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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Blackmore's Night: The Village Lanterne


1) 25 Years; 2) Old Village Lanterne; 3) I Guess It Doesn't Matter Anymore; 4) The Messenger; 5) World Of Stone; 6) Faerie Queen; 7) St. Theresa; 8) Village Dance; 9) Mond Tanz / Child In Time; 10) Streets Of London; 11) Just Call My Name; 12) Olde Mill Inn; 13) Windmills; 14) Street Of Dreams; 15*) Once In A Garden.

It is reasonable to accelerate a bit with these reviews, since Ritchie and Candice are so admirably steady in their approach that stylistic divergences between Ghost Of A Rose and The Village Lanterne (yes, with a final orthographic -e all right, although it may be worth noting that, in contrast, the presence/absence of the article the is oddly fluctuating between various releases) are kept to a barely distinguishable minimum. Perhaps the most curious addition to the lineup here is Anton Fig on percussion, the drummer from David Letterman's house band. This really gives the drums a more fluent, African style (lots of bongos, among other things), which only goes to show how much Ritchie really cares about «authenticity», but it is useful to be reminded every once in a while that this whole project is a multi-colored «fantasy», not some scientific recreation of stark medieval realities. Betcha didn't know Ritchie's boots are really made in China, did you?

Cover material this time around includes Ralph McTell's ʽStreets Of Londonʼ (a little over­saturated with woodwinds, but we will assume they are just trying to make it more baroque: Can­dice does a good job conveying the friendly melancholy of the original), and Joan Osborne's ʽSt. Teresaʼ, here transformed into an electric rocker with a much faster tempo, and adorned with one of the album's most blazing (though fairly unexceptional for Blackmore) solos. The most contro­versial cover, of course, will be Deep Purple's own ʽChild In Timeʼ — not only does Ritchie dare to integrate it into one whole with his own merry instrumental dance number (ʽMond Tanzʼ), but he desecrates the holy of holies by actually letting Candice assume the duties of Ian Gillan, which she is unable to do due to the natural weakness of her voice, so, wisely, she does not even try to «scream» the scream-chorus, but instead, just lets all the aah-aahs and ooh-oohs flow calmly and naturally. Even so, there is nothing particularly interesting or newly inspiring about this rearran­gement — and legions of outraged fans, even now as you are reading this, are pouring out their vitriol at its live performances on Youtube, joining the ranks of the freshly formed «Protect The Ian Gillan Legacy From Green-Clothed Ladies With Ample Bosoms» society.

Oh yes, there is also a cover of Rainbow's ʽStreet Of Dreamsʼ here — actually, two covers: one of the bonus tracks is an alternate version with Joe Lynn Turner himself contributing guest (host?) vocals — and this one might even be an improvement on the original, stripping it from the excesses of Eighties' production. Besides, while I'd never take Candice over classic-era Gillan, taking Candice over the cheap bathos of Joe Lynn Turner is a far more seductive proposition. In fact, re-recording the entire post-Dio Rainbow catalog with Blackmore's Night would, on the whole, be much more useful than doing the same with the old Deep Purple catalog.

As for the originals, there are a few catchy folk-rock creations here like the galloping ʽI Guess It Doesn't Matter Anymoreʼ and ʽJust Call My Nameʼ; a couple nicely harmonized ballads like the opening ʽ25 Yearsʼ and ʽFaerie Queenʼ, the latter with a special dance coda; a stupid-sounding drinking song (ʽOlde Mill Innʼ — where ʽAll For Oneʼ was about drinking, fighting, and dying, this one is just about drinking, drinking, and drinking some more); and some more of those pretty and thoroughly interchangeable acoustic Blackmore instrumentals. For those who have been waiting, the goods have been honestly delivered as expected. For those who have not, no reason to begin now, unless you have a fever, and the only prescription is more shawm. 

1 comment:

  1. "admirably steady in their approach"
    And this is highly remarkable. If we neglect Who do We think we are (and except Woman from Tokyo and Painted Horse we should) Blackmore never recorded more than three albums in a row with the same vocalist in a row. Every change went together with an artistic change, whether a fortunate one (Gillan, Dio) or an unfortunate one (JLT). So obviously Blackmore finally got settled with CN. The obvious questions are if this will lead to stagnation and if yes if this will lead to a drop in quality.

    "The most contro­versial cover"
    The combination with Mond Tanz is very silly, but CiT itself is not bad at all. Only few people can sing it like Gillan did in the old days (check Madis Arro on YouTube for a stunning example), so desecrating is the only sensible option. Actually I would have preferred a bit more desecration: iso of the crescendo after the last verse a decrescendo and just stopping when almost unhearable would have been great. Still Blackmore provides some excellent play on his guitar - no virtuosity, just expression.

    "while I'd never take Candice over classic-era Gillan, taking Candice over the cheap bathos of Joe Lynn Turner is a far more seductive proposition."
    You might take JLT over early 90's Gillan though. Check Highway Star, Live in Budapest 1991 and compare it with the infamous performance of Birmingham 1993. JLT does a fine job; his voice improved with the years because (unlike Gillan between 1983 and 1993) he took care of it. No way he can even approach the Made in Japan version of course.
    Street of Dreams is indeed better than the original, but that doesn't say much. JLT's Rainbow suffered from more problems than just the vocalist. One is the poor, deliberately radio friendly songwriting and that is hard to remedy. CN and RB do their best to hide the problem, but do not totally succeed. Perhaps going fully acoustic a la Rainbow Eyes would have done it. But that's just me; I generally like Blackmore's Night better the more minimalistic the band gets.