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Blackmore's Night - Secret Voyage CD (album) cover


Blackmore's Night


Prog Folk

3.73 | 63 ratings

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5 stars Well some people really have it made and Ritchie Blackmore certainly can count his lucky blessings! While a rather perennial taciturn character, he has carved out quite a niche for himself in the rock pantheon of guitar heroes, albeit in his own inimitable style with both Deep Purple and Rainbow. He has prepared his "golden years" rather well, hooking up (and recently marrying) with the lovely and talented Candice Night, and putting together his world renowned medieval extravaganza in 1998, Blackmore's Night. In the process, Ritchie managed to fiercely resist any outside interference by media, fans and corporations by doing his own thing, love it or leave it. While I do admire his previous incarnations as a guitar-god, I also have all his Blackmore's Night albums, including DVDs, mainly because I deeply enjoy the entire Renaissance/Baroque/Medieval/Celtic prog-folk sub-genre, with its mystical atmospheres and moods, as well as all the exotic instruments (krumhorns, fiddles, hurdy- gurdy, various mandolins, Spanish guitar, harpsichord, celeste etc..). His previous albums have been well received; his tours successful and his relationships endure. The new "Secret Voyage" is a further progression on his formula of adapting ancient themes and melodies, reworking them into more contemporary compositions. After a brief and yet rousing intro "God Save the Keg", both Ritchie and Candice get into an immediate groove with the stellar 8 minute plus "Locked Within the Crystal Ball", spiced up considerably with some superb bluesy electric leads that tingle the spine to no end, while the fluid female vocals have now gained authority with all the confidence, as on the next track, the exquisite "Gilded Cage", a riveting ballad that caresses the soul and lends well to dreamy exaltation. The acoustic guitar passage is pure dexterous control while the violin introduces an almost Gypsy camp fire feel, suave cascades on a breathy theme. "Toast to Tomorrow" is more of a banquet/feast sing along as the title implies with torches ablaze, jesters dancing, jugglers spinning their craft, a medieval square dance with overflowing goblets dripping on the cobblestone floors. "Prince Waldecks Galliard" is a Blackmore solo piece where he gets to do his best Jan Akkerman on the lute imitation (as on the Dutchman's Tabernakel album), a simply delightful demonstration of baroque playing. Then Ritchie really throws a sly loop, getting out his white Stratocaster and reformatting the old "Rainbow Eyes" classic with sublime elegance, Candice giving the piece quite a different take than howler Ronnie James Dio did way back when. Blackmore's luxuriant solo is masterful, as one would expect and one cannot help to be fully entranced by the sheer emotion. I actually prefer this song to the previous "Soldier of Fortune", which wasn't too shabby either! "The Circle" returns us cleanly to the raconteur/troubadour feel that encapsulates the Blackmore's Night style, a rather moody formula that is a heady mixture of toe-tapping simplicity yet instrumentally rich, lyrically dreamy and still firmly "mind" music. The choir work here is particularly astounding and a slithering and intricate electric lead adds to the bombast. "Sister Gypsy" is almost self explanatory, as a seeming companion to the previously recorded Renaissance (the band) classic "Ocean Gypsy". While Candice is an amazing vocalist, she does not quite achieve the rich fluidity or the world famous reputation that has hallmarked Annie Haslam for evermore. I mention this only because it's almost as if the lyrics are about her idol. But music is not a competition, it's an art form and this song certainly feels great. Another surprise is the choice of the ultra classic "Can't Help Falling in Love" made famous by no other than Elvis, an almost punkish delivery (hunka-hunka meets chugga-chugga rhythm guitar ), very bold and ultimately satisfying. The man has balls, to say the least! "The Peasant's Promise" is another fabulous musical adventure based on a traditional song, with brilliant acoustic guitar and breathtaking vocals slowly morphing into a massive musical tale, frankly this is what this band does so well, highlighting scintillating old melodies and elevating them into a dense forest of atmospherics. This is another outright winner, full of lilting beauty and mystic euphoria, surely a selection on future concert tours. "Far Far Away" is a ballad written by colleague Renn Machin (sounds a lot like a pseudonym to me), again Candice vocals setting the stage, with spirited phrasing. "Empty Words" closes out this masterful set of songs, another retooled traditional folk song, as if by this time we needed some kind of explanation. Without a doubt, Blackmore's Night crowning achievement, a testament to their undeniable talent, their irascible determination to "do it their way" and the hell what people may say. I converted to prog back in 1970 due to its rebellious nature, surviving over the decades because of it and despite the silly scorn heaped on it by innocent victims of "mode propaganda" , reminding me of that once famous sentence "Forgive them, for they do not understand their own folly". Ritchie, Candice, you rule! 5 Village Lanterns
tszirmay | 5/5 |


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