceslas
Here is another traditional folk styled cut. It's a classic take on the tune. I love the non-lyrical vocal section at the end of this.
2013 Single
          
Christmas Eve (2013 Version)

The mix on this is very electronic. It's pretty and bouncy. It's a lot more of a pop kind of thing. There is even some dance mix stuff here. I don't know, but it feels a bit gimmicky to me like this. It does have a killer guitar solo.

Christmas Eve (German)
As you might guess from the parenthetical, the vocals here are in German. It's not a big change beyond that.
Christmas Eve (English & German)
Here we get the same song with vocals in both English and German.
Christmas Eve (English Radio Edit)
Finally we get a radio edit. It's more or less the same as the first one, but about 30 seconds shorter.
 
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