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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Blackmore's Night

Secret Voyage

Review by Gary Hill

Blackmore’s Night might not be on the radar in terms of pop culture, but they’ve certainly built a well-deserved following of those “in the know.” Their fan base seems to be built around a few demographics. First you get the people who have followed Ritchie Blackmore since his days in Deep Purple. You also get the Renaissance Faire people as this music draws heavily on the sounds of the past. I know a lot of pagans (of course, many of them fall into that last category) really follow this group, too.  Well, I hazard to say that anyone who enjoys progressive rock with old world flavorings – particularly those who enjoyed Renaissance – should put Blackmore’s Night on their “must have” list.

Their latest CD continues their grand tradition. We get gentle songs that would fit right in at a Renaissance Faire. We also get progressive rock that’s powerful and yet beautiful and intricate. They also give us plenty of stuff that falls somewhere between those two points in the spectrum. I like this CD a lot and it even comes with a bonus video for playing on your PC. This group just can’t do a bad album – or even a mediocre one for that matter. Secret Voyage continues that tradition, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
God Save the Keg
A gentle melody leads this instrumental off. This is grown upward through the addition of other instrumentation but still remains very old world in texture. When orchestral elements and chorale voices are added the picture is a bit more modern. They bring this up to a powerful anthemic approach, but still keep this classical old world approach. At around two minutes in we get some electric guitar in the mix, bringing it more properly into the realm of progressive rock. At around the two and a half minute mark it is taken over by organ. As that winds down we get Gregorian chant accompanied by symphonic elements. This connects the piece to the next one.
Locked Within the Crystal Ball
As this rises up with a balladic motif I’m reminded a bit of Alan Parsons Project. When the vocals enter they bring it into the world that is all Blackmore’s Night. This grows into quite a dramatic powerhouse and Blackmore throws in some killer electric guitar. They soar out after this into a Celtically tinged high energy prog rocker. This is a great piece of music. They take this through a series of changes and alterations and it’s just plain powerful. At over eight minutes in length it’s also the longest piece on show here.
Gilded Cage
This is much more balladic. It’s also beautiful and poignant. They bring this up in an anthemic way and turn it into quite a powerful piece of music.

Toast to Tomorrow
Here we get a klezmer-like song structure that’s delivered with an old world arrangement. It’s energetic and fun.
Prince Waldeck's Galliard
 Intricate and gentle this is an acoustic solo instrumental.
Rainbow Eyes
Now they are back into more progressive rock oriented territory. This is essentially a powered up ballad and it’s quite pretty and has some electric Blackmore soloing.
The Circle
This piece does a nice job of marrying old world music with modern rock ballad structures. It’s performed mostly with acoustic instrumentation and is extremely potent. We get some symphonic segments later in the track with Eastern musical motifs. I’m almost reminded of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” there.
Sister Gypsy
Mellower and more old world in texture this pretty and delicate.

Can't Help Falling In Love
Now I think I’ve heard everything. Yes, this is the song that you are probably most used to hearing by Elvis Presley. They deliver it as a fast paced and accessible progressive rock number. It’s much like something you might hear from Lana Lane.
The Peasant's Promise
At just over five and a half minutes in length this is the second longest cut on show here. It starts instrumentally with delicate and intricate acoustic guitar patterns holding the piece for the extended introduction. They create a balladic motif for the first vocals and this is still quite old world in structure. They build things upward in a powerful, yet still organic and natural, arrangement.
Far Far Away
Somehow this reminds me quite a bit of Renaissance – the band, that is. Although, there are still some reminders of the musical period here, too. This is pretty and somewhat understated. It’s a balladic piece.
Empty Words
In some ways this doesn’t differ a lot from the song that preceded it. That said, this is even more gentle in terms of delivery. It’s pretty and a nice way to end the disc.
 
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