In the late 1990s, British rocker Ritchie Blackmore decided he wanted to create a Renaissance rock band. Along with his fiancée, vocalist and songwriter Candice Night, he recruited a band of talented musicians from around the world. The end result is the creatively named Blackmore's Night, and they have recently released their eighth album, Winter Carols.
The album is a mix of traditional Christmas hymns and carols, with a few other seasonal tunes thrown in. For example, the Hanukkah song "Ma-O-Tzur" makes an appearance, as well as the non-seasonal but still appropriate "Lord of the Dance/Simple Gifts." I think the instrumental "Winter (Basse Dance)" is a Blackmore's Night original, along with "Wish You Were Here" and "Christmas Eve."
"Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Come All Ye Faithful" opens the album with a fairly traditional orchestral production of the first tune and features Night's dulcet vocals. Blackmore comes in after the first verse and chorus with a classic rock electric guitar solo that leads into the second tune. The rendition of "Come All Ye Faithful" is given more of a classic rock treatment than "Hark," including plenty of keyboard flourishes and a driving rhythm.
"I Saw Three Ships" drops the classic rock element entirely and is presented in a Renaissance style. Following this is the "Winter (Basse Dance)" instrumental, which is performed on an acoustic guitar with a hint of orchestral strings and flute in the background. The next few songs are given much the same treatment, and it is not until the last few songs that the wailing of an electric guitar is heard again, and even then it's only there to add a bit of texture to "Wish You Were Here" and lead the song out.
I highly recommend adding Winter Carols to your Christmas music collection. It is a pleasant change from the cheesy grocery store checkout lane selections and mall muzak that consumers are subjected to every year, and it will fit in nicely with your more traditional Christmas albums. I know my copy is going into the five disc shuffle along side albums from Kim Robertson, Kathy Mattea, Amy Grant, Anonymous 4, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.