What?! What's this that's arrived for review in the middle of September, with an October release date?... a Christmas album! Yes, a fucking Christmas album! I despair, annually, when Christmas adverts begin to appear on TV during the month of October, and high street shops are decorated with tinsel etc, when retailers start pushing their festive stock on the public in a perennial battle of commercial competitiveness. The ephemeral experience that is Christmas itself, seems to be elongated more and more each year... officially beginning in Oct, it seems.
Blackmore's Night have opted to reissue (again), their 'Winter Carols' album in a 2CD remastered edition, including three new bonus tracks (‘Deck the Halls’; ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’; ‘O Christmas Tree'), and with cover art that's even cheesier than its original 2006 release. While the date of this reissue is questionable, and caused me to sigh and roll my eyes, I guess it kind of makes sense. With so much sonic drivel released closer to the Christmas period, I guess they're simply getting in first, to avoid being lost amid a plethora of festive-themed musical shit.
'Winter Carols' is certainly not sonic shit. Cheesy, Christmas card cover art aside, this is classy. For those partial to festive-swayed musical accompaniment over the Xmas period, that's not the same old regurgitated nonsense (Sir Cliff, Shaky, Wham, et al), this should be your soundtrack. The musically potent pairing of fretboard genius and legend Ritchie Blackmore (electric/acoustic guitars; mandola; hurdy gurdy; nickelharpe), and Candice Night (vocals; chanter; cornamuse; shawms; rauschpfeife), alongside their Blackmore's Night brethren, have created pure sonic sublimity on 'Winter Carols'. They've taken centuries-old, traditional Christmas compositions right back to their medieval roots, with some stunningly beautiful arrangements, masterful performances, and the sublimely smooth tones of Candice's emotionally alluring voice. The entire album is like a big, warm, musical hug... perfect for a cold, winter's night...
But it's currently still autumn. And, as strange as it is writing about a Christmas album called 'Winter Carols' under a month after the autumnal equinox, I adore this. I'll shelve this until the start of December... and, of course, it'll only ever be a seasonal album... but I'll certainly be airing its musical wonders and medievally quaint charms in my house each and every Christmas. Very highly recommended!
Review by Mark Holmes
56:51 & 40:24
20th Oct 2017
DISC ONE: 1) Deck The Halls; 2) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; 3) O Christmas Tree; 4) Hark! The Herald Angels Sing / O Come All Ye Faithful; 5) I Saw Three Ships; 6) Winter (Basse Dance); 7) Ding Dong Merrily On High; 8) Ma-O-Tzur; 9) Good King Wenceslas; 10) Lord Of The Dance / Simple Gifts; 11) We Three Kings; 12) Wish You Were Here; 13) Emmanuel; 14) Christmas Eve; 15) We Wish You A Merry Christmas
DISC TWO: Nine tracks - live versions and radio edits
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"They've taken centuries-old, traditional Christmas compositions right back to their medieval roots, with some stunningly beautiful arrangements, masterful performances, and the sublimely smooth tones of Candice's emotionally alluring voice."