Review Summary: The magic has gone, and the moon has shone (but not very brightly).
"We find that the Dancer and the moon is visually and emotionally representative of how we feel about our music. We have always had a very strong pull to the mystery of the moon. Her magic, her power, her legend…She affects us so deeply that we have named many CDs after her and she is almost always represented in our songs. The dancer herself is completely, unabashedly and whole heartedly moved by the intensity of the music she feels within her soul. As the music, the moon and the dance are what inspired us…we thought it to be a true relationship."
Well, there you have it folks. The music and concept of Blackmore’s Night is and apparently always has been largely inspired by the moon and all her wondrous power. “Dancer and the moon” is a supposed culmination of everything the band have done musically since their foundation in 1997, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily their best. And unfortunately, it actually proves to be one of the band’s weakest efforts so far. Now, before all of you devoted fans start slinging hate mail my way for even considering a Blackmore’s night album to be less than decent, there are enough reasons for my saying so.
Firstly, the few positives of the album should be noted. It seems that since the band’s last album, “Autumn sky”, Ritchie Blackmore has been taking on a more prominent role within the band and apparently plays the majority of the instruments, including those that contribute to a more folk-inspired sound such as the mandola, nickelharpe and hurdy gurdy. In fact, he pretty much wrote every song on “Dancer and the moon”, and those that weren’t written by him were simply cover versions of Uriah Heep, Randy Newman and his very own band who were in their prime three and a half decades ago, Rainbow. His guitar performance on songs such as the eccentric title track and ‘The last leaf’ is undoubtedly precise and well-executed, and his usage of the folk instrumentation on songs such as the melancholic ‘Troika’ and upbeat instrumental ‘Galliard’ are rather decent, considering he hasn’t really used them before.
However, this is essentially where the album suffers as well. Yes, folk instrumentation can be heard throughout the album, but in contrast to the band’s previous albums, it just doesn’t seem to be as prominent as it has been. Every song bar the title track and instrumental ‘Galliard’ is charged by Blackmore’s eccentric guitar performance, be it acoustic, electric or classical, and whilst this does appear to be a strong advantage to the band’s sound, there are many times when it feels like the magic of the band’s earlier albums is lacking quite a lot. The simplistic nature of each song just doesn’t bode well for the band at all, especially when there are various moments, such as the mid-section in ‘The spinner’s tale’ or the Industrial-esque nature of the intro in ‘The moon is shining (somewhere over the sea)’, where it seems the band haven’t thought out their songs well. If the band had written songs like these with a bit more experimentation and more thought, they could have been something special.
The other major problem with the album is, and it pains me to say this, Candice Night’s vocals. Whilst there is a good twenty years between Candice and Ritchie Blackmore, it just seems like Blackmore is providing all of the excitement and effort of the album and Candice is merely ‘doing her job’. Her vocals are at all times slightly inaudible, sometimes tedious and never even sound like a singer enjoying her work. Just listen to ‘The ashgrove’ or the blasphemous (and not in a good way either) cover of Rainbow’s ‘Temple of the king’, where Candice Night can be heard giving a very half-baked attempt at harmonizing with Blackmore’s soulfully written lyrics, and you’ll see just why this album is failing to succeed with whatever intentions it has.
Apart from the fact that the album is flooded with cover versions and half-hearted instrumental melodies (take those away and you’re left with a mere seven songs consisting of original material), the vocals and the extreme loss of the magic and power provided by folk instruments as brilliant as the mandolin or the French horn make “Dancer and the moon” seem like a dud. If it wasn’t for Blackmore’s much-needed input, this album would have been so much worse. Put simply, it just seems like Blackmore’s Night are going through the motions for the most part, and not even a premier guitarist in his 60s can save the album from being arguably the band’s weakest effort.