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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Blackmore's Night

Winter Carols 2021 Edition

Review by Gary Hill

I previously reviewed an edition of this album that came out in 2017. They have released this new version with a few new songs added. Personally, I think this one is definitely stronger than the other version, and I liked that one a lot. In fact, here is an excerpt from my overall review of that one:

"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."

The first disc of this version is basically the same as the first disc of the other version, but the opening tune is a new one, and one of the later tracks has a newer recording. The second disc contains the same live track, and just the first version of that single. Those are relegated to the second part of that second disc. The opening tracks are all new numbers. As good as that other version was, this is definitely better. It should be noted that for the tracks I previously reviewed, I've used the track reviews from that other article for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
CD1:
                   
Coventry Carol

I'm a big fan of harpsichord, and while I don't see harpsichord in the credits for the album, the main instrumentation as this gets underway sounds a lot like harpsichord. The vocals are gentle. There is flute in the mix and the arrangement fill out with guitar later. This is a magical piece and a great addition to the album.

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.
Simple Gifts (Lord Of The Dance)
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 (2021)
Here's what I said of the earlier version of this song, "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." That description holds true here, too. This is a powerful piece of music that is packed full of emotion. Blackmore's guitar work is so expressive.
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:
                 
Crowning Of The King

Old-time music with a real symphonic bombast opens this cut. It's pomp at its finest. It drops to a mellower, arrangement for the song proper. That section is more in keeping with the rest of the music here.

Here We Come A-Caroling
Bouncy and fun, this is a classy folk styled number with a lot of old-time texture to it.
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Mellower and quite beautiful, this works so well.
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
A more fully arranged piece, this has a chorale element later. The guitar and Night's vocals really win the day here, though. It's a fine version of the classic piece.
Silent Night
The guitar and vocals are again the stars here. This is a great arrangement of the piece with other sounds serving as augmentation for the main concepts.
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.
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.

         

 

 
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