"Nature's Light" (EarMusic; 2021)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

From the very first track, "Once in December," the latest album from Blackmore's Night, grabs you and holds you for the rest of the ride. "Nature's Light" is an uplifting, engrossing and ultimately relaxing collection of British Folk/Renaissance music that soothes the soul in these difficult times. It's exactly the record we need to hear.

Buoyed by jaunty rhythms, stunning musicianship, and sonic clarity, "Nature's Light" is lifted even further by Candice Night's celestial vocals which carry each track (except the two instrumental tracks, of course) to stellar heights. You can't help feeling better after listening to the more Renaissance-tinged tracks on this CD. There's just something that's life-affirming about them.

Not every track falls into the same genre, however. "Darker Shade of Black" is a slower number that showcases Blackmore's still-stunning guitar solo skills, as well as features a quiet non-verbal vocal performance (I'm assuming by Candice) that supports it. And "Der Iezte Musketier (The Last Musketeer) is another guitar-driven instrumental that sounds as though it could have come off an old Deep Purple or Rainbow record. "Wish You Were Here" is a new recording of the 1997 track that's pretty close to the original but sounds fresher and clearer today. Great stuff.

The album closes out with "Second Element," a haunting six-minute ballad that builds to a gentle crescendo with another beautiful Blackmore solo and Candice's beautiful voice.

Look, I get that this isn't hard rock or heavy metal but it is incredible music from a veteran of the genre (who, I guess, is now a veteran of this genre). It's just great music. The kind you can listen to often, especially when you're in the mood for it. I love "Nature's Light" and will listen to it often and I think fans of the band's previous music will love it, too.

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"All Our Yesterdays" (Frontiers; 2015)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I've kind of held a grudge against Ritchie Blackmore because of the whole Deep Purple thing. I know, stupid grudge to hold, but I'm a fan of hard rock and, when he left that band (time after time) and went on to other projects (especially Blackmore's Night), I felt cheated or something.

But now, after having listened to "All Our Yesterdays" three times through, I can finally put that grudge back in the vault where it belongs. This is one amazing CD and while, yes, it isn't hard rock, it is an album that grabbed my attention from the first play-through and has held it so far twice after that. It's a stunning piece of bravura guitar playing, amazing vocals and a heart that it wears on its sleeve from beginning to end.

Sure, there's a lot of the renaissance type folk music on this CD but it sounds awesome here, whether it's because of the absolutely crystal clear production throughout, the utterly mind-blowing musicianship or because maybe it's starting to grow on me. Regardless, hearing that type of music, combined with Blackmore's undeniable guitar prowess, is no longer a chore, it's a pleasure and the folk music on "All Our Yesterdays" is really something.

But then there are the other songs, too and, although I don't know why, I never realized that Blackmore's wife, Candice, was such an amazing singer. She simply shines on "All Our Yesterdays," her voice soaring through each song, giving even songs like the old Sonny & Cher classic, "I Got You, Babe," new life. And you'll get chills when you hear their version of the Linda Ronstadt classic "Long, Long Time."

And, yes, again, it's not hard rock or heavy metal here, but a couple of times it comes close, and it's always a joy to hear Ritchie Blackmore play and, not only play, but play what he wants to play. I think that perhaps that's part of "All Our Yesterdays" big, big success.

So throw away that unfortunate grudge about Ritchie Blackmore leaving hard rock to go to folk rock and really give "All Our Yesterdays" a listen. I did, and the CD absolutely floored me!

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"Paris Moon" (Locomotive; 2007)

Reviewed by Metal Mark

Despite my love for Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar playing I have avoided this project until now. I avoided it because my fear was that it would be rather dull and pretentious and this live DVD/CD didn’t do much to disprove that. 

I do believe that absolutely any form of music can be played with energy and integrity and those factors go a long ways. However, any type of music can be dull and tedious if not enough energy is put into it. Sadly, I think Blackmore’s Night falls into the latter category. 

There is no doubt that Mr. Blackmore still has the talent and his fingers still move rather nimbly on the strings of his instrument. Yet fire in a musician doesn’t just come from the body, it comes from the heart, from the spirit, and this act is lacking spirit in a major way. Vocalist Candice Night has some range, but her performance really seems to run from just passable down to being rather empty. That's another problem here: Aside from a lack of fire, the performers seem so self-aware. Everything just seemed rather stilted and unnatural. 

One thing Ritchie Blackmore had never been before was dull (not even when Rainbow started becoming pop music) yet this DVD was sorely testing my concentration. 

Technically, I would say the picture and sound quality are fine. 

If you're a fan of Renaissance music then there really has to be something out there better than this and Blackmore fans will just have to resort to pulling out their old Deep Purple and Rainbow albums.

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"Winter Carols" (Locomotive; 2006)

Reviewed by Ray Van Horn Jr.

For some diehard heavy music fans, the fact that Ritchie Blackmore dropped out of sight and went for against-the-grain Renaissance-flavored music seems like betrayal, if not a new age abomination. This angry sentiment is felt so strongly by jughead purists that there’s a report of Deep Purple "Machine Head" shirts floating around out there without Blackmore’s façade. Come on, losers, get a life.

What’s so wrong with what Blackmore’s Night has to offer? If Manowar and Saxon hail softer remembrance of heraldry in their brick-heavy music, then certainly someone of Ritchie Blackmore’s caliber can put his considerable skills to use in a more eloquent manner, particularly when it’s his wife Candice Night who is doing the singing. If this isn’t representative of a true love affair, then what is? Besides, I dare any of you to call Manowar pansies for their own orchestral and acoustic supplementations.

"Winter Carols" is a natural endeavor, given this newfound musical journey of Blackmore’s and while you may say you’ve heard every Christmas album there is, there’s a subtlety to "Winter Carols" that makes it a must-listen to, along with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Harry Connick, Jr. and Bing Crosby. Yeah, I said that. Blackmore’s acoustic articulacy on “Winter (Basse Dance)” is tasteful, not flashy, while some of the more traditional holiday carols like “We Three Kings,” “Emmanuel” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” are appropriately reverent.

The album’s highlights are the Derbyshire and Celtic-flavored “Christmas Eve,” “I Saw Three Ships,” “Ding Dong Merrily On High” and “Good King Wenceslas,” while the happy couple celebrates Chanukah with the Hebrew-inspired “Ma-O-Tzur.” To keep things a little off-kilter, Blackmore’s Night reprises their electric 1997 cover of “Wish You Were Here” by the Swedish avant guarde band Rednex. Enjoy it; it’s a rock song with a hint of country, people.

Maybe there’s a little bit of syrupiness pooled throughout "Winter Carols," but so what? Blackmore’s Night isn’t attempting a Rainbow-like extravaganza with “Lord of the Dance/Simple Gifts” and if that bothers you, there’s always the Ramones’ “Merry Christmas Baby (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” if you’re overly concerned about whether or not your metal studs will hold in place by listening to Blackmore’s Night. Here’s a hint for you; you’re more metal for listening to it.

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"Christmas Eve" Single (SPV / Steamhammer; 2005)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Legendary Deep Purple / Rainbow guitarist Richie Blackmore delivers some Christmas cheer with his wife, Candice Night, at his side. The result is not the hard rock sound that Blackmore made famous with Purple and Rainbow but rather the folksy, renaissance sound that he's focused on for the past few years with Blackmore's Night. And it fits Christmas to a tee. 

Blackmore's incredible fretwork makes the gentler folk sound of Blackmore's Night more palatable to the hard rock fan, while Candice's lovely voice gives each song a full, rich tone and voice.

There are two versions of the title track here, one of which is a radio edit and the other the longer, full version. The other two tracks include the traditional "Emanuel" and "We Three Kings." Each track is beautifully produced with full-bodied sound and incredible musicianship.

Those looking for something in the vein of Christmas music that won't make you wince ... but won't turn off their non-metal-minded family members ... will be thrilled with "Christmas Eve."

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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