David Randall chatted to Candice Night and Ritchie Blackmore in October 2015 for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. The hour special gives background to the formation of the band along with selected tracks from their 20 year-history.
Minstrel Hall Music [Release date 11.08.17]
In spite of being a long-time admirer of Ritchie Blackmore and in spite, also, of a real love of acoustic folk-rock, Blackmore’s post-Rainbow outfit is something that has largely passed me by. Incredibly, it has now been twenty years since Blackmore and his wife, Candice Night, started up the Renaissance outfit Blackmore’s Night. This 26-track double CD gathers tracks from across their various albums, together with some bonus material re-recorded in 2017.
Blackmore and his band of merry minstrels have come in for quite a bit of stick from rock fans over the years, ever since he swapped his Fender for a mandolin. In truth, however, there is a huge amount of variety on this album: from lush, Enya-esque tracks with beautifully atmospheric vocals from Candice Night; to jolly, folksy sing-alongs; to renaissance-inspired instrumental tracks; to straightforward soft rock covers.
For me, some of the material works far better than others. I found songs like ‘Home Again’ a bit twee and cloying, satisfying neither my folk appetite nor my rock appetite. There are, however, plenty of highly listenable tracks in the collection, too.
The ones that worked best for me included songs like ‘Somewhere Over The Sea’ which really showcase Night’s vocals in a lush musical setting, as well as some of the instrumental tracks which really showcase Blackmore’s musicianship.
Tracks like ‘Minstrel Hall’ build on the baroque-inspired themes that he began to explore in his early Rainbow days. It’s not all acoustic, either. On tracks like ‘Fires At Midnight’ there are some stunning electric guitar solos that put one in mind of early Rainbow. Rainbow fans will also appreciate a nicely done cover of ‘I Surrender’.
Overall, there is much to like in this collection. Blackmore is an incredible musician, regardless of whether he’s playing a Fender, an acoustic guitar or a hurdy-gurdy; while Candice Night is a fine singer with a beautiful voice. I only wish they would exercise a bit more quality control on some of the more obvious material. ***1/2
Review by Darren Johnson
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