BLACKMORE’S NIGHT – DANCER AND THE MOON

blackmoresnight_dancermoon

Out now on Frontiers Records

9th album from Blackmore’s Night and to be perfectly honest I lost interest in them after their third release, 2001’s “Fires At Midnight” so with almost 12 years between our worlds meeting again I am slightly dubious about what to expect.

Ritchie Blackmore for me was always one of my favourite players, wonderful touch and expression on the guitar, yet I guess I felt slightly uneasy with his turn into pure medieval music. Yes there were some nice songs on the first 3 albums and indeed some good solos here and there but not enough to warrant my interest continuing with the band.

Yet I find myself enjoying “Dancer And The Moon” quite profusely, Blackmore’s magnificent touch on acoustic and electric guitar (of which Ritchie seems to give more time than on my previous experiences) is still in evident, he still has good hands, something many players loose with age.

Candice Night’s (or Mrs Blackmore if you will) vocals also surprised me. Gone are the somewhat weak, high pitched characterless efforts of yore to be replaced by something earthier, more powerful and more original. This is the sound of a vocalist that has found her voice and grown in confidence – no doubt aided by the constant touring the band have done over the last decade – I sort of hear a cross between Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie mixed with the folk ethics of Sandy Denny (RIP). Candice also now writes strong hooks, often with a pop edge, something we all know Ritchie loves and the opening title track kicks off with this radio friendly edge and some fine electric lead work from Blackers.

There seems a real bond between singer and guitarist on this new material and the whole album sounds far more confident and that of musicians at-ease with their sound.  Safe to say this is Ritchie’s true love, and you do get a sense of much of his work with DP and especially Rainbow being built upon the foundations of the traditional style music we hear here, indeed the cover of Rainbow’s “Temple Of The King” works well in its new format (albeit not a million miles away from the original).

Elsewhere we get the traditional Russian folk inflections of “Troika”, a dark haunting vibe for “Lady In Black” complete with flute and hurdy gurdy and this track builds nicely as it progresses.

The back-to-back duo of “Somewhere Over The Sea (The Moon Is Shining)” and “The Moon Is Shining (Somewhere Over The Sea)” are both delightful pieces, the former delicate and the latter bordering as close as we get to hard rock and to be fair could have been on Rainbow’s “Bent Out Of Shape” album and not sounded out of place, a very enjoyable track with some excellent lead work from Ritchie including his trademark slide work and that wonderful vibrato.

Guitar fans will also enjoy Ritchie’s solo acoustic ditties in “Minstrels In The Hall” and “Galliard” both of which feature some wonderful acoustic tones powering along their melodic motifs.

Granted it still might get a little too twee in a couple of places for my own liking with “The Last Leaf” and “The Ashgrove”. but with 2 skipable tracks out of 13 is by no means a bad return.

To finish off the album we get a touching instrumental tribute to Deep Purple organist Jon Lord in “Carry On… Jon”, a delicate slide guitar melody builds into a fitting tribute to Mr Lord.

In conclusion, “Dancer And The Moon” has pleasantly surprised me and I’ve found myself returning to it again and again finding more to enjoy on each subsequent listen.  Maybe my ears have matured? Maybe this is just better? But out of my previous Blackmore’s Night experiences (the first two bought at then high-import prices) this is easily the best and makes me wonder what I have missed out in the intervening years.

Well done Mr & Mrs Blackmore.

Rating – 89%

Advertisements

JON LORD – RIP

It is with deep sadness we announce the passing of Jon Lord, who suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism today, Monday 16th July at the London Clinic, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jon was surrounded by his loving family.

Jon Lord, the legendary keyboard player with Deep Purple co-wrote many of the bands legendary songs including Smoke On The Water and played with Whitesnake & many bands and musicians throughout his career.

Best known for his Orchestral work Concerto for Group & Orchestra first performed at Royal Albert Hall with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 and conducted by the renowned Malcolm Arnold, a feat repeated in 1999 when it was again performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the London Symphony Orchestra and Deep Purple.

Jon’s solo work was universally acclaimed when he eventually retired from Deep Purple in 2002.

Jon passes from Darkness to Light.

Jon Lord 9 June 1941 – 16 July 2012.

LARS ERIC MATTSSON – OBSESSION

Out now on Lion Music

Lars Eric Mattsson delves into his back catalogue for this remastered version of his fourth solo album, 1998’s Obsession.

Gracing one of the worst album covers we’ve seen in a while might not give off the best first impression of what’s contained within, but fear—ye-not, for this is highly likeable hard rock with neo-classical touches.

Vocals come courtesy of the  gravel throated Bjorn Lodin (Baltimoore) who teamed up with Mattsson on a number of releases, and really Lodin’s distinctive voice is in many ways the perfect foil for Mattsson’s unique guitar work.  Very European in nature, there is a definite Scandinavian tint to most tracks. Whilst lacking the progressive sophistication of Mattsson’s more current releases, the more simplistic nature of this material (albeit still with a frequent doses of Lars’ “outside the box” progressions and lead motifs) makes the likes of openers Caught In Your Web and Alive accessible and agreeable from the off.  Lodin comes across as a man possessed which his voice in fine fettle, whist Mattsson rattles off the riffs with considerable aplomb.  Fans of Malmsteen’s earlier works will get a kick out of this no doubt.

For the most part the production is basic, the opening of Just A Leo being a good example, but in some ways this adds to the albums charm even more and won’t really detract from your enjoyment.

What also adds to the albums charm is Mattsson’s ability to thrown together rock motifs which almost traditional Scandinavian folk in the likes of Messenger which is unique to say the least but highly enjoyable (good solo on this one too).  Long Way Home will please fans of Deep Purple with its driving delivery and parping Jon Lord style Organ and piano flourishes.

Time And Again throws us another curve ball with a smooth 80’s pop meets metal approach.  Sense And Obsession manages to give an epic feel despite only being under 5 minutes long.  Mother Forgive sees Mattsson break out the wah pedal before the acoustic nature of As The Sun Meets The Sky is one of the albums more lo-key numbers yet deceptively strong with a delightful solo from Lars which exudes an almost Jen Johansson keyboard style fluidity to it.

Eyes Of A Child is one of the more serviceable numbers on the album before Lay It On The Line throws everything including the kitchen sink into its arrangement and is in some ways a precursor of later Mattsson works.  Album closer  And The Road Goes On sees more good guitar work yet is perhaps a little too long to really hit the spot.

Overall Obsession is still a very likeable album some 16 years on from original release.  Whilst its origins stylistically lay a decade or two before even its original release its nice to hear an album which is essentially about good songs from a good guitarist and a good vocalist.  Yes it’s a little twee in places, and yes some parts might sound a little dated in 2012, but the bottom line is its got character and is still an enjoyable listen in 2012.  Don’t let that original album cover art put you off.

Rating – 84%