Blackmore’s Night – ‘To The Moon And Back’ (Minstrel Hall Music) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Thursday, 14 September 2017 04:30

Blackmores Night artworkTo be honest, I never really paid much regard to this two-decade long project from one of the men regarded as among the founding fathers of the modern hard rock guitar sound.  After all, I had watched – or, more accurately, listened to – first Deep Purple and then Rainbow increasingly disappear up their respective artistic arseholes.  By the time it was announced that Richie Blackmore had finally given in to the desires of his wife and turned his back on the rock industry to produce his own interpretations of medieval and Renaissance muzak, I was sort of the “meh, so what” kind of mind frame…


Now, with the man in black seeming to have rediscovered his rock roots with the stop and start “Rainbow” reunion arena shows, he’s decided to visit a plague upon both houses with this 20th anniversary double CD collection of what are apparently the “most requested and beloved songs from their fans” – as well as the inevitable “bonus” tracks, which in this case include four re-recordings of Blackmore’s Night songs, one new one and an updated version of ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ (which Ritchie used to integrate into his solos and re-recorded in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London earlier this year). Oh, and a new version of ‘I Surrender’ featuring Mrs B (aka Candice Night) on lead vocals… but we’ll come back to that shortly.


By and large, this double disc set is by and large what you would expect:  Blackmore adhering to the conformity of the dream conceived around a log fire on a snowy mid-winter night when the electricity failed… a collection of faux folk songs played on, mostly, traditional instruments such as cellos, hurdy-gurdies, bagpipes, lutes and mandolins. I use the word “faux” for a reason:  with only three exceptions, every song is written by Blackmore, and not one “traditional” folk song is included. Which is a pity, especially given the pains he went to in order to recreate ‘Greensleeves’! It actually would have been nice to hear another interpretation of that…


Not that Blackmore forgets his rock roots: ‘Fires At Midnight’ features a distorted solo section which hints at ‘In Rock’ era Purple, albeit extremely briefly.  The classical influence that flavoured much of Purple’s early output also shines through, especially on the likes of ‘Spanish Nights’ and ‘Ghost Of A Rose’ both feature massive orchestrations and haunting performances from Night.  There are some utter cringeworthy moments: ‘Dandelion Wine’ is so kitsch it had both me and DQ reaching for the vomit bucket, while disc one closer ‘Home Again’ most definitely does not translate out of the live visual environment (especially on the Bavarian bierkeller section).  And don’t even start me on half of the shit on the second disc… by all the gods, how do people, and especially those of the stature of Ritchie Blackmore - get away with recording this sort of nonsense?  Oh, right, it’s because he’s Ritchie Blackmore…


But start on the second CD we have to do, especially as it kicks off with the aforementioned re-imagining of ‘I Surrender’:  boys a dear, talk about woeful.  Night’s vocal does not suit the song at all, and her screeching destroys the male-oriented empathy of the original, even if Blackmore’s guitar is reasonably faithful.  And then there’s a cover of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Moonlight Shadow’: again, it’s faithful, but nowhere near as haunting as the original.  There’s another brief moment of rock ‘n’ roll glory with a reworked version of ‘Writing On The Wall, on which Blackmore more than defiantly hints at his past glories with his stabbing riff and briefly soaring solo.


But then it’s back to the nonsense: there’s more bierkeller dancing on ‘Coming Home’ and faux pirate shebanging with ‘Ghost Of John’… and then it’s skip the next section (which is a pleasant enough selection of instrumental tunes) and head straight to closer ‘Land Of Hope Of Glory’:  OMFG, I sincerely hope the spirit of Sir Edward Elgar comes to visit and piss upon the Blackmore household forevermore, as this one of the greatest musical abominations I have ever had the displeasure to hear… and, unfortunately, it’s one of those “once heard never unheard” moments, as this normally epic piece of grandiose verbosity is totally castrated as Blackmore attempts to overlay it with a ‘Freebird’-esque solo and fills it out with a caterwaul of a backing vocal.  Truly awful.


My step-daughter, who has three children under the age of seven, described the majority of this album as like the soundtrack to a Disney movie, particularly something like ‘Brave’.  I tend to agree.  Although it would probably sit as well in the background of the ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ series.  Take a few tracks out of the mix and you can see arrows flying and winged lizards swooping in dor the kill…


As it is, if you want to find out what Mr Blackmore has been up to for the last 20 years, this is a damn sight more economical than paying the 20 quid a CD my local branch of HMV has been asking for each of the last two albums… no wonder they’ve been gathering dust all this time!


‘To The Moon And Back’ is out now.


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