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Blackmore's Night - Under A Violet Moon CD (album) cover

UNDER A VIOLET MOON

Blackmore's Night

 

Prog Folk

2.65 | 73 ratings

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Kotro
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Tasteful

So, Richie Blackmore's Travelling Company of Merry Men and Foxy Ladies are back with another Medieval/Renaissance-inspired folk-rock album. The first one was rather unimpressive, despite some good moments, but it did reveal the interesting (if somewhat limited) voice of Candice Night and a surprising Blackmore proficiency in playing traditional themes. I cannot therefore say I am upset that this project hit the road for a second journey, although I hoped it would be less bumpy than the first.

The title track Under A Violet Moon opens the album, and just like in the debut it does so quite strongly, being of no less quality than the best staples on Shadow of the Moon. A guitar opening introduces us to the soothing vocals of Candice with a faint male backing choir in the background. The structure is quite simple, there is a build-up followed the chorus, not much news there. The track keeps speeding up and getting more energetic, but keeping the medieval sonority. There are some interesting instrumental interludes, the second one being of special notice, featuring a very Nicely done organ solo. There is a great profusion of instrumentation on this track, filling it with a very warm atmosphere and depth. The following Castles and Dreams is a calmer ballad, completely contrasting with the album opener. A more girlish track, built mostly on the multiple female vocals led by Candice and Ritchie's acoustic guitar. In the right mood it is actually enjoyable, but otherwise it's more of a snooze fest. Past Time With Good Company is a take on a traditional 16th century composition, not unlike what was attempted on the previous album with Greensleeves. The track is introduced by a majestic opening, with drums and horns, and there we are transported into a banquet hall in the court of Henry VIII. The Tudor mood is all there, both in the simple playing and limited instrumentation and on the singing, if not for the majestic interludes that take us from the hall to the battlefield. It remains, however, another very delicate track. Morning Star is introduced by a violin, almost giving it a gipsy or Eastern-Europe-like feel. I'm not so happy with the percussion here, but the remaining rhythm of the song is more interesting. Blackmore appears to just sit this one out, only faintly strumming his guitar for the first part before making more of a show from the second part on. Vocals are quite good on this track, as is the violin and the orchestral arrangements. Avalon is another traditional piece revamped for this album. Once again the feel is very mellow, but it gets interesting midway, with some extra energy being added before it returns to the mellow section of acoustic guitars, tambourines and flutes. Possum Goes To Prague is another Blackmore take on acoustic instrumentals, an aspect that I personally though had worked out pretty well in the debut album. This is no different, it is once again Ritchie Blackmore showcasing his skill in the acoustic guitar - interesting but ultimately unmemorable. Wind In The Willows is something different. For starters it is lead by a male vocalist (John Ford) instead of Candice, quite the surprise. Candice joins in for the chorus of this upbeat, bucolic ballad supported by multiple acoustic guitars and percussion, with the occasional tambourines and flutes. Gone With The Wind is opened by the sound of horses galloping and war drums, followed by a horn section that reminds me more of Europe's The Final Countdown than of Renaissance music - immediately I sense we're going for the more modern sounding track of this album. And indeed, here comes the Strat! Ritchie plugs on his baby for this one and the result is quite welcome, even if this aggressive, fast-paced rocker does sound out of place with the rest of the album. But unlike similar attempts on the first album, this is actually a good song. Candice's vocals are especially strong on this track, not to mention Blackmore's work. Beyond The Sunset follows, and once again it is a great contrast to the bombastic track preceding it. Yep, it's another instrumental, mostly acoustic guitar driven, played in a very gentle and mellow fashion, but featuring some orchestral background (probably synth-originated). March The Heroes Home is an interesting piece, beginning like another simple ballad, ending like a military march featuring another paraphernalia of instruments, with a constant crescendo making the bridge between both ends. Spanish Nights (I Remember It Well) is opened by some great acoustic guitar solo by Ritchie, before the electronic drums and keyboards introduce a fast paced Csárdá-like theme. Loads of instrumentation on this energetic track, featuring some excitingly played sections and another strong vocal display by Candice Night. Guitars and violins are top-notch. Catherine Howard´s Fate resumes the Tudor theme so prominent in this band's works. A simple combination of soothing vocals and gentle acoustic guitar get the job done on this track. Fool´s Gold doesn't get much more exciting, even if the vocals and acoustics are joined in by tambourines and what sound like woodwinds. One of the more unmemorable pieces of the album, but nothing abrasive - it's a pretty track, not something you need to skip. Durch Den Wald Zum Bach Haus is the last instrumental of the album, this one sounding more like a full chamber piece than an acoustic guitar dominated one. Now And Then is the sole Candice Night composition of the album. As such, it probably sounds a bit more fluff-pop than the other tracks, even though the music accompanying it is still in accord with the album's overall sound. Finally, we end just like in the debut album, with a cover version. And just like the covers on Shadow of the Moon, this cover of Rainbow's Self Portrait is also, in my opinion, an improvement over the original. The electric guitar and the harshness of Dio's vocals are gone, but the emotion is all there - the acoustic guitar works perfectly, with Ritchie getting some great solos out of it, and Candice delivers one of her best singing performance yet. A strong and fitting ending.

My mind is bewildered upon seeing this as the lowest rated Blackmore's Night album - in my opinion this is a giant's leap from their debut. The first Blackmore's Night album was a bit of a disappointment, its approach very cheesy and kitch despite some interesting arrangements. Under a Violet Moon serves to prove that it wasn't a one-time affair, but something to build-on - and that's exactly what we have here: an upgrade. Compositions are tighter, the production is a lot more tasteful, and a lot more care has been put into this. Unlike the first album, there really are no weak or bad songs, even if there aren't excellent ones either. Ok, the lyrics didn't change that much between albums, but that has never been much of an issue to me. Rock is kept to a minimum, and once again Prog is nowhere in sight. But it is a very entertaining and soothing listen, and even though it does sometimes sound a bit too much POP, it is still good music. 3 stars in my score, but I'll round up to 4 to do some justice to this underrated album.

Kotro | 4/5 |

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