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Blackmore's Night - Autumn Sky CD (album) cover


Blackmore's Night

Prog Folk

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3 stars Time to get our medieval boots out again! Yes, it's the latest album from the outfit formed by former axe God, Ritchie Blackmore, and his wife, Candice Night, that outfit initially abandoning all facets of hard rock guitar and playing instead a mix of medieval folk and prog related stuff.

The band has proved to be remarkably resilient, in spite of the almost overwhelmingly hostile attitude of the rock press, with many of its journalists deeply unhappy with what they see as a "sell out" by Blackmore.

That attitude always was nonsensical, and, actually, in recent albums, Blackmore has shown a willingness to revisit classic rock songs, including his own, and utilise the electric guitar as much as the acoustic and mandolin.

This album is no different, and, in fact, it is true to state that this represents everything you have come to expect of this outfit in every bit the same way as recent outings. That is not necessarily a bad thing - I love the band and they have given me a great deal of pleasure. The point I am making here, though, is that this new album represents absolutely no progress whatsoever on its immediate predecessors. Perhaps that is to be expected from a band heavily influenced by traditional and classic folk, I don't know.

The band has, of course, become a huge vehicle for Candice Night, virtually unheard of before she hooked up with Blackmore. She is one of those singers who you will either love or hate, nothing in between. It is, to me, arguable whether she would have had any success without the Blackmore tag attached to her, but I actually like her voice, which is quite unlike any other in the genre at the moment. Her sensitive performance on Believe In Me, backed by a lovely orchestral arrangement and understated Blackmore guitar, is powerful in its melodic portrayal..

The album offers up its usual mix of traditional arrangements and classic rock. Journeyman is a good example of this, the opening of which is a traditional folk arrangement, which is replaced by quite the most exceptional Blackmore electric guitar solo as the track builds to its conclusion.

There is a cover of Ray Davies' Celluloid Heroes, written for the 1972 Kinks album Everybody's In Show Biz. As with the best Davies lyrics, the track still has clear resonance and relevance in the modern day, and I think that Night handles the lyrics with aplomb, whilst the band backs her to great effect.

I would strongly recommend this new work to all who have enjoyed the band's output before. I would also recommend it to all Blackmore fans who might not be able to consider their idol playing anything else other than Stargazer or Smoke On The Water. You will be pleasantly surprised. On this album, and all others in the project, he proves yet again that he is the finest rock or folk guitarist of his generation, barring none.

It's not essential. Actually, that damning word "nice" comes to mind when listening to this, but that's not a crime.

Three stars for this. The album cover, by the way, is worth five stars - it's phenomenal.

Report this review (#313124)
Posted Thursday, November 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Kinky

"Autumn sky" is Blackmore's Night's eighth studio album, coming two years after the excellent "Secret voyage". In the interim, Candice Night gave birth to a baby girl, yet still found time to write the lyrics throughout, with Ritchie writing the melodies. Given that the first album by the band was released in 1998, the productivity rate for Blackmore's Night is on a par with the halcyon days of Deep Purple or Rainbow. With so many fine albums behind them, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a dip a some stage, and "Autumn sky" is that dip.

Do not get me wrong, this is still a highly enjoyable album, with excellent performances all round. There is though a sense of going through the motions here. The songs are written to the Blackmore's Night template, but for me they lack the spark of the band's best material. There is no feature track (like the epic "God Save The Keg/Locked Within The Crystal Ball" on "Secret voyage" and no Deep Purple/Rainbow cover. What we have then is a set of Blackmore's night by the numbers songs, which if this were the band's first album would be highly impressive.

Such a preamble probably suggests this album is not worth listening to, but that is certainly not my intention; there remains much of value here. "Journeyman" is a superb piece, the highlight being some of Ritchie's most dexterous guitar work for some time. The following "Believe in me" is a beautiful soft ballad, but even here Ritchie slips in some excellent lead guitar. The feature cover song this time is of the Kinks "Celluloid Heroes", one of Ray Davies best compositions. Candice Night offers a fine interpretation of the song, bringing out the sensitivity of the lyrics.

On the other hand, songs such as "Sake of the song" have a strong air of familiarity to them. Even here though, when paired with the following "Song And Dance", which exploits the same melody as an instrumental, the two part piece will surely become a live favourite. "Darkness" and "Dance Of The Darkness" are structured in the same way, the latter once again featuring some great sleight of hand by Ritchie.

The album closes with a traditional folk song and Child Ballad "Barbara Allen". This tragic love song is given a sympathetic treatment which retains its simple folk beauty while gradually increasing the dramatic effect.

Ritchie seems to keep in the background more on this album. Yes we have the fine acoustic guitar piece "Night At Eggersberg" and a couple of others, and yes he does add some great lead guitar from time to time, but this is by and large an album which focuses on the (admittedly excellent) vocals of Candice Night. In summary, not the best Blackmore's night album, but a worthy addition to their fine discography.

Report this review (#414844)
Posted Saturday, March 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars Oh, how the mighty have fallen

Their latest studio effort to date, is one of the lowest points in the long career of the group. As if it wasn't enough with their previous cover of Wish You Were Here by Rednex (a very silly Swedish novelty group who puts Eurotechno beats to folky tunes and were very popular in the high school discos when I was in my early teens!), this album includes a further two covers of very questionable Swedish Pop acts. The album opens with one of these, a cover of a hit song by the Pop group One More Time (who more than once participated in the Eurovision song contest, competing for Sweden)! The other one is Journeyman, originally "Vandraren", by Nordman, another Swedish Folk Pop artist who had a big hit with this song sometime in the 90's. Non-Swedes who haven't heard the original versions on the radio might not appreciate the magnitude of the embarrassment involved in these choices of covers, but for me this is simply unbearable. I want to hide my face in my hands when hearing these commercial ditties performed by the great Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple and Rainbow fame.

The rest of Autumn Sky is not embarrassingly bad, but it is very predictable and at times dull. It offers nothing new over and above what they already gave us on their previous handful of albums, just more of the same. The Rock side of the band is almost completely extinguished here and the brief and discrete electric guitar solos are few and far between. Like most earlier efforts, Autumn Sky is filled of overproduced and streamlined Folk Pop and unexciting acoustic ballads. The result is glossy and void of substance.

By all means, avoid!

Report this review (#936998)
Posted Saturday, March 30, 2013 | Review Permalink

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