Album: All Our Yesterdays
Artist: Blackmore’s Night

BLACKMORE allouryes DIGIPACK.inddI always knew that the group Blackmore’s Night was popular and had an extensive international following, but I must say I was taken a bit by surprise when I posted my feature article about their previous album, Dancer and The Moon, and it generated 500 views here on Music and Media on the first day alone. However, for those who may not be familiar, as I wrote at that time: “The music of Blackmore’s Night is an alchemical brew of Renaissance and Medieval music, Celtic, English folk, and rock influences. The seven-piece band employs a wide range of instruments harkening from the Middle Ages to the present.” This retro mix is lovingly referred to as “Ren-rock” by some of the group’s adoring fans.


It’s obvious where the group draws its name from, being fronted by Richie Blackmore and Candice Night. Over the course of a music career that spans four decades, Richie Blackmore has been well-known as a member of Deep Purple, creating one of the most iconic guitar riffs in rock history: “Smoke On The Water.” He later played in the group Rainbow before leaving the high decibel world of hard rock for music of a gentler nature. The other half of the Blackmore’s Night name belongs to award-winning songwriter, vocalist, and woodwind player, Candice Night, an incredible talent in her own right, with a number of excellent solo albums to her credit, including the beautiful Reflections which I had the pleasure of writing about. Her ethereal voice has been described as: “a younger, and folkier, version of Stevie Nicks. This husband and wife team have produced ten studio albums in the almost two decades they have worked together.


Adding their own distinctive sounds and sporting period appropriate names are keyboardist Bard David of Larchmont, Earl Grey of Chimay on blackmores nightbass and rhythm guitar, Lady Lynn on harmony vocals, shawm, flute, and recorder, violinist Scarlet Fiddler, and Troubador of Aberdeen on drums. The group characterizes their artistry in this way: “Our medieval mood music and gypsy dances will help remove modern day pressure…no cell phones, no text messages, no faxes, no computers… just a glass of wine, star gazing, walks along the beach, dancing in summer soft breezes, enjoying the sunsets, tasting the snowflakes, admiring the flowers… these are the times to enjoy.” And their fans certainly do enjoy it, often getting in the spirit by dressing up in Renaissance attire and reveling in a family reunion-like atmosphere, somewhat akin to the faithful followers of the Grateful Dead (although without the tie dye.) Adding to the authenticity and vibe, the group often performs in historical venues and castles around Europe.


Like their previous release, this new album is available on a standard CD, as well as a deluxe edition which includes a bonus DVD featuring videos of the title track and “Will O’ The Wisp,” as well as a long and comprehensive video interview where Richie and Candice explain how the songs came about and also interpret those acoustically. While Richie does play some electric guitar in the group, he also adds an unplugged element on acoustic guitar, mandola, hurdy gurdy, and nickelharpe. Likewise with Candice, who in addition to vocals plays instruments of the Middle Ages such as chanter, cornamuse, shawms, and rauschpfeife. According to Richie: “I just have an incredible passion for this kind of music and wanted to do it. During my final days in Deep Purple and Rainbow, I felt I was getting stale at writing hard-rock riffs, that I was repeating myself, and I just couldn’t stand it. So switching to this was rejuvenating, very refreshing.”


dancerThe album opens on a wistful note with an intro of acoustic guitar and vocal on the title track before it takes off on a rousing romp with the rest of the group joining in. Although the lyrics are about better days in the past, the tempo is upbeat and has a wild dancing-around-the-fire feel to it. A rocking reel with the Celtic sounding title, “Allan Yn N Fan,” follows. This is a fast tempo all-instrumental tune that features a brief taste of Richie’s electric guitar mixing it up with the more traditional instruments. Listening to this with headphones added an extra dimension as his guitar phrases echoed back and forth between the speakers.


The mood changes dramatically, as can be expected, from the title of the next song, “Darker Shade Of Black.” I couldn’t help but notice the comparison to the title of Procol Harum’s classic “Whiter Shade Of Pale, but once the song started I realized there actually is a bit of similarity, especially in the way it starts with a slow descending progression on the organ. A soulful violin melody and Candice’s operatic wordless vocals in the background add to the atmosphere. Fans of Richie’s soaring Stratocaster are treated to an extended electric guitar solo that spans the entire last third of this 6 minute tune.


The album includes a few unusual and unexpected cover songs, although not too surprising considering that their earlier richie-and-candiceAutumn Sky album contained a Blackmore’s Night version of a song from the Kinks. The first one here is a version of “Long Long Time” by Linda Rondstadt. Their stripped down acoustic take on it is quite unique and moving. Candice’s vocals range from whispered tones to full voice. The accompaniment of flute or recorder adds a bit of their Medieval sound to this lovely version. Another equally unexpected cover is the classic, “I’ve Got You Babe,” by Sony and Cher. Starting out simply, the song kicks into high gear after a minute or so. Candice really cuts loose on this one later in the track, showing the full range of her vocal talents. I’ve always appreciated when an artist can take a well-known song and put their own spin on it, which Blackmore’s Night does admirably on this pair of pop tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Another cover, although perhaps not as familiar to most listeners is a rocking version of “Moonlight Shadow,” by Mike Oldfield of “Tubular Bells” fame. Perhaps the bells heard in this version are a tribute to him.


With six more songs on the album, there isn’t room to go into detail on all of them. However, they range from the lively jig of “The Other Side” to the melancholy acoustic instrumental “Queens Lament,” to the Celtic influenced prog rock of “Where Are We Going From Here.” Equally rocking is “Will O’ The Wisp.” The last two songs “Earth Wind And Sky,” and “Coming Home” are a bit more on the traditional side of their Renaissance roots.


I have no doubt that fans of Blackmore’s Night and beyond will warmly receive All Our Yesterdays. There is definitely something for everybody here across the spectrum of their material and influences, including those who yearn for the sounds of yore and those who always want to hear more of Richie “burn” on electric guitar. In addition to this album and Dancer In The Moon, I’ve also written about an earlier release, Autumn Sky in 2011. Over that time, I’ve perceived a progression and evolution of the band towards greater levels of fusion between the past and the present. The addition of unexpected cover tunes adds another dimension to their albums. All Our Yesterdays represents the sound of a band that is continually evolving beyond the next horizon, but never so far as to loose sight of the delightfully unique musical identity they’ve created.


Links to  All Our Yesterdays by Blackmore’s Night: