“King” Ritchie Blackmore and “Queen” Candice Night formed Blackmore’s Night back in 1997 to perform Renaissance music. When I first heard them, I figured it was just a phase, and that Blackmore would return to his rock roots soon enough. As it turns out, I could not have been more wrong. The Blackmores are still happily plying their medieval trade, and have just released a live DVD titled A Knight in York.
Along with Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore was one of the hard rock guitarists of the ‘70s. He led Deep Purple through their golden era, which produced such classic albums as Machine Head and the live Made in Japan. When he left Purple, he formed Rainbow with Ronnie James Dio. Those are some solid credentials if you ask me. He was a volatile man though, as anyone who has seen the Deep Purple performance from the 1974 California Jam knows. For some reason, he objected to the TV cameras being onstage, and demolished a very expensive one with his guitar. The band wound up losing quite a bit of money on the gig thanks to his antics.
Maybe the fairy-tale music he plays with his wife helps him to keep his sanity. I don’t know, and I may have been the wrong person to review A Knight in York, because I just do not get this stuff. My hope was that Blackmore might have found a way to bring some fireworks to the Renaissance Faire by now. And there are moments when he displays some of the old magic, but for this old rocker, they are too few and too far between.
The story behind Blackmore’s Night is the most real-life Spinal Tap situation I have ever heard of. Candice Night was working in radio, and set her sights on Blackmore back in 1989. She met him when he was touring with a re-formed version of Rainbow, as a fan seeking his autograph. She hit the jackpot that evening, and the two have been together ever since. When she discovered he had an interest in Renaissance music, she pushed him to pursue it at the expense of everything else. Naturally enough, she assumed the role of front-woman. The whole thing reminds me of when David St. Hubbins’ (Michael McKean) girlfriend Jeanine Pittibone (June Chadwick) took over the management of Spinal Tap, and the next thing you knew, they were second-billed to a puppet show.
The majority of the songs on the DVD are from the band’s last two records, Secret Voyage and Autumn Sky. I did a little online research to find out what the faithful think of those albums, and it appears that a number of them feel that the newer material is too rock-influenced. So even among Blackmore’s Night devotees, there seems to be dissent. And Candice herself comes in for some scrutiny as well. One guy calls her a “Queen Bee,” and he is right on target. Her pompous manner onstage is beyond overbearing
One thing they should have avoided with the DVD was the use of any panoramic shots of the audience. Blackmore’s Night only managed to fill half of the Grand Opera House in York, England for their concert, and it is embarrassing. The one element that made me gag though were the names that Candice forces the guys in the band to use. At least I assume it was her, as it is hard to imagine Blackmore insisting that bass player Mike Clemente be called the “Earl Gray of Chimay,” or keyboardist David Baranowski to be referred to as “Bard David of Larchmont.” I’m guessing that Clemente’s Bilbo Baggins hat is his own doing though.
A Knight in York is intended for those who have drank the Blackmore’s Night Kool-Ade, and I just cannot make the jump. I do not think the music works on either a Renaissance-revival or a hybrid level. The only thing that kept me interested were the very occasional snatches of bewitching acoustic leads from Blackmore. I am sure that the happy couple could care less what I think though, as long as it is working for them. This one is for the fans, and people like me will just continue to wait for Blackmore to plug back in one day. I have a feeling we are in for a long wait though.