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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Blackmore's Night: Ghost Of A Rose

BLACKMORE'S NIGHT: GHOST OF A ROSE (2003)

1) Way To Mandalay; 2) Three Black Crows; 3) Diamonds And Rust; 4) Cartouche; 5) Queen For A Day (part 1); 6) Queen For A Day (part 2); 7) Ivory Tower; 8) Nur Eine Minute; 9) Ghost Of A Rose; 10) Mr. Peagram's Morris And Sword; 11) Loreley; 12) Where Are We Going From Here; 13) Rainbow Blues; 14) All For One; 15) Dandelion Wine.

These are the wond'rous and enchanting surprises that await ye on the fourth studio album by Ritchard, Lord of Blackmore, and his Lady Candice of Hauppauge.

Number one: two of the tracks are credited solely to Lady Candice, which is a first in Black­more's Night history, and either reveals a drastic increase in self-confidence on the part of the lady, or a drastic increase in self-sacrifice on the part of the lord. Not that it makes any big dif­ference, because she used to write the lyrics anyway, and the melodies of both ʽThree Black Crowesʼ and ʽIvory Towerʼ are completely in the traditional ballpark — no serious compositional input here to speak of.

Number two: the album is being «modernized» by featuring cover versions that are, this time, credited not to old-time kings and baroque composers, but to Joan Baez (ʽDiamonds And Rustʼ) and Ian Anderson (ʽRainbow Bluesʼ). The former is a misstep, because it would take a bit more than Candice Night to outsing Joan Baez — and the original was so personal anyways that if we have to hear a cover version, it should rather be one of those wild wild stylistic reinventions, like the Judas Priest rendition. The latter is okay: ʽRainbow Bluesʼ was a minor folk-pop ditty for Jethro Tull in the Warchild era, and this straightforward interpretation with wailing electric leads might even trump the original in terms of energy.

Number three: ʽAll For Oneʼ is a tightened-up, watered-down English-language rendition of the traditional Breton drinking song ʽSon Ar Chistrʼ, which you can easily hear in a more authentic form, for instance, on the debut album of Alan Stivell (Reflêts). The shawms and electric solos help clear up some of the repetitiveness, and the tightened, «normalized» rhythmics helps make the song more catchy, although, of course, purists will want to drown the performers in their own vomit — but then again, what true purist would last long enough to still want to listen to Black­more's Night as late as 2003?

Number four: ʽWhere Are We Going From Hereʼ is a lonely, stately, plaintive ballad on which Lady Night asks the title question as if she wanted you to provide her with the answer. Funny thing: here we thought that the two protagonists had found their coveted happiness, by being financially and spiritually free to dress up as Robin Hood and Lady Marian and revel in their idealized reality, yet here they are complaining that "some things don't go as they're planned" and that "silence answers our cries". Unless this merely reflects a case of Blackmore's personal cobbler having messed up with the lord's favorite pair of boots, you could almost swear they were trying to make a serious social statement here.

Number five: the longest, grandest, and most pompous song here is ʽWay To Mandalayʼ, which was maybe inspired by Candice reading herself some Rudyard Kipling (I seriously doubt the option of Blackmore's Night ever touring in Burma), although these lyrics sure ain't no Kipling, and this melody sure don't seem particularly influenced by traditional Burmese music. Like everything else here, it is a very straightforward piece, and goes down best as inoffensive, quickly forgettable background music.

This just about concludes the list of possible things to say about Ghost Of A Rose. As for a ge­neral assessment, all I can say is that it is a very smooth and formulaic product — taking very few chances even compared with the previous albums. Each song is pinned to exactly one, sometimes two musical ideas; guitar solos are used sparingly, and repetition is no more simply the word of the day, but it is now quite aggressively the word of the day.

If Ritchie had himself a time machine and could transport back to the 16th century with all of his band and all of his amplifiers, he'd be a smash success in the little villages and the working suburbs with this stuff. As it is, «demanding» listeners will skip this «cheap­ness» in favor of sterner and more challenging folk exercises, and «simple» listeners won't give it a chance because it has no technobeats. (For some strange reason, the only place where the record charted higher than Fires At Midnight was Switzerland — even though, as far as I remember, there was no yodeling anywhere in sight. Perhaps it was just an accidental matter of a really hot night in Zurich or something.) 

6 comments:

  1. I absolutely love Loreley. For me, this is THE best Blackmore's Night song. Then again, this whole album is probably the best one for me in all their output, going by the number of my favourite songs on it. The title track is great too, and Way to Mandalay (albeit in cut, radio version) is enchanting.

    All for One and Three Black Crows are a little repetitive, but still go very well, the former when you want a tavern room image of bold adventurers proclaiming their friendship, the later when you want something quieter and simpler in your life.

    I'd say Ghost of a Rose hits the perfect spot for me: it's certainly not simplistic pop, but it's not something you have to 'get a taste for'. Sweet, energetic, fun music, on the par with old Beach Boys, or maybe neo-swing (the best thing to happen in 90's).

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    1. Yup, Loreley is an excellent song. The melody is extremely pretty and the arrangement is very tasteful.

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  2. I'll have to respectfully disagree with you on "Rainbow Blues". It was one of the first Jethro Tull songs I ever heard and a minor favorite of mine -- a jaunty, Elizabethan-esque rocker that was a highlight of the "War Child" sessions (and it would have been quite welcome on that album instead of dreck like "Ladies" and "Two Fingers"). It also happened to be one of the first Blackmore's Night tracks I heard, and sadly it helped form my tepid opinion of their music. It's far too sterile for my liking, and despite Ritchie's electric work it doesn't have as much drive as the original. Again, my biggest issue is with Lady Candice -- she sounds (and looks) pretty, but her performance lacks all trace of character, especially compared to a singer like Ian Anderson.

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    1. GS wrote that the cover was OK, not that it was as good as the original. I agree with that assessment.

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    2. My statement still stands. He thought the cover was "ok" while I didn't like anything about it. Thus, I respectfully disagree with his opinion that the cover had any merit whatsoever.

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  3. The song I like best on this album might be Queen for a Day. CN's voice is well suited for it; the arrangement is modest; RB's play is tasteful. Listen to Part II as a coda to Part I and it's quite exciting.

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