“Dancer and the Moon” is the eighth album from Renaissance music loving, Blackmore’s Night, the folk rock outfit headed by erstwhile Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore and his wife, Candice Night. Blackmore’s Night have been ploughing their traditional furrow since the late 1990’s with varying degrees of critical and commercial success. “Dancer and the Moon” is no radical departure for the band but this eighth record of likeable songs, evoking a very clear ambience of times past and oft remembered is a warm, inviting and highly listenable record. Never anything less than charming, it is occasionally an inspired work, and even when the lyrics get all hey nonny nonny on us, you’re prepared to forgive the cliches, such is the honesty and sincerity on offer from the band.
I’m no aficionado of Blackmore’s Night so cannot give you a detailed critique of whether this is a superlative effort on their part but, you know, it sounds more than alright to these ears. Look, if you’re going to take the trouble to include a Randy Newman song as your opener- the oft covered ‘I Think It’s Going to Rain Today’ (from Newman‘s celebrated debut), deliver a never less than affectionate cover of Uriah Heep‘s ‘Lady In Black’ AND a miles-better-than-you-are-expecting-honestly, interpretation of Rainbow‘s ‘Temple of the King’, you are surely conscious of needing to reach out beyond the often constricting confines that folk rock can, however unintentionally, place on you.
Newman‘s cover version is the opening track and, for a moment, you’re wondering whether this might be a radical departure for the band- albeit one to the commercial middle of the road. Not quite. Something more like normal service is resumed for the Russian influenced ‘Troika’ and if the Game of Thrones producers are looking for some incidental music for the next series then they could do far worse than look to the melodies of ‘Galliard’ and ‘Minstrels in the Hall’, both of which doff musical caps to medieval, folkloric traditions.
The cover of ‘Temple of the King’ is atmospheric, respectful and well, pretty damn good as it goes. I know not whether this is a tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio but it may just as well be. As you might expect, Blackmore‘s playing is terrific but, for me, it’s Ms Night‘s vocals that steal the show- she sings with clarity, emotion and is a natural storyteller. Elsewhere, on ‘Somewhere Over the Sea (The Moon is Shining)’ we get another excellent example of her expressive narration, wrapped around a musical core that is gossamer light.
Blackmore’s Night are not out to change the musical universe: what they are here to do, though, is open our minds to a part of it that we might not be that familiar with or have forgotten about. If I’m being totally honest, I had my weathered, cynic’s hat on as the music started- I was ready to give it a right old kicking. More fool me, then. Mr Blackmore has, at least for a bit, converted me. “Dancer and the Moon” is an album with a surfeit of excellent musicianship, some really nice tunes and a resolute confidence that you can’t but admire. I rather liked it.