Blackmore’s Night (from the album Nature’s Light available on earMUSIC) (by Chris Wheatley)
English-American Folk Rock band Blackmore's Night are into their third decade of recording, and onto their eleventh studio album, in the form of Nature's Light. It's a project which may have seemed an unlikely venture but has certainly proved it's longevity, attracting fans not only from founding member Ritchie Blackmore's days as guitarist with rock group Deep Purple but from across the musical spectrum. Vocalist, lyricist, and multi-instrumentalist Candice Night makes up the other half of Blackmore's Night, with a rotating line-up of additional musicians. It's a slick outfit, incorporating a mannered, almost baroque feel with mysticism, Eastern instrumentation, strong elements of traditional English Folk and classic Rock. These disparate sounds are wrapped up in a smoothly produced, ethereal-sounding package which is quite compelling.
Nature's Light sticks to this winning formula. Opener “Once Upon a December” dips, soars and jangles, with flutes, acoustic guitar, and shimmering bells. The track has a jaunty, sea-shanty feel, over which Night's voice slips and slides. It's a lovely voice, to be sure, Folk at its core, with a glossy sheen. Candice Night's versatile, flowing, delivery and easy power match the music to a tee. Genre-wise, Blackmore's Night are hard to pin down, which perhaps perversely accounts for their success. There's nothing out there quite like it; easy-to-digest, quirky, almost baroque, with Prog Rock overtones and detailed arrangements. Indeed, if Deep Purple had been around in medieval times, they might have sounded something like this.
“Feather in the Wind” gallops along at ferocious pace, propelled by rattling drums, racing hand-percussion, and a steady kick-drum beat. Pipes leap in and out, deep bass thuds, and violin throws out a frenzied coda. There's plenty of time, though, for some nice instrumental breaks, with ghostly, harmonized vocals. As always, Night's voice stands at the centre of the whirlwind. ‘Everyone I knew, they were all feathers in the wind’ she sings, and it's easy to imagine said feathers cast to the four corners of the globe before this measured, cultured assault.
“The Twisted Oak” slows things down a little. It's a lilting, charming piece, with soft bells, staccato strings, finger-picked electric guitar and harpsichord embellishments. Throughout this track, and the album, the assembled players add an incredible level of detail. These are well-thought-out, impressive compositions which leave few empty spaces. Whether or not this style and approach appeals, you can't help but admire the colour, depth, and musicianship on display. “Der Letzte Musketier” starts with stately pipe-organ (though here played in a decidedly modern fashion) before transforming into a swaggering Blues Rock number. It's possibly the most contemporary-sounding track on the album, and it does feel a little out-of-place, at least at first. Then again, as with the album as a whole, this is music so obviously made with good feelings and good intent, that it seems churlish to criticize a little variety. A swirling chorus, with more of those emotive, multi-tracked vocals and plenty of Blackmore's eminently enjoyable guitar make this another winner.
Folk purists may shrug off Blackmore's Night as too much of a commercial compromise, but that would be a shame. Blackmore and Night clearly have a deep love for Roots music. They also have talent aplenty. There's room and reason for an album or two from this band in any collection. Fans of Classic Rock ought to love it. The rest of us should appreciate Nature's Light for its musicianship and sense of adventurous fun. (by Chris Wheatley)
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