Ritchie Blackmore is celebrating his 15th year as a part of Blackmore’s Night, which is longer than he fronted Rainbow and approaching the length of time he spent as the lead guitarist of Deep Purple.
Blackmore’s Night was formed during 1997 by Blackmore and vocalist/girlfriend (now wife) Candice Night. They developed a unique and creative sound by fusing Blackmore’s hard rock background with traditional renaissance music. While they have always been more popular in Europe and Japan than the United States, through constant touring and recording, they have steadily built a fan base in the USA.
They performed at the York Opera House, September 30, 2011, and the result of that concert has now been released as a CD (and DVD). In addition to guitarist/mandolin player Blackmore and vocalist/woodwind player Night, they are supported by keyboardist David Baranowski, bassist/rhythm guitarist Mike Clemente, violinist Gypsy Rose, drummer Squire Malcolm of Lumley, and bagpipe player Minstrel Albert.
It is a different type of concert than their first two DVD/CD live releases, Paris Moon and Castles and Dreams. Ten of the 14 tracks are from their last two albums, 2008’s Secret Voyage and 2010’s Autumn Sky, so there is little duplication of material and is a good complimentary disc. The only negative is that unlike the first two live releases, this one does not present the full concert as it has been edited down to 14 tracks and about 80 minutes worth of music (from a show that had over 20 tracks and was over two hours long). Still, what is here is a fine update on their sound and career.
They rock a little more in places than in the past, which is due in part to their last release, Autumn Sky, which had a harder edge than their previous material. While they remain in touch with their renaissance roots, Blackmore’s guitar is more dominating on a number of tracks and some of the solos are a little longer than in the past. When Blackmore switches to the mandolin, it is a somewhat different story as it melds in with their older fusion of rock with renaissance music. His mandolin work is superb and presents a differerent side of his virtuosity as it is precise and the clarity of each note is emphasized. Night’s voice remains one of the better instruments on today’s music scene.
The first few tracks cover a lot of territory. The Gregorian chant opening of “Locked Within the Crystal Ball” leads to some frenetic play by Blackmore with Night’s vocal floating over the top. “Gilded Cage” is gentle with Night’s voice the center of attention. “The Circle” is a show piece for an extended Blackmore solo. “Journeyman” covers the middle ground and is representative as to what their band is all about.
An extended and building “Fires at Midnight,” the joyous “Toast to Tomorrow,” and the soothing and understated “Barbara Allen” are the heart of the CD and find the band and audience in their comfort zone.
Many times they add a well-known cover song to their repertoire. In the past they have included such songs as Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and The Kinks’ “Celluloid Heroes.” I may not have ended the CD with the Bee Gees’ “First of May” but as a stand-alone track it is a brilliant cover.
A Knight in York brings the career of Blackmore’s Night up to date. It should appeal to their many fans and serve as a jumping off place for new admirers.