Review Summary: An original idea executed in the most unoriginal way possible.
Take a moment, if you would, to let your imagination drift deep into the history of human civilization. Castles cast their ominous shadows over the valleys which they protect, promising shelter to the good natured farmers, blacksmiths, and merchants laboring honestly in the village. The foggy, crisp morning air is cut in half by a horn announcing the arrival of the king, who has returned safely from his journey into the endless green and black forest. It is an age of exploration, a time of hope, and a moment of rebirth. The arts have made a huge comeback since the dark ages, which were consumed by ceaseless warfare and a daily struggle to survive influxes of barbarian raids and plagues. Music, among those arts, has risen to prominence in popular culture. Its sound is one of elegance and class, while containing the zest of life and all the signs of a fresh slate for humanity.
Now return to the present day. In an industry dominated by one rehashed idea after another, the death of musical invention is looming. Sure, there are those who will stand and fight, but for every one pioneer who seeks to blaze a unique trail, there is a legion of followers who are right on his heels, hoping to claim a small share of the credit that he solely deserves. In this modern dark age, a knight emerges from the shadows claiming knowledge of a path to lead us away from the plague and famine: Blackmore’s Night
. There is just one problem: he is not a knight at all; he’s the village idiot.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Blackmore’s Night, and I can safely assume that includes just about all
of you, it is a folk rock duo consisting of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (of Deep Purple) and his wife Candice Night, who is the lead vocalist and plays the tambourine among other things. The pair first became romantically involved in 1989 and discovered that they shared a strong interest in the Renaissance time period, along with the music that accompanied and defined the era. Despite their widespread anonymity (especially outside of Europe), they have released seven studio albums prior to their most recent effort, entitled Autumn Sky
. Each one has dealt purely with Renaissance music, along with varying degrees of instrumental and orchestral inclusion. Autumn Sky
does not only fail to deviate from the beaten path of its predecessors, but it also fails to inspire any of the imagery discussed at the beginning of this review, capturing less of a spark of an interest in the Renaissance period than a monotonous ancient civilization professor.
Despite these clearly damning accusations, Autumn Sky
actually starts off promising enough in “Highland.” An uplifting rhythm and a triumphant horn section quickly lend the album a classical charm, and Candice Night’s vocals sound more passable than ever. With something of a swagger, Blackmore’s Night then commences its plunge into the deep end of the cheese pool, and at fifteen songs deep, that much cheese could make anyone nauseous.
The main problem with Autumn Sky
is that it is a mockery of the very time period it sets out to celebrate. Nothing, and I mean nothing
, about this album is innovative or refreshing. And it’s not that the potential isn’t there…we all know
that Blackmore can play the guitar, but he is mind-bogglingly restrained in favor of gratuitous orchestration and Night’s sub-par vocals, whose constantly mediocre chants drown out a lot of what is actually good about Autumn Sky
. The instrumental work by both musicians is proficient throughout, but at no point does it expand upon the predetermined “renaissance sound” that we have all heard while watching Robin Hood
or any number of movies from our Disney collection. For all intents and purposes, this is music about
a time period, aiming to recapture its magic by mimicking it and thus clearly missing the point.
Even if one were to evaluate the album from a different perspective; say, one that focuses less on experimentation and more on execution, Autumn Sky
still falls flat. Blackmore has a few intriguing moments on the guitar, and some of the instrumentation and overall technical backing to the album comes together quite nicely. However, the majority of the album is weighed down by painfully obvious repetition of recycled ideas, not to mention that Night’s singing voice becomes a chore to listen to after the third or fourth straight song in which she refuses to vary her tone. Everything just feels boxed in
between a lack of variation and the feeling that you have heard all of this before somewhere…some of it even on this very record, several times over.
They say love is blind, and Autumn Sky
has all the signs of a passion project pursued blindly
out of a common interest. Props to Blackmore and Night for finding something they can bond over, but this sounds more like the results of a hobby than the product of fine art. A truly respectable artist would have found a way to represent Renaissance music while injecting a bit of personal influence – something to make it his/her own. On Autumn Sky
, Blackmore’s Night are simply playing
Renaissance music without seeing where their creativity and unique skill sets will take it. It is bland, it is predictable, and it is the opposite of a Renaissance