24 Songs, 1 Hour, 33 Minutes

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5

5 Ratings

5 Ratings

From MainlyPiano

KathyPiano7,

"Winter Carols" is a two-disc set of 24 Christmas carols performed in the Medieval and Renaissance-era styles Blackmore’s Night has become known for over the past 20 years. (There are actually a few more than 24 songs since a few of the tracks are medleys.) Originally released as a 12-song album in 2006, the recordings have been digitally remastered and three new songs were added to Disc 1. Disc 2 features live versions of five of the songs from the 2006 version and four different versions of the 2013 single, “Christmas Eve.” Candice Night’s soaring voice leads the group on a colorful and spirited journey through holiday music that has come down to us through the ages. Most of the lyrics are very familiar, but Night’s singing voice is clear, earthy and very easy to understand in the carols that are not so commonly-known. The whole Blackmore’s Night group consists of Ritchie Blackmore on guitars; Night on vocals, recorder and shawm (a conical bore, double-reed woodwind instrument made in Europe from the 12th century to the present); Earl Grey on rhythm guitar and bass, Bard David on keyboards and Scarlet Fiddler on violin.

The three new songs on Disc 1 are “Deck the Halls,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “O Christmas Tree” and appear as the first three songs on the album. I haven’t heard either of the original versions of this album, but the sound quality on this one is excellent. There are too many songs to mention all of them individually, but favorites include the medley of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” which sounds like it could have come out of a pageant centuries ago. Well, at least until Blackmore plays the bridge on his electric guitar, which is a fun contrast! If this one doesn’t raise your spirits, you need to find out what ails you or have another sip of grog! “Winter (Basse Dance)” is the only instrumental track on this disc and is gorgeous with acoustic guitar, strings, flutes, and light percussion. “Lord of the Dance/ Simple Gifts” isn’t really a medley because the hymn, which was written by English songwriter Sydney Carter in 1963, uses the melody of the American Shaker song, “Simple Gifts.” This arrangement is lively and celebratory. “Wish You Were Here” is a cover of a song recorded in 1995 by Rednex - it’s not the Pink Floyd song. Poignant and soulfully sung, I love this one! “Emmanuel” is one of the oldest carols that we still sing, and this arrangement highlights Night’s voice with a light acoustic accompaniment that suits the song perfectly.

The first five songs on Disc 2 are “Live From Minstrel Hall”: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/ O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Emmanuel,” “We Three Kings,” “Ma-O-Tzur,” and “Good King Wenceslas.” These aren’t too different from the studio versions, but there is some bantering among the band members and some improv in the music - it’s a fun addition. The four versions of “Christmas Eve” (a song that also appears on Disc 1 - perhaps a little bit of overkill!) are the original 2013 version, the German radio edit (sung in German), a second radio edit that is sung in both English and German, and a radio edit in English. Since Disc 2 is mostly a disc of bonus tracks, these minor criticisms are just that - trifling. I would imagine for most listeners, it will be once or twice through Disc 2 and then back to the main attractions on Disc 1.

So, if you are looking for a spirited and upbeat Christmas album, "Winter Carols" is an excellent choice. There are mellow moments, but this album is definitely on the joyous side - something the whole world could use a lot more of! Recommended!

A perfect album for holiday and wintertime celebrations

CandiceMichelle1,

Winter Carols is a double-album of Christmas and holiday songs by the band Blackmore’s Night, comprised of Ritchie Blackmore (of Deep Purple and Rainbow) and his wife Candice Night. Performing a style of music that is often described as renaissance folk-rock, their signature sound naturally provides the perfect musical context for these timeless compositions. The first disc includes fifteen studio recordings while the second disc features live versions of five pieces from disc one. Disc two also includes four additional variations of “Christmas Eve”, with the original version likewise appearing on disc one. Performed and sung in the spirit of hundreds of years ago when peasants and royalty alike shared in the joy of the holidays, the pieces on Winter Carols often paint transportive mental images of old European houses and castles among a magical winter scenery complete with people enjoying food, festivities, music and dance.

Sounding off the album with a cheerful rendition of “Deck the Halls”, a flute initially plays the main melody, which is then followed by Candice on vocals accompanied by a full arrangement. Next is the longtime familiar, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”, which has always been one of my favorite traditional Christmas carols. Beginning at a slower pace, acoustic guitar and processional drums lead the way as Candice sings the main melody. Gradually picking up the pace, a lovely instrumental bridge enters that sounds traditionally Arabian, accompanied by an exotically transportive mid-eastern oboe sound.

One of the liveliest segments on the album is the paring of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing / O Come All Ye Faithful”, which bridges two classic carols. Seemingly conveying a parade of lights, dancing and celebration, the rather pop-rockish tune also features an impressive riff of soulful electric guitar. Another notable highlight is the beautiful instrumental, “Winter (Basse Dance)”, which effectively conjures images of a cozy, crackling fireplace with its relaxing arrangement of classical guitar and orchestral strings. The band also performs a song for Hanukkah called “Ma-O-Tzur”, which is a Jewish liturgical poem. Showcasing a lovely guitar and string arrangement, Candice sings the melody first in Hebrew and then in English in a lightly soaring manner.

One of my favorite Advent and Christmas hymns is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, which the band has simply rendered as “Emmanuel”. Here Candice sings its supernal lyrics amidst acoustic guitar and strings, until the arrangement eventually welcomes a whimsical flute melody towards the middle.

And lastly, I was most happy to see the band’s original composition, “Christmas Eve”, included on this album, as it brings back wonderful memories of the first time I heard it during a Christmas holiday spent in Austria a couple of years ago. Perfectly capturing the inexplicably magical air of Christmas Eve with its celebratory arrangement of singing, sleigh bells, guitar and percussion, hearing this festive albeit nostalgic piece still reminds me of riding in a car one night as it snowed. The second disc also includes four edits/versions of this song, which differ notably from the original in that they’ve been remixed with an added dance/techno beat, however I greatly prefer this version.

Having grown up intimately familiar with some of the carols rendered here, I felt naturally inclined to sing along (whether aloud or mentally). As a result, my only real criticism of this album is that Candice changes some lyrics on a few of the songs that she apparently felt bothered by, which threw me off slightly a couple of times. Perhaps if she felt that uncomfortable singing the lyrics to a specific carol, she should have just sung something else altogether. Aside from that minor quip I greatly enjoyed Winter Carols, and likewise I’m a fan of the band’s many other works. Overall festive and fun (as opposed to more reverent sounding), I’d especially recommend this album for holiday and wintertime celebrations!

About Blackmore's Night

Legendary Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (b. April 14, 1945, Weston-super-Mare, England) shifted his musical focus away from hard rock in the late '90s and started concentrating on his love of Renaissance-era music. He formed Blackmore's Night with his fiancée, vocalist/lyricist Candice Night (b. May 8, 1971, Hauppauge, Long Island, New York), and recruited other musicians from around the world to combine elements of world music, Renaissance, new age, folk, and rock & roll. Blackmore didn't exactly retire his Fender Stratocaster, but he plays acoustic guitar almost exclusively in Blackmore's Night. His acoustic guitar melodies and Night's clear, ethereal voice blend with a host of instruments such as mandolins, keyboards, pennywhistles, violins, tambourines, military drums, and hurdy-gurdies. Blackmore once described the band's sound as "Mike Oldfield meets Enya."

Blackmore and Night met in about 1989 when Deep Purple played soccer against employees of a Long Island radio station where she worked. Night, a former model, studied communications at the New York Institute of Technology and had her own radio show. Blackmore and Night discovered they shared a love of Renaissance culture and quickly became a couple. The formation of Blackmore's Night is tied to the efforts of his previous two bands. Blackmore left Deep Purple -- again -- after 1993's musically disappointing The Battle Rages On... album. Blackmore then revived Rainbow -- technically under the original Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow moniker -- with largely unknown musicians for 1995's Stranger in Us All, and Night contributed lyrics for four songs. Blackmore didn't really want to call it a Rainbow project, but record company executives insisted the name recognition would make it easier to market the album.

After Stranger in Us All, Blackmore decided to actually record Renaissance-inspired music. He'd loved the style for years, but he never really played it himself. Once he began playing the music at home, Night would casually start singing along. This innocent, informal practice germinated in Blackmore's Night. The debut Night and Blackmore-penned album Shadow of the Moon, was released domestically in 1998, and featured Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, who contributed flute on "Play Minstrel Play." Under a Violet Moon followed in 1999, and since a full tour was planned, Blackmore consciously wrote more upbeat, stage-friendly music. The duo continued to release albums throughout the noughties, including 2003's Ghost of a Rose, 2006's The Village Lanterne, and 2008's Secret Voyage. In 2010, Blackmore and Night released their eighth studio album, Autumn Sky. Dedicated to their newly born daughter, the album went on to reach the number 15 spot on the German album charts. Night released his solo debut, Reflections, in 2011. Dancer and the Moon, Blackmore's Night's ninth release, appeared in 2013, followed in 2015 by All Our Yesterdays, both of which were issued via Frontiers Records. ~ Bret Adams

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