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Blackmore's Night

Prog Folk

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5 stars What a "Wonderful World", Louis Armstrong would love to sit down and enjoy this truly fantastic style. The love of people from around our world blends through with the Hearts of every member of the band eminating as faries flying through your mind. Listen, Love, and Enjoy. Semper Fi, Drew Malone; Raines III, Louisiana, U.S.ofA.
Report this review (#17161)
Posted Thursday, April 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I lost track of Ritchie's carreer at mid nineties, after his (I believe) last Rainbow album, which already had Candice Night as co-writer of the lyrics on some songs. I found this album by chance in the local record-store and decided to give it a try. Of course I expected a heavy (Gothic perhaps) rock album. But this album took me completely by surprise. it was nothing I had imagined him to play like.

Instead of heavy electric guitar, accoustic minstrell guitar takes the lead, often using 'ancient' traditional melodies, which would fit well in the halls of ancient castles or tavernes of old. Candice Night's fairy like fragile vocals carry the tunes very well, I immediatly fell in love with the sound of her voice, and the addictive cheerfull melodies on this album. Nice whistles, violins and other traditional instruments complement the minstrell band.

The music is similar in style and sound as some of Jethro Tull's music (I wasn't really surprised when I found out Ian Anderson contributed to their debut album). With very distinct folk/Minstrell influences, and occasionally Ritchie let's loose with a heavy solo, but all in accordence with the general relaxed nature of the album.

Recommended. especialy for all who enjoy accoustic guitar based melodic music.

Report this review (#17164)
Posted Monday, March 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars A comeback of sorts as Richie Blackmore and Candice Night attempt to chart new territory after the "let's do the same thing, only make it boring" sophomore album Under A Violet Moon. The opening track here alone is a fusion of folky New Age with the rockiest riff Blackmore's Night ever did. Against all odds, the Renaissance influenced cover of Dylan's The Times They Are A Changin' really works a treat. I'll also admit to liking the cheesy sing- a-long Home Again, Crowning Of The King, the string-heavy Hanging Tree and the fiery Village On The Sand. The best moment however comes in the form of the atmospheric title track,a slow-burning affair that takes an age to ignite, but eventually roars into life.

There are also the obligatory Blackmore solo instrumentals Fayre Thee Well and Praetorius (Courante), but like its predecessors, this album is just too long for its own good ... there are 17 songs crammed on here (incidentally, my CD has Sake Of Song in place of Possum's Last Dance). Again, I should repeat my claim that Blackmore's Night is barely a progressive outfit, closer in style to the music of Lorenna McKennit than the prog Renaissance was doing, but that shouldn't stop you from listening to this album. ... 44% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#17166)
Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars One thing the proghead must admit is that Blackmore, with his awful character, has enough balls to do something completely different than what is expected from him, but he is also stubborn enough to keep in his chosen direction. His trip of being a troubadour or a bard might just seem, laughable to many, but once the surprise gone, those still around to listen will discover that the music developed is actually fairly good and could please progheads because some tracks are definitely progressive. Obviously his muse Candice Night inspired him to go in this direction, but Ritchie always had this Castle and Bard dimension (remember the first two Rainbow albums), but I always wonder how a fully-grown man in his 60's enjoys dressing-up to play his music: it clearly does not need it. Compared with the early albums, there are some electric instruments and some rock drumming.

Overall, the "progressive folk rock" is always pleasant, sometimes very cheesy (the sing-along Home Again), some rather tacky medieval arrangements (the brass in Crowning of The King or Waiting For You), some Greensleeves-like guitars (Fayre Thee Well and Praetorius), the cheesy Dylan cover, two bits-drama (Hanging Tree), some rather awful radio-friendly tracks (All Because Of You and Midwinter's Night), and rather too bland lyrics (maybe one or two exception on the whole album) from Mrs. Night herself .

There are also some clear rockers on the album such as I Still Remember where Ritchie still gives some superb electric licks that we love. Among the highlights is the lenghty title track with its superb guitar solo approaching the Rainbow Rising era, Village On The Sand and Storm which takes its time to develop, but explodes soon enough.

On the authenticity level, if B's N is not really close to Steeleye Span, The Pentangle or some of the other historic groups (I do not think this is their intention anyway), but they certainly are more credible than other actual groups like Mostly Autumn, but this lack of "purity" is exactly what is bugging this reviewer. I prefer them in the rockier tracks rather than in the pure folk-troubadour trip. Nevertheless, this album is not quite as laughable as some Purpleheads would have you believe it, the most one can say that the troubadour thing is worth a few sarcasms, but hardly more than that. But all of the clichés are used and abused in B's N.

So Mr. Blackmood (as I like to call him) is now on his own planet with his superb muse (but the mother-in-law is never far as she is their manager), living out his fantasies and playing concerts is medieval castles, and for all I care, I wish him all the pleasure he can get from it. The man has paid his dues enough to the RNR industry that the least it last one can do in return, is let him continue living in his own world. And I am almost certain Ritchie is laughing louder than all of his detractors together

Report this review (#74688)
Posted Wednesday, April 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "The stars are out and magic is here"

The third album from Ritchie and Candice maintains the medieval flavour, while developing a harder edge; there is a maturity to the music here which represents a definite progression from previous albums. Blackmore seems more inclined than before to plug his guitar in, while the music is still far from his work with Deep Purple there are more similarities at times with some of Rainbow's softer pieces.

With no less than 16 tracks, the longest of which is around 7˝ minutes, there is strong evidence that both Blackmore and Night remain as inspired by their chosen lifestyle as ever.

The opening "Written in the stars" begins innocuously with a-capella vocals by Candice Night, but the pounding drums soon signal something altogether more powerful. Blackmore's lead guitar drives this feel-good song throughout, diving and soaring behind a fine vocal performance. The lead guitar soon returns on the mid-paced love song "I still remember". In-between, a cover of Bob Dylan's "The times they are a changing" adopts a more orthodox medieval feel, transforming the song into what is surely a traditional English folk song.

Later, the title track will see Ritchie add a full blooded lead guitar workout to a track which features mysterious lyrics to an acoustic backing, before building through a fanfare of wind instruments. The development and arrangement of the track belie any notion that Blackmore's Night are content to simply re-create the past. "All because of you" is a similar if more commercial type of song, Blackmore's lead guitar being supplemented by some fine bagpipes!

"Home again" instantly became a live favourite, the irresistible sing-along chorus being an obvious invitation to audience participation. Night plays teasingly with the arrangement of the song giving it the feel of a drunken romp especially when Ruby's Choir join in "live" for the choruses!

The traditional side of Blackmore's Night is at its most evident on track such as "Crowning of the king", which develops a Tielmann Sussato theme that leans heavily towards bands such as Steeleye Span. The traditional instrumentation also contributes towards the atmosphere of the track. An aspect of the band which is often unjustly overlooked, is the lyrical talent of Candice Night. "Hanging tree" just one of many examples of her ability to tell a story which sounds for all the world like it has been around for centuries. Perhaps posterity will ultimately acknowledge the true depths of her talents in this regard. "Benzai-Ten" is another excellent example of Night's gift for story telling; here she recounts a Japanese legend of a goddess who married a dragon king to "stop him eating humans".

Also in the traditional vein is "Storm", a song with a strong Pentangle feel and some excellent Spanish style guitar. "Waiting just for you" takes a familiar 18th Century theme (one which Steve Hillage used briefly on "It's all too much") and transforms it through the addition of romantic lyrics into a potential single.

Ritchie adds a couple of solo acoustic guitar pieces, the first of which is the brief "Fayre thee well". "Praerorius (Courante)" follows a similar pattern, the tracks acting as fine interlude pieces.

"Fires at midnight" is arguably Blackmore's Night's best album up to this point. The enhanced arrangements complement some of the best songs Ritchie and Candice have written together, while moving the band securely into prog folk territories. As an album, the tracks knit together perfectly, offering the option of selective listening or a highly enjoyable hour of music.

Report this review (#169509)
Posted Friday, May 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Fires At Midnight comes a little bit closer to what you would expect from a man like Ritchie Blackmore. It is perhaps not an album that would appeal to all Deep Purple and Rainbow fans, but if any Blackmore's Night album could convert them it is this one (or maybe a live album). Fires At Midnight largely avoids the glossy pop production of both earlier and later albums in favour of a slightly more rock sound. It also avoids those awful drum machines that sometimes are present in their music.

But the most important difference is that the electric guitar is much more heavily featured here and several songs even rock quite hard! The electric guitar sound is excellent and often reminds us of Ritchie's days in Rainbow. The lead guitar in I Still Remember has a Far Eastern flavour that reminds me slightly of the Rainbow classic Gates Of Babylon. Indeed, both the opener Written In The Stars and I Still Remember I find excellent. And this comes from someone who used to completely dismiss this band.

I am not going to go through all the songs but we find many other good ones here, and only a couple of less good ones. The Bob Dylan cover is out of place and I would much prefer it if they stuck to their own compositions and some traditional material and left out those American Folk singers entirely. But this is certainly not their worst such cover ever.

The best songs on Fires At Midnight are basically the longer ones; the aforementioned Written In The Stars and I Still Remember, as well as the seven minute title track complete with quite long electric guitar solo(!) and the surprisingly potent Storm. The latter could perhaps even be called Prog? Anyway it features great acoustic guitar play over an up tempo rock beat and some surprising changes.

After Storm the album falls flat with a series of not so good songs. The ultra-catchy All Because Of You is a song that wouldn't be entirely out of place in the Eurovision Song Contest! This is followed by another song that also would have been best left out. But if you manage to get through this part of the album there are some nice acoustic instrumentals awaiting you where Ritchie plays alone on a stringed instrument (guitar or lute, I suppose). These might not be very memorable by themselves, but they function as nice interludes between the vocal tracks, helping to keep the album reasonably varied and interesting. However, with a running time of over 70 minutes it does tend to get more than a bit samey and it would have been very easy to leave out some weaker tracks and making the whole album stronger.

While far from perfect, Fires At Midnight is easily my favourite Blackmore's Night studio album. But maybe a live album or video is still the best starting point for Prog fans and Deep Purple/Rainbow fans.

Report this review (#198574)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Heavy knights and fair ladies

The third album by Blackmore's Night represents as huge jump in production value from the previous album, just as that one was so much better than the debut - this band seem to be getting better through the years, this time going for a more personal approach and really finding their own sound. And its funny to think that perhaps some of this personal approach was buried not 500 years ago, but rather on the recent past - Ritchie's rocker past, that is.

This is clear from the very beginning, where, after a small vocal intro by Candice Night, Written in the Stars bursts into a heavy electric guitar riff heavier than everything Blackmore's Night had ever offered up to this point, and more reminiscent of the heydays of Deep Purple and Rainbow, featuring some great drums mimicking galloping and battlehorn-like synths. The keyboards and guitar really add richness and depht to this track, where for the first time Candice Night's vocals serve more as an accompaniment to the music rather than the opposite. It's probably the strongest opener they ever had. The Times they are a Changin' is a clever break from the energy of the first track. It's another cover, this time of the Bob Dylan song, but done in a very delicate, Tudor-like mood, with woodwinds, delicate percussion and acoustic guitar. And, once again, like most of Blackmore's Night covers, they make it pretty much their own, reducing the original to a forgettable footnote in music history. I Still Remember follows, a gentle ballad opened by an Eastern flavoured intro just before Candice begins her delicate and soothing singing. Soon enough Blackmore reaches for the Strat offering some great accompanying chords and a great guitar solo. Not as heavy a song as the first track, but miles above what Blackmore's Night have gotten us used to, with Ritchie finally showing why he is considered one of the greatest guitar players in rock history. The following track, Home Again is a great tavern folk song, a clear invitation to sing-a-long to its catchy chorus, given extra life by the cheerful choir after the melancholic build-up by Candice. Great acoustics and woodwinds. Crowning of the King picks up from the mood of the previous track, a cheerful and majestic track filled with great trumpets and horns passages and delicate acoustic guitar and woodwind sections. Fayre Thee Well is the first of the mandatory small Blackmore instrumentals, here served by overlaid acoustic guitars. Ultimately it serves as a nice intro to the mammoth title track that ensues: Fires At Midnight displays its dark mediaeval credentials from the first chords, soon followed by the delicate vocals by Candice over a lush keyboard-created atmosphere in the background. The acoustic guitar is also heard somewhere in there. At this point, it not a very exciting track like the previous ones, but there is something quite hypnotic in it - soon the heavy sounds of drums and bagpipes are heard in a galloping instrumental passage. The drums remain for the reprise of the first sections, Candice's vocals a bit stronger this turn. The heavy instrumental section repeats, as if challenging Candice, before crumbling to Earth as Ritchie comes to the aid of his lady with his weapon of choice, the mighty Stratocaster, delivering a scorching solo. All parts of the song come together for an exciting finale. Progressive rock? Hell yes.

Like the second track, Hanging Tree serves as a quiet contrast to the power of the preceding song, a gentle acoustic ballad with an pretty chorus and very rich arrangements, the strings being worthy of special mention. It is followed by the slow-starter Storm, opened by a great acoustic guitar solo and an almost a-cappella vocal intro by Candice. The guitars suddenly speed up, accompanied by violins and bass, as well as some keyboard bursts. The drums then introduce the really fast-paced rhythm of this song, only stopping for short periods of time where we hear the great interplay between acoustic guitar and violin. Candice's vocals are full of energy on this track, and the instrumental passages are sublime and quite exciting, featuring one of the finest rock solos delivered via acoustic guitar I ever heard. By now this album has already surpassed any previous Blackmore's Night offering, with nine excellent songs. So it is only natural that it should go a bit downhill from here on. Mid-Winter's Night is a return to the gentle Renaissance-inspired bucolic love ballads of previous works. Not by any means a bad track - composition, instrumentation and arrangements are all top notch, but the end result is ultimately too boring, especially after all the energy displayed on the first two thirds of the album. All Because of You is the exact opposite, but this one resembles too much a so-so pop song with great guitar (see later Fleetwood Mac) rather than a proper folk-rock song. Again, not bad, but sub-par. Waiting Just for You really picks up from Mid-Winter's Night, beginning like another bland love song, but somewhere in the middle it kind of picks itself up with the help of some good drumming and backing horns and keyboards. Praetorius (Courante) is the second and last instrumental, a bit more cheerful than the first, this time benefiting from the accompaniment of woodwinds rather than just having the acoustic guitars. Like the previous ones (both on this album and others), it is quite pleasant to hear in the moment, but not something very memorable once you turn off the stereo. Banzai-Ten is another gentle ballad-like song, this time inspired by medieval Japan with all the musical influences that carries. Village on the Sand is actually an island amidst the second half of the album, an excitingly catchy electric guitar-driven folk-rock piece, bringing to mind the question "how would Jethro Tull sound if they sang about pirates?". Great rhythm, instrumentation and electric guitar work by Ritchie. Candice's vocals could use a bit more energy (like the one she usually displays live), but as they are they're not enough to ruin the song. It fades away with a Ritchie solo, soon to be followed by the farewell final track Again Someday, a small acoustic guitar-driven piece with Candice singing us a lullaby.

Fires At Midnight was actually my first venture into the realm of Blackmore's Night, and I was delighted at the time. This album remains one of my all-time favourites, and I still find it the best they've ever done. Compared to previous albums, there is a clear improvement on many levels: composition, arrangements, percussion (no more drum machines!) to name a few. It is also a bit more Prog and a lot more Rock (what a delight hearing Blackmore doing what he does best!) than the first albums, which for this listener is an obvious plus. In fact, Fires At Midnight could have been an almost perfect folk-rock album, but Blackmore's Night creativity might have been their own worst enemy here - at 70-plus minutes, the album is simply too long for its own sake, and this is especially damaging when the material for most of the second half of the album is miles away from the quality of the first nine tracks. Personally, I would have been happy (perhaps even delighted) with the absence of the tracks between Storm and Village On The Sand. Still, 55 minutes of great music in a 70 minute album is not a bad bargain. This is an album that should really please the more open- minded progheads, the Deep Purple fans, and less demanding folkies. 4,5 - almost but not quite there.

Report this review (#201335)
Posted Sunday, February 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars May be I am wrong, but after two first BN albums ( and I was very disappointed by them both) I purchase the third one! Yes, you can see now how much I believed in old Deep Purple and Rainbow hero!

Of course, nothing happened. I mean, nothing new, same Castles, same Knights, same Dragons, same medieval ballads. Some new age ( read - refreshment of style) elements, and - same acoustic sweety, same old-fashioned Hats, same light-and-sweet Candice voice. Get bored? Hey, I just started!

To be honest till the end, I think this album is better,then previous one. More different, more focused. But in fact you can take any of them, or just few songs,to make a loop and push "repeat".

May be I'm wrong once again, but for me all this project looks as a family business. Selfsinging,selfplaying,making some savings for later days. I think, it will be better just to open good restaurant somewhere in Blackmore's beloved Germany....

P.S. Another wing of the same family business is " Over The Rainbow" project with old Rainbow guys + Jurgen Blackmore ( yes, Richie's son ) on guitar. With classic Rainbow songs they are traveling around the world - how proggy is it ? Over The Rainbow plays in the middle of October (2009) in my town, do you think I am going to pay for a ticket?

Report this review (#240914)
Posted Tuesday, September 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars "twiddly-twiddly-twiddle-doo" - Blackmore's acoustic guitar

Oh god, no, What's next? A folk opera about the trials and tribulations of latter day Arthurian magistrates? Shhhh, I'd better be quiet or Rick Wakeman might hear!

Fires At Midnight - Blackmore's Night - 2001 (1648)

Rating : 10/15

Best Song : The Dylan cover? Whatever, man... I STILL REMEMBER, I guess.

I just can't take this stuff like it should be taken. This is just too much generic, mid-tempo medieval folk rock for one man to stand, and there's not even a synth pop tune to mitigate the onslaught! Nope, it's another Blackmore's Night outing, and he's intent on welcoming the new millennium the same way he left the old one, as an innovative jazz metal outfit...

Jus' kiddin', it's all predictable medieval folk rock, but this time with more emphasis on the rock. Certainly, this is the most edgy release from the wee minstrel, and there's even some electric guitar, this time! But, don't expect another Man on the Silver Mountain, or anything, because it's still pretty tame folk doodling. But, I think I like it best out of the first three records. Fires at Midnight is another 70 minutes of material, and I'm obviously sitting here, wishing they'd cut it in half, for my sanity. Sadly, Blackmore's just got a damned muse to create, and create he shall! So sayeth Gandalf the green! Speaking of Gandalf, this stuff would serve as the perfect soundtrack to a Lord of the Rings film, and it can easily fit as your personal soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings books.

For the most part, this is Shadow of the Moon part III, and when they folk it up, they folk it up in the same way they've always folked it up. But there are hints, yes, hints of diversity and progression. Like I said before, there is a larger emphasis on the rock elements of the band, and Ritchie Blackmore even yanks out his electric guitar for a few inspired solos. Again, there are no serious misfires (unless you hate this style, thus rendering the whole thing one big, pompous-ass misfire), but personally, I see signs of artistic maturation and the ideas, when good, are fleshed out and engaging, such as the 'lectrified I Still Remember.

Another queer (but not out of place) move was covering Bob Dylan's classic Times They Are A-Changing. I think it's a good song, within itself, but compared to Zimmerman's original, this one is just gaudy, hollow, and kind of pitiful. It's still a fun song, but it's been completely sapped of personality and bite. They successfully turned a piece of rousing social commentary into a hobbit sex song. The rest of the stuff is really predictable, with occasional bar-room sing-along tunes, or the occasional guitar flourish, or the occasional pretty vocal melody from miss Night. It's all so easily predictable and unoriginal, though.

The majority of the songs are interchangeable with everything from any of their previous releases, and there's simply far too much material here to be easily consumed in one sitting. This atmosphere, however tasteful and stunning, is still too wearing on one's attention span to be anything more than classy background music for spellcasting or live action roleplaying. At seven and a half minutes, the title track overstays his welcome by six minutes, because no matter how quaint and charming that melody is, it's still the only thing carrying the song. Sure, there's a 'progressive' build-up, but a child could guess it was coming ten miles away. What keeps this record from getting haphazardly tossed into my "To never be listened to, again" bin, is the fact that it's all real professional, just like everything else this yokel has done (I guess). That, and it's more diverse than Under A Violet Moon, which makes up for the sickeningly long running time. There are more flute ditties, more violin scratches, and a wider range of speeds (ranging from mid tempo to a kind of faster mid tempo). Maybe if they'd cut it in half, I could more easily recommend this to my friends, neighbors, enemies, and pet dragons. As it stands, Fires At Midnight is a totally redundant, absolutely pretty record for folks in green tights.

*** Stars

Report this review (#289319)
Posted Tuesday, July 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars 2001 saw an ever so subtle change in the Nonny-Non direction taken by Blackmore, in cahoots with his partner and now wife Candice Night, since leaving Deep Purple, in that this album, as witnessed immediately by the opener, a fine rocker, featuring blinding axe action, showed a willingness to blend his obvious love of the Renaissance influenced folk with his more immediate past as a rock icon, nay God.

There is, therefore, an immediacy and urgency in the guitar playing, and whole feel of the album's production, that is rather more intense than in the two predecessor albums (not that there was anything wrong with them. Quite the opposite). This is witnessed by another belter, featuring the type of Rainbow and Purple licks beloved of old, on I Still Remember.

The core of the album is, though, still that blend of classic folk and progressive tinged rock, and they do not disappoint on this level, either. There are a whole seventeen tracks here, so a discussion of each would take up far too much of mine and reader's time, but fine examples of the type of folksy tunes which bring a smile to me when listening, imagining a fine boozy winter's evening in a traditional tavern, are Home Again, which must have been a rage when performed live, and the quite exquisite, Celtic fused, gentle ballad Mid Winter's Night.

The longest track here is the title track, running in at over seven and a half minutes long, and it is a joy, commencing in a deeply pastoral vein, with the pace picking up with the traditional musicians joining forces with the drums and bass to create a fast paced, toe tapping fest, before Ritchie kicks in with a quite phenomenal electric guitar solo, before the close of a rousing vocal and instrumental choral singalong. Feel good music, if ever I heard any.

In amongst the more traditional BN songs, Storm being as good as an example as any with a fast paced Blackmore acoustic guitar lead in tandem with a thoughtful Night observatory vocal, there are a couple of very decent acoustic guitar solo tracks, my favourite of which is Praetorius (Courante) which has a lilting recorder as accompaniment, and the obligatory cover, in this case Dylan's The Times They Are A'Changin, which is okay without being anything special, and a stunning rendition of classic English flugal horn music on Waiting Just For You.

Therefore, there is quite a bit going on in this album, and certainly do not take any notice of those who try to fool you with the line that Blackmore "gave up doing rock" post Purple. It simply isn't true, and, in fact, there are a good many of us who would argue that what followed with albums such as this was, in fact, a damned sight more interesting, and certainly a great deal more fun.

Four stars. An excellent addition to any music collection.

Report this review (#1136237)
Posted Monday, February 24, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Another good release with a fantastic voice and non-obtrusive guitar, mainly acoustic, sometimes electric. This music is intended for calm and non-challenging listening and the purpose is fulfilled well. Cover songs could be disposed off and I would welcome more renaissance oriented music such as "Fayre thee well" in all its acoustic instrumental beauty.

Increasing Celtic influence is audible throughout the album as manifested on the title track with a good melody and breath-taking electric guitar solo. "The storm" is another highlight with its appealing melody and acoustic guitar runs. If you listen closely, you will find some winter-oriented tracks which makes it suitable for pre-Christmas listening.

Report this review (#2281761)
Posted Saturday, November 16, 2019 | Review Permalink

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