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

SECRET VOYAGE

Blackmore's Night

Prog Folk


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Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The secret's out

"Secret voyage" is Blackmore's Night's sixth studio album (excluding the seasonal release "Winter carols"). The moody sleeve illustration suggests an intention from the outset to create something both darker and perhaps harder this time around, an objective which is resoundingly fulfilled.

Once again, many of the tracks are based on traditional songs, but the arrangements here are ambitious and adventurous. Take the opening "God save the keg" for example. This instrumental fanfare simply bursts with the pomp and grandeur, driven to greater an greater heights by organ and guitar. The first we hear of Candice Night's superb vocals is on "Locked within the crystal ball", a magnificent upbeat number running to over 8 minutes. Ritchie wastes no time plugging in for the track, his lead guitar sounding as vibrant as ever against a wall of sound his former bands would have been proud of.

"Gilded cage" may be a ballad in the more traditional Blackmore's Night way, but even here the sound is decidedly full. The track features some superb violin credited simply to Gypsy Rose. "Toast to tomorrow", inspired by a traditional Russian song, has an unashamedly Romany flavour with lyrics about glowing fires, dancing through the night and drinking toasts.

Ritchie's acoustic spot is a tribute to "Prince Waldeks Galliard", who reputedly lived in one of the duo's favourite castles. The distinctive tones of lead guitar return to introduce a revisiting of Rainbow's "Rainbow eyes" (from "Long Live Rock and roll"). I must confess, I was not particularly impressed by the song as it appeared on the Rainbow album, but the version here brings out aspects which have lain dormant for 30 years. The song, which is co-credited to Blackmore and Dio, naturally sounds rather different when sung by Candice Night instead of RJD, but the results are superb.

Traditional wind instruments define the main character of "The circle", another darker, atmospheric song which demonstrates yet again the immense talent Candice Night has when it comes to writing an inspired lyric. The orchestration of the track is reminiscent of that on Rainbow's "Stargazer". "Sister gypsy" is a rather predictable Blackmore's Night standard. A decent enough song, but undistinguished. As the track concludes though, a thumping beat introduces one of the bands heaviest songs ever. The real surprise though is that it turns out to be a cover of "Can't help falling in love with you". Yes I mean the Elvis/Andy Williams favourite. This stonking romp through the song is as wonderful as it is radical, the blistering pace meaning its all over in just over two minutes. This is almost a punk interpretation, you'll either love it or you'll hate it.

Normal service is resumed as Ritchie's intricate acoustic arrangement introduces "The peasant's promise". The familiar melody is based on an old English folk tune, Candice's lyrics telling a simple love story. "Far far away" is unusual in that it is an original composition written by Kenn Machin, a "friend" of the band. The song is well in keeping with traditional Blackmore's Night fare.

The album closes with "Empty words" which, according to Candice, is "a sort of reprise of the introduction song". The song, which is a soft acoustic ballad with a pleasant traditional melody, forms the perfect conclusion to the album.

For me, on "Secret voyage" Ritchie and Candice do exactly what they needed to do. While the album is totally recognisable as a Blackmore's Night album, it also breaks new ground and adds enchanting new dimensions to their repertoire. The fact that this combines with some excellent songs, and a stunning new band classic ("Locked within the crystal ball") means that we here have what may well become nominated as their best album to date.

It is difficult to tell from the official album credits whether all the usual players are present. There is no drummer or bassist listed, and no mention of the delightful Sister of the Moon backing duo. Given the fullness of the sound though, one can only assume though that it is the credits which are incomplete.

The limited edition digipak version includes the video for the title track of the previous album, "The village lanterne". The film includes footage of Candice as the Lady of the lake swimming underwater in a white dress (while singing!). This is interspersed with some altogether more violent medieval battle imagery.

Report this review (#176380)
Posted Wednesday, July 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I too go with four stars on this release because it does indeed go a bit further along the renaissance-pop curve than earlier BN works. Ritchie's guitar work is top notch; Candice's vocals are emotive and wide ranging from sonnets (Rainbow Eyes, The Peasant's Promise and Far, Far Away) to a drinking song (Toast to Tomorrow), to a horse-race foray into the 20th Century (Can't Help Falling in Love).

For me, its the breadth of the styles of music that make this album so intriguing. The previous reviewer gave a wonderful set of song-by-song descriptions, so my comments are more along the lines of impressions, than anything.

The transition from Toast to Tomorrow to Prince Waldecks Galliard is remarkable - going from raucous, yea a happy party song, to A Segovia-esque classical guitar piece is a delight. The moods ebb and wane as the music takes you on side excursions that sound familiar, yet keep you entertained. Its exactly what a minstrel is supposed to do.

The lyrics to The Circle is a bit of a gypsy-new age kind of thing with all kinds of celestial rotations and revolutions. The song has very much an early music feel (like something from the 14th century). A simple tune that starts off with acoustic guitars and with an instrument that sounds like its from North Africa (kind of a reedy-harmonia kind of sound). The song evolves and builds, which is kind of ironic given that the Lyric says one thing about a universe of circles but the composition is very linear in its development.

Speaking of gypsies, Sister Gypsy sounds more like an Elizabethan raga; a story of a (supposedly) mythical free young lass, at one with her environs and somehow a bit untameable. The violinist's name is Gypsy Rose - maybe its about her!?! I ask because her violin work really highlights this song.

I vote positively for Can't Help Falling in Love. You leave the feeling of past centuries to enter into a pop-culture classic. The rhythm is a lark - boom, boom, boom at about 110-120 BPM, just the elixir for an impatient steed of a royal knight heading home to his lady. It has a horse-race feel. And it really sticks-out, wedged between music more reminiscent of 4-5 centuries ago. But, doggone it, it works for me.

Far, Far Away is distinctive, right away, as not being a BN composition. It comes closer to something that one might think Enya would compose/perform. But that is not meant in a negative way; the song is well put together. The key change at the 2 minute mark made me wonder what a few more key changes might have done to help the song move to another level. The lyrics relate the story of a woman who looks back across her years, and as she does, she wonders how all her youthful idealism got supplanted by bitterness and disappointment. Often, such is the price of wisdom.

Candice sings with a full and genuine level of emotion on the final tune, Empty Words. I'm glad that she and Ritchie decided to cap off the CD with this song. It is the most authentic song on the album and can easily be interpreted in a variety of ways and levels. Perhaps from a caring expression of an individual who hides from reality or intimacy to an entire social commentary. Either way, they hit the nail on the head about all who struggle to communicate genuinely, perhaps when when fear and distrust runs so rampant. We've come from a world where touch was central to conveying care; we now live in a world where touch is often considered inappropriate. Our words grow more empty in such a world. Not only is so much said in empty words, but there is so much sadness in empty words, too.

But I finish by saying there is nothing to be sad about with this album. Unfortunately, I'm not so convinced of its staying power, I likely won't be listening as intently to it four weeks from now, but I've enjoyed it as a musical companion for the middle of the summer of 2008. If you're heading to a Ren Festival anytime soon, put this one on.

Report this review (#178499)
Posted Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Nice release by Blackmore's Night here, in what is now the longest lasting band project guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore have ever been involved in.

The voice of Candice Night is the dominant trait on this album, all instrumentation basically sets up a foundation for her vocals to float upon. She has a good voice, is a skilled singer - and as long as you like the timbre and sound of her voice this will be regarded as a good release.

As for the music itself, it's a nice mix of new age, mellow rock and folk/classical tinged sounds - mostly on the folk side for the latter. Keyboards and synths of various kinds is the main melodic provider in many tunes, often creating multi-layered melody lines. Percussion and drums add drive, and Blackmore plays various forms of acoustic guitars and adds some atmospheric, soaring guitar solos to some songs too. Adding texture to all tunes are various forms of medieval instruments, giving the songs that ancient sounding folk-tinge so intriguing to find mixed in with modern instruments and classy female vocals.

Good release, good production and accessible melodies - this is the kind of album that should sell by the truckload.

Report this review (#186981)
Posted Sunday, October 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I bought this just before Christmas, and after a few listens, am able to award four stars with confidence and recommend to all readers of this review.

I have always loved Blackmore's guitar work since the Deep Purple days, and I feel that the criticism levelled at him by Classic Rock magazine (Geoff Barton in particular) is extremely unfair - for no one should be in any doubt, this album rocks and features some marvellous guitar work from the Man in Black.

I also think that Candice Night has matured as a singer a great deal on this album. Empty Words, in particular, sees her on fine form in a lovely ballad.

The album starts off with a great, almost symphonic, instrumental on God Save The Keg (hear hear!!), and from then traditional songs are interpreted in a thoroughly modern way. I particularly enjoyed the reinterpretation of Rainbow Eyes, one of my favourite Rainbow tracks - Night sings it very well and Blackmore's guitar work is far better than the original.

All fans of Mostly Autumn, Jethro Tull, and other folk orientated prog bands will enjoy this and previous releases. The violin on Gilded Cage, in particular, is simply stunning and creates such a sweet mood.

Highly recommended.

Report this review (#197550)
Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
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
Report this review (#198487)
Posted Sunday, January 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars While I enjoyed very much Ritchie Blackmore┤s debut with Candice Night, not all their CDs after that were particulary convincing. They all had nice melodies and all, but were a bit repetitive and some lacked the spark their stunning debut surely had. So I was not realy thrilled about this new release by the duo. But reading the good reviews they got from many websites, I decided to give it a shot. And I was quite surprised by it.

Ok, this is not perfect, but it does have some very strong and passionate stuff here. Beginning with a fine instrumental called God Save The Keg, it leads to the Cd┤s best track, the 8 minute epic Locked Within The Crystal Ball. This is another classic in the same vein of Shadow Of The Moon. Great melodies, great arrangement, great vocal performance and fantastic guitar runs by Blackmore. This track alone is worth the price fo the CD. But there are some other good ones still: Gilded Cage, The Circle and The Peasant┤s Promise are among Blackmore┤s Night best. The remaining tracks are not that outstading, but they are good anyway.

Special mention should be given to the CD┤s covers: one is another Rainbow tune. This time they chose Rainbow Eyes (from Long Live Rock┤n Roll) and I must admit it turned out to be much better than the original version. It seems that the duo found some harmonies and subtleties that were missing from Rainbow┤s interpretation. And, believe it or not, their cover for something so kitsh as the classic Falling In Love With You (yes, THAT song!) became really good! They completely changed its rhythm and gave an excellent rock guitar arrangement. That choice of tune could be a disaster but they managed to turn it into a very interesting moment of the CD. Kudos for them!

Conclusion: maybe their best CD since Shadow Of The Moon. Four strong stars.

Report this review (#201595)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#272208)
Posted Monday, March 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Oh! Another Blackmore's Night album? Are you sure about that, mate? Oh, okay. At least it's not another Christmas record, my stomach can't handle it.

Blackmore's Night - Secret Voyage (2008)

Best Song: Locked Within The Crystal Ball

Overall Rating: 11

I thought it couldn't be done, myself, and after the excruciating debacle of Winter Carols, I figured (or desperately hoped) that Ritchie Blackmore would finally retire his guitar and pick up something equally pretentious, like painting, politics, or reviewing music albums. But, no, he brings his pack of jaunty minstrels back for another slab of his post-Rainbow folking off with lover, Candice Night in Blackmore's Night's latest release, Secret Voyage. I thought it could never be done, but the band has finally started developing a personality, a musical identity, if you will. For those of you who thought they already had a musical identity, let me just say that I don't count "derivative medieval dragon folk". I DO count "interesting, derivative medieval dragon folk", though, and this is what we get, here, I s'pose.

There are several things that push this one above its peers. Mainly, Blackmore is doing more actual rocking than ever before, just check the mammoth second track, Lost Within The Crystal Ball, for a shot in the back. It rips, it roars, there are solos scattered all over it, and even Ms. Night's vocal melodies are starting to become more complex, and dare I say it? They are starting to be more memorable, and her skills are maturing. Actually, the whole band is maturing, and for a group of elderly fops, that's an achievement! Secondly, there are "only" 50 minutes of material, here, instead of the usual 60 or 70, which was always overkill. The subdued length makes the material easier to consume. So, we're looking at maturation, subtlety, and more diversity. This might actually be great!

Sadly, nothing reaches the rocking heights of Lost Within The Crystal Ball, even if the mood isn't exactly samey all the way through. You've got your typical folk rockers ("Gilded Cage", "The Circle"), acoustic guitar rave-ups ("Prince Waldeck's Galliard", which is quite tasteful and pretty, I might add), more 'rock' oriented numbers ("Rainbow Eyes", and my lauded favorite), Jewish ragtime ("Toast To Tomorrow"), and a little more, but it's still too similar to the previous material to be too special, the only difference is, even if it's almost the same atmosphere and style as before, it's a little more memorable, at least to me. Which makes this sucker prime candidate for the title of "One Blackmore's night album to own, if you want to own any, at all", so take that as you will.

There are more electric guitars than before, and they really add spice to some of the songs. Rainbow Eyes is another charming ditty that is admirably sweetened by the interplay of Blackmore's guitar and Night's singing. The solos aren't half bad, either. They're painfully derivative, but at least they stick in my mind, afterward. Even though it doesn't have Lost... the second side is definitely the better of the to. It's got more diversity, more energy, and more solid melodic power. It's also poppier, which might turn some folks off, but songs like "Far Far Away" are so jolly and rousing that I can't fault them. Well, I CAN fault them, because they're still not deeply cathartic, nor are they the ultimate folk bar anthems, and they're certainly not too original, though their personal identity as a band finally starts bleeding through their work.

I don't know whether to call this a sign of positive things to come, or to call it Blackmore's Night's final she-bang, but for now, I'll say that Secret Voyage is the best from this band that money can buy. It's the most concise, and houses the most sheer diversity, maturity, and energy. Even if it's all been done ad infinitum, it hasn't been done better too many times. It really does fit in well as an amazing background to most anything. Damn, I am coming off too wishy-washy. This is good music, sometimes it's even really good. It works well as a sound-scape, especially if you can avoid paying much attention to the work, and can oft times be almost gorgeous, but it's gratuitously harmless, and won't blow anyone's mind. There, maybe I won't ever have to do another stinkin' Blackmore's Night review in my trivial little life!

Report this review (#290822)
Posted Sunday, July 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Hats off for the instrumental tracks. The rest is more of the same: they do a decent but uninspiring cover of an old Ritchie piece (the beautiful Rainbow eyes from LLRnR), another pop cover (now with a mid tempo rhythm) and... nothing new. After three really good albums I believe the formula exhausted and Ritchie just keep releasing "new" albums for Candice's sake and for the road that always follows a new release.

Can't understand why this album (almost on pair with the weaker TVL) is so well rated and UaVM (their best along with the first one IMO) is reviewed so bad. Maybe my stomach can't take more cheese than Ghost of a Rose.

Just have to wait for the release of Autumn Sky in Brazil. I won't import their new album this time after two failures in a row. Sorry, Ritchie, I love you and hope your inspiration came back (maybe a whole instrumental album?). BTW listen to what Sting made with John Dowland songs and think about the excess of poppiness that is destroying your project. Maybe one or two doses of lute music can bring all the Renaissance magic back to BN. Forget the people that go to "Renaissance fairies" and focus on the ones that listened to real Renaissance music but still enjoy their old rock'n'roll.

A true fan of yours.

Report this review (#299421)
Posted Thursday, September 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have put off reviewing this recording for quite a bit longer than I thought I would, but in retrospect I am glad that I did. It has allowed me to listen and then digest the entire scope of BN'S work and give me a great appreciation of the progress and maturation of what Ritchie and Candice have accomplished with this band. Now I know folks bemoan the "loss" of Ritchie and his former axe god ways, but lets face it men; if a beautiful, captivating, smart and talented young lady such as Candice Night came along when you were Ritchie's' age and wanted to pursue you and this music also, well I know I would dress up in tights and funny hats too! This is a fact, and young and old men only need to look at and hear Candice to admit it to themselves. In fact, where do I sign up, what color hat do I wear and how many different tights should I try on.

Now to the recording; it starts with an anthem, the truly magical instrumental "God Save the Keg". The song begins with a soft but slowly powerful beginning, and then it builds in volume and then progresses into a full blown hymn in honor of the keg. This song is wonderful, very unique and inspiring. I want to create a following based upon this song itself! I lift my mug in honor and worship, and then listen as the keg melts into a slow chant, and then we move into the rocking, toe tapping "Locked within the Crystal Ball". Ritchie unloads here on his electric and Candice is in fine form, maybe the best vocal performance from her yet; except I think her best is on this recording with the track called "The Circle". "Locked" is a fantastic song, complete with great Ritchie solos and in fact it maybe the best BN song ever.

This recording shows Candice to clearly have the skills and talent to sing with emotion, write great lyrics and match her critics once and for all with some real talent here. Listen to "Locked within the Crystal Ball" and you will see the maturation of her range and singing skill. The other tracks here are clearly some of the best of any of this bands work, with a full range of great musicianship from Ritchie as well as the full arsenal of the mid-evil themed backing band. "Toast to tomorrow" is another wonderful old dance type celebration song not unlike their earlier " Down at the Olde Mill Inn" song complete with hand claps, backing chants and superior violin riffs. If you are not singing along with this one; then perhaps you are dead or just not capable of any heart felt joy with music at all.

The acoustic solos by Ritchie are present on this record as they were in past recordings and they succeed in displaying why he is still one of the worlds greatest players; no question at all about it. In fact, I think Ritchie has approached Steve Howe with his level of acoustic work with Blackmore's Night. I now enjoy Ritchie's solos as much as I enjoyed the Howe "Mood for a Day" type interludes with Yes. Please listen to his rework on this recording of "Rainbow Eyes" and you will lament no more about Ritchie, he has just shifted gears and it is obvious he is living his dream music here with this band and his wife...

The other outstanding track here is "The Circle" as I think it is as good a vocal performance by Candice or even better than "Locked within the Crystal Ball". "The Circle" like LWTCB is very progressive in nature. The song builds through an opening containing a very slow tempo change, some strong horns and drum beats, and then some cord progressions into a full blown romp. There is a driving Bass bottom beat going on here that assists with the tempo and mood of the entire piece. Candice sings her heart out on this one and she has written great lyrics around a super melody. Ritchie finishes this song out with a slick and heated solo and it all ends in a bang. Ritchie can really write them and "The Circle" is a dark, mood filled track that is to me and my collection an unforgettable track that I listen to often.

The rest of the album is excellent and I would give it a full five stars except for one trouble spot. I do like the rework of the Elvis song "Can't Help Falling In Love" that is on this recording, but it spoils the mood and it would have been better off recorded and placed on another record where it would fit a little better. The selection and placement of this song on "Secret Voyage" disturbs the cohesive mood of the recording. All the other tracks are high quality and unlike other Blackmores' Night recordings there are no weak filler tracks on this one. This one is very highly recommended for mood, vocals, song writing and outstanding musicianship.

Report this review (#465054)
Posted Sunday, June 19, 2011 | Review Permalink

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