Despite your take on Ritchie Blackmore's post Deep Purple/Rainbow band Blackmore's Night, you have to admit that the guitar slinger, his wife Candice Night, and the rest of the band have yet to release a bad album. Secret Voyage continues that solid string of releases, the group putting together a dozen songs littered with renaissance majesty, Celtic flair, and gypsy fire, a pretty unique style when you think about it. Opening instrumental cut "God Save the Keg" is breathtaking, lush strings mixing with Blackmore's melodic guitar melodies, which leads into one of the strongest cuts this group has ever recorded, the symphonic rocker "Locked within the crystal ball", an eight minute epic that rivals anything Nightwish has recorded, Candice's vocals soaring over pumping rhythms, Ritchie's searing, classical inspired electric guitar lines, hurdy gurdy, recorders, and everything else the band throws into the mix. An absolutely stunning piece...
Sadly, those two tracks are probably the strongest songs on the CD, and leave big shoes to follow, but there are some real keepers are you move on through Secret Voyage. "Gilded Cage" is a lush acoustic ballad, more a vehicle for Candice's gorgeous vocals than anything else, and "Toast to Tomorrow" is a danceable gypsy jig, a real 'get up on the table with your pint' type of number, complete with mandolin, fiddle, hurdy gurdy, and acoustic guitar. Blackmore shows off his impeccable mastery of the classical guitar on the instrumental "Prince Waldeck's galliard", and switches over to electric for the melodic take on Rainbow's "Rainbow Eyes", Candice offering a much different presentation from Ronnie James Dio on the original version of the song, and it works. After the rollocking minstrel piece "The circle" comes the gypsy pop of "Sister Gypsy", a tune with some soaring fiddle, and Candice really scores a winner on the cover of "Can't help falling in love", a version that, quite frankly, I'd love to hear on contemporary radio right about now. The final three pieces show the softer, more folky side of the band, and while they have some nice melodies and gentle guitar work from Blackmore, are kind of a letdown after the many strong tracks that come before them. If you are a fan of Candice's vocals though, she does shine on each one of them.
If you've been a fan of Blackmore's Night from the beginning, no doubt you'll love this, although there's a drift to more gypsy styled songs here as opposed to Celtic flavors. If you've never warmed up to Blackmore's move from heavy rock to this renaissance style, well, Secret Voyage probably won't change your impression. Solid stuff though, and proof that Candice Night should be a huge star.
1. God save the keg 3:40
2. Locked within the crystal ball 8:04
3. Gilded cage 3:42
4. Toast to tomorrow 3:49
5. Prince Waldeck's galliard 2:13
6. Rainbow eyes 6:01
7. The circle 4:48
8. Sister Gypsy 3:21
9. Can't help falling in love 2:51
10. The Peasant's promise 5:33
11. Far far away 3:54
12. Empty words 2:40