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

SECRET VOYAGE

Blackmore's Night

 

Prog Folk

3.76 | 49 ratings

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Kotro
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Secret voyage down the same old route?

Common sense dictates that if you have a winning strategy you should stick to it. After a string of all too similar albums since Fires At Midnight (but with the last two, while not entirely disappointing, never quite reaching the quality of that one), whose reception has been positive, one would expect the band to, once more, stick to the plan and offer a good dose medieval/renaissance-inspired music wrapped up and delivered in a modern packaging. Speaking of which, the album comes in a nice digipak, albeit a bit too long (you have to turn four pages of the thing before getting the CD).

Once you finally pop the CD in the player, you are treated to the opener God Save The Keg. What an unusual track! It begins as one would expect from a Blackmore's Night track, with an acoustic intro and a melody resembling some African nation's national anthem. This is confirmed by the pompous orchestration that follows the acoustic intro. Towards the middle we hear the distant wailing of the electric guitar. Towards the ending we get an eerie Jacula-like church organ solo complemented with quasi-Gregorian chant, and without a break, we move into the next track, Locked Within The Crystal Ball, introduced by the fast martial drumming and Candice's vocals, beautifully harmonized with the Gregorian chant in the background, while in the foreground Ritchie's Strat assumes centre stage. The song is now a full-blown rocker more reminiscent of early Rainbow than of later Blackmore's Night. We get some of the medieval flavour with the woodwind solo introducing a quieter middle section with featuring another electric guitar solo from Blackmore. The initial energy is resumed for the second half of the track. What an energetic song, never growing tiresome during its full eight plus minutes. An excellent start to the album, and easily of Blackie's finest songs! Gilded Cage follows in the more traditional BN's vein - an acoustic ballad where Candice's vocals and Ritchie's acoustic guitar lay in perfect symbiosis over a delicate bed of synths. Features a lovely violin solo from the middle of the song on. Up next is Toast To Tomorrow, a merry gypsy- flavoured tune, reminding me of some rather kitschy German folk songs one might hear at Munich's Oktoberfest. Prince Waldeck's Galliard is up next, the expected short acoustic instrumental, showcasing Ritchie's neverending guitar talents, and serving as an interesting interlude before things get more serious again. I have said before that Blackmore´s Night have an excellent attitude towards their cover songs, really making them their own and usually more interesting (not to say plain better) than the originals. Here we are treated to Rainbow Eyes, another Rainbow cover. Blackmore's Strat is still there, the song toned down a bit, drenched with synthesizer layers and, of course, a different vocal approach by Candice. Circle ensues, woodwind instruments introducing another mid-tempo tune built upon the sound produced by the hurdy-gurdy, several string instruments and Blackmore's acoustic guitar rhythm, but also featuring some solid vocals by Candice and whoever joins her for the emotional chorus. It gets serious somewhere in the middle, with flashes of electric guitar being heard as the song's main line resumes. It has a nice growing intensity to it, and the last minute is an interesting climax with some very emotional electric guitar soloing. We get some more Renaissance dance tunes in Sister Gypsy, yet another predictable number, still featuring excellent arrangements. It is followed by a completely different sound, courtesy of an utterly rakish take on Can't Help Falling In Love, turning the mellow and sappy song immortalized by Elvis Presley into a fast-paced, electrified number. Needless to say, it is quite an improvement over the original. Peasant's Promise is next, opening with a delicate acoustic guitar intro reminding me more of something off an Alan Stivell album. It is soon complemented by Candice Night's vocals, and nothing else for a while - soon enough, after this gentle and quiet intro we hear the percussion and woodwinds. This is probably the more "authentic" of the folk songs, stripped of electric instruments, and perhaps not by chance, it's also the best on the album. Far Far Away does not bring much excitement into the mix, another ballad relying too much on the synths supporting it. Empty Words finishes off the album with a reprise of the melody of the first track, but this time in the form of a stripped down acoustic guitar-driven ballad.

Secret Voyage carries on Blackmore's Night's now firmly established formula of mixing the traditional and the modern and creating a sonority quite their own. The production is once more top-notch, with great arrangements, very talented players and a few good melodies, even though sometimes it sounds to polished and glossy. Somehow it doesn't fully satisfy. The album begins very well (all Blackmore's Night albums do), with a very unusual first track and an excellent, long rocker following it (one of their best). However, this is perhaps one of the major flaws, as none of the material following it (apart perhaps from Can't Help Falling In Love and Peasant's Promise) is even remotely close quality-wise. This is not to say that the material is bad - quite the contrary, it is the openers which are really good. The remaining material is simply too predictable and uninteresting, and it's easy to have your mind stray into other directions while listening. That's the problem with winning formulas - eventually you will risk boring people.

Kotro | 3/5 |

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