BLACKMORE'S NIGHT: WINTER CAROLS (2006)
1) Hark The Herald Angels Sing/Come All Ye Faithful; 2) I Saw Three Ships; 3) Winter (Basse Dance); 4) Ding Dong Merrily On High; 5) Ma-O-Tzur; 6) Good King Wenceslas; 7) Lord Of The Dance/Simple Gifts; 8) We Three Kings; 9) Wish You Were Here; 10) Emmanuel; 11) Christmas Eve; 12) We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
A Christmas album from Blackmore's Night, come to think of it, was inevitably happening, so the only relevant question in expecting its imminent forthcoming would be: «Will they or will they not be featuring a new version of ʽHighway Starʼ, with Candice Night singing, ʽNobody's gonna take my sleigh, I'm gonna race it to the North Poleʼ?»
Apparently not, and this here is a rather loyal, no-shock-value-whatsoever, and courteously brief collection of hymns, carols, covers, and just a couple original numbers, in keeping with the 21st century understanding of the «Christmas album» (adding one's own individual twists rather than just keep recording new versions of ʽRudolphʼ and ʽWe Three Kingsʼ 'til eternity). So it pretty much sounds like you'd expect it to sound — Ritchie's medievalistic guitar, Candice's friendly, unexceptional vocals, and lots of baroque overdubs.
You do get to hear the lady sing in Hebrew, with the band paying tolerant tribute to Hanukkah (ʽMa-O-Tzurʼ — sic, instead of the required ʽMaʽoz-Tzurʼ, but Lord Blackmore ain't the one to be stopped by trifling orthography problems), but other than the lady's struggle with pronunciation, arrangement-wise, this is not one iota different from the rest (well, actually, the old hymn itself was written in the German rather than Near Eastern tradition, so that is hardly surprising). You also get to hear Sydney Carter's ʽLord Of The Danceʼ, which I, shamefully enough, only originally knew from the cuddly Donovan cover — even though Donovan actually transformed the song from its hymnal incarnation into an endearing kiddie tune, whereas Blackmore and Night stick to the solemn choral interpretation.
To fill up empty space, they also include ʽWish You Were Hereʼ from Shadow Of The Moon (not a «re-recording», as some sources incorrectly state, but the exact same version), and repeat each chorus on each song a couple dozen extra times — ʽLord Of The Danceʼ, ʽChristmas Eveʼ and others are all plagued by repetitiveness, and the short closing number ʽWe Wish You A Merry Christmasʼ is nothing but exactly that, really. And if you ever tried to insinuate that the old standard ʽDing Dong Merrily On Highʼ is really a song about sex (ding dong), drugs (on high), and rock'n'roll (merrily), well, there's nothing to confirm this in the actual execution.
By all means, the record is eminently skippable, but it does fill its own niche, because whoever actually bought the whole thing and, in his or her mind, had already been dwelling in Sherwood Forest and/or Nottingham Castle with Kevin Costner and/or Alan Rickman for almost a decade, now finally gets to spend Christmas in the perfect way possible — playing Winter Carols from dawn till dusk until the herald angels stop singing. For everybody else, the record will be pointless, but Blackmore's Night is not an ensemble that panders to the hoi polloi: in terms of primal enjoyment and accessibility, its intended audience is only the entire Christian (and, this time around, Jewish) world, former Christians who celebrate Christmas without believing in Christ included — just a few billion people or so, most of whom ended up not buying this record by sheer accident of providence, or so we will have to assume.