BLACKMORE'S NIGHT: DANCER AND THE MOON (2013)
1) I Think It's Going To Rain Today; 2) Troika; 3) The Last Leaf; 4) Lady In Black; 5) Minstrels In The Hall; 6) The Temple Of The King; 7) Dancer And The Moon; 8) Galliard; 9) The Ashgrove; 10) Somewhere Over The Sea; 11) The Moon Is Shining; 12) The Spinner's Tale; 13) Carry On... Jon.
The truth is slowly oozing out: Blackmore's Night are going to keep on releasing albums until they have rearranged and re-recorded every single Rainbow song. And since they only do one old Rainbow song per album, on the average, their program seems to be fully set up until 2050, by which time Ritchie will be one hundred and five years old and little children will be calling him Gandalf. Candice Night, of course, will stay young and pretty forever, and be revered as yer average local elf-maiden: beautiful, stately, and boring.
In the meantime, Dancer And The Moon is fifty-three more minutes of treated medievalistic schmaltz, completely obedient to the formula. Just check the song titles — all the keywords are in place: "dance", "moon", "sea", "minstrel", "lady", and even "troika", continuing Ritchie's and Candice's love with a pedestrian-legendary vision of Russia, as thoroughly fake and corny if you even begin to mistake it for «the real thing» as everything else about this duo. "Where the snow lies so deep you can't even see the sun, run, my troika, run". Yeah right. When they incorporated elements of "Polyushko-pole" in their compositions, it was at least imaginative — this approach, however, warrants a giggle at best.
Victims of plunder now include Randy Newman (ʽI Think It's Going To Rain Todayʼ, replete with plastic synth riffage) and Uriah Heep (ʽLady In Blackʼ) — my attitude towards those guys is well known, so I don't mind them using material that was quite corny in the first place, but still, «tell me your choice in covers and I'll tell who you are». There is also a final moody «Euro-blues» instrumental called ʽCarry On... Jonʼ, whose title looks suspiciously similar to Bob Dylan's ʽRoll On Johnʼ from the previous year's Tempest — although this particular instrumental, melody-wise, sounds not so much as a potential tribute to John Lennon as, rather, like a potential tribute to the much more recently departed Gary Moore. And it probably goes to show just how stale Ritchie has become in his choice of chords that I find myself far more interested in the brief grumbly organ solo than in Blackmore's guitar work.
Ultimately, the focus here is on the title track — another anthemic gypsy-dance number in the vein of ʽHome Againʼ, modestly catchy, but very clichéd with its hey-hey-heys and perusal of the same light-up-your-senses cuddle that has long since lost all taste — and on ʽSomewhere Over The Seaʼ, taken first as a slow, gallantly waltzing ballad and then immediately redone as an electronic dance number (ʽThe Moon Is Shiningʼ), so as to please grandfathers and grandchildren alike: another cheap, tasteless move on the part of a duo that seems to be losing the last shreds of decency and credibility.
Perhaps these paragraphs have given you the impression that Dancer And The Moon is a total embarrassing disaster next to the relative success of Shadow Of The Moon and other early records — well, not really, because that impression is much exacerbated if you listen to them all in chronological order. Taken on their own, all these albums follow more or less the same musical / artistic philosophy: ultimately, they pander to the «novice attitude» of the pseudo-seeker who pretends, perhaps subconsciously, to be interested in «roots» and «history» and «world culture», but whose ideal understanding of such things is the movie 300. It used to be that, as long as we understood this, Blackmore's Night could occasionally be fun. But now it comes to the point that they have worn out their image, thinned out their ideas, and give us far more of this cheap ersatz than actual hooks, emotions, or viable syntheses of different traditions. The approach was questionable from the start, but it could work — and now it no longer can. Perhaps it is time to pack it in, and as an appropriate remedy, I suggest that Ritchie Blackmore become the resident guitar player for Lady Gaga, whereas Candice Night can earn an honest living singing backup vocals for the likes of Lana del Rey. In the meantime, this album gets a thumbs down — and, most likely, the same will apply to everything that comes next.