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Blackmore's Night - Dancer And The Moon (Album Review)

Friday, 28 June 2013 Written by Simon Ramsay

Prepare to enter a mythical realm of renaissance-flavoured folk, rock and medieval music from former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, his beguiling wife Candice Night and their assembled brethren of merry minstrels. While similar to past offerings, their eighth studio album under the Blackmore's Night name is their most commercial yet, delivering a heady brew of new age, Celtic and world influences with contemporary melodies and accessible arrangements. In short, 'tis most splendid!

It's easy to mock Blackmore's Night's fantastical storytelling and anachronistic styles, and it doesn't help that they dress and perform in garish period costumes. Beneath the surface silliness though, there's a bottomless well of enchanting tunes capable of transporting listeners into a world of beauty, joy, intrigue and romance. 

The band are hard to categorise as they incorporate a number of eclectic genres in their sound, but Blackmore's Night's cleverness lies in how well they bring those disparate influences together, presenting them with modern songwriting sensibilities, sensuous hooks and first class musicianship.

In fact, the opening cover of Randy Newman's I Think It's Going To Rain Today is so overtly pop it initially seems that they've ditched the 14th century guff and sold out, but then Troika resumes normal service. It's a searing slice of skipping gypsy folk about Russian horses, replete with spirited tambourine, sublime acoustic flourishes, hearty la la las and communal hand claps.

Much of Blackmore's Night's swooning elegance comes from the ethereal vocals of Candice. Whether gently purring The Spinner's Tale's lovelorn narrative, embodying seasonal sadness on The Last Leaf or bounding with élan on the title track – with its stomping beat, propulsive bass, esoteric strings and regal chorus - her voice is so angelic she could sing your parents' obituary and it would still seem pleasurable.

And then there's Blackmore himself. Although many rock fans won't forgive him for abandoning them, his playing here is as inspiring as anything during his 1970s heyday. While his acoustic talents lend themselves naturally to this project, it's delightful how well his electric solos work alongside the renaissance style.

Witness his work on Somewhere Over The Sea (The Moon Is Shining) and The Moon Is Shining (Somewhere Over The Sea). The former is a delicate romantic ballad decorated by Blackmore's weeping tone and melodious phrasing, while the latter begins with a dancefloor electro beat before recreating the song as a full on rock number. Blackmore spanks his Strat with a grin-inducing passion and the scorching fretwork rolls the clock back.

Although known as a moody character, Blackmore even shows some surprising sentiment towards two fallen colleagues. A haunting cover of Rainbow's Temple Of The King serves as a salute to the late Ronnie James Dio, while closing instrumental Carry On...Jon is a wonderfully executed, heart-melting tribute to his old musical sparring partner Jon Lord, who passed away last year.

The album's highlight also pillages from the world of rock - a cracking cover of Uriah Heep's Lady In Black. The song's malevolent, pseudo-folklore yarn was tailor-made for this kind of galloping folk-rock makeover. The hypnotic vocal hook has never sounded more powerful.

Overall, this doesn't break new ground for Blackmore's Night. If anything, 'Dancer And The Moon' is safer and more tranquil than previous records, making it a great place for newcomers to start by offering an undemanding route into their unique universe. At times it's corny, twee and at odds with today's mentality, but by revelling in the heartfelt, sentimental connections of simpler times, it's pleasantly removed from our increasingly dystopian society. 

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