I have already reviewed Blackmore’s Night’s Christmas single, “Wish You Were Here“. In that review, I said I was keen to track down the re-issued album it came from. Well, I asked… and I received. Since Winter Carols is very much a Christmas release, it seems appropriate to review it in the form of a naughty and a nice list.
Naughty list first. This is a re-issue of an album that originally came out in 2006. More accurately, it is a re-issue of a re-issue from 2013. A phrase involving horses, flogging and undertakers comes to mind. Definitely feels a bit naughty.
Naughtiness could be avoided, however, if there is a good reason for the new release. Perhaps some new material? Certainly, the 2013 offering added a second CD with ten tracks. That sounds promising but five of the ten are live versions of tracks from CD1 and the remaining five are all versions of the same song, “Christmas Eve”… a song already on CD1. Naughty list!
Final addition to the naughty list comes, once again, from the “Christmas Eve” track. Not only are there five versions including one with vocals in German, the same arrangement in English and a third outing of the same arrangement with a mixture of German and English! That alone would be reason enough for a mention on the naughty list but my real problem is with the disco version. Bah, and indeed, humbug.
Thankfully, there is enough on the nice side of the ledger to more than balance the naughty side. More than balance. It has tipped over far enough to earn a place on my Christmas playlist.
First on the nice list is the three extra tracks at the start of CD1: “Deck The Halls” (very traditional); “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (which has a great introduction and a suitably medieval feel throughout) and “O Christmas Tree” (which has some beautifully understated guitar solos at the end). Three plusses on the nice side.
The songs are mostly takes on standard carols and are generally performed with respect: traditional instruments and a traditional approach. But, there are still some nice touches. For example, track four starts off as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. It has an OTT brass introduction which, disappointingly, dips when the vocals kick in. I was just about to give up on it when a tight guitar solo heralds a sneaky segue way into more up tempo “O Come All Ye Faithful”. Faith restored!
Also on the nice list is the impressive instrumental, “Winter (Basse Dance)” and the previous single, “Christmas Eve”, which is full of clanging bells, jingle bells and, I assume, silver bells.
Finally, although I complained about the live versions in the naughty list, I actually prefer some of them to the studio recordings.
If you are looking to rock around your Christmas tree, this is not the album for you. But, if you want some traditional Christmas carols, delivered with a touch of guitar greatness, Winter Carols is well worth checking out.
Winter Carols is released on 20th October.