(26 November 2005) The long-awaited full-length in-concert DVD from Blackmore's Night has arrived. The stunning two disc set includes approximately 230 minutes of recorded material and is presented in a sleeved tri-fold digipak accompanied by a lovely fully illustrated booklet. It is available in North America region free in NTSC format. Audio is available in DTS 96/24, Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM Stereo. The European version is also region free but it features PAL encoding.
Most Blackmore's Night American enthusiasts will not have seen the band perform on stage since the band are prone to lavish productions in castle surroundings more likely to be found in Germany than North America. Fans from the rest of the world have also been limited to their compact disc recordings. The DVDs bring the live performance to the home theater and are certain to expand interest in the band both from longtime enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
The first disc contains a full concert at Burg Veldenstein - Burg Neuhaus from 2004. The band is in full splendour and Candice Night is in truly excellent form. Her live performance brings the music to life, even if the mid-section gets a bit samey. By the end of the show, following the numerous encores, the viewer is completely hooked, wishing only to see a live performance in person rather than in the home theater. Candice's extensive artistic training is evident throughout as she commands attention from the audience both on the DVD and in your home. She has tremendous presence and is at one with both the band and the audience in the show.
Blackmore's guitar work is as awesome as Night's singing. The supporting band provides tremendous arrangement, blending folk with rock in delivering the Renaissance style material. Numbers by Rainbow and Deep Purple add additional dimension to the show. We were impressed with the two backing vocalists, often overlooked in the band's albums. And Candice's command of woodwinds is never as evident as in the live performances included in this stunning package.
The first disc contains a splendid "behind the scenes" documentary, produced with the precision of the rest of the in concert performance. The effort required to deliver a Blackmore's Night show is not quite what Sarah Brightman demands but approaches it. And the audience certainly appreciates the significant effort to prepare a castle venue for a Blackmore's Night performance. A "Ritchie Blackmore guitar Special" concludes the first DVD.
The second DVD is comprised of five main sections. The first, entitled "Acoustics" includes five acoustic tracks performed in various settings, castle, dining room, etc. The artists have significant presence performing stunning a cover of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" (appropriate for Germany as one will see in the "behind the scenes" documentary). The light instrumentals are well set back to permit Candice's voice to dominate the performance. Woodwinds and violin add great texture.
Music videos also grace the second DVD. Although the two animations do nothing for this reviewer, those featuring the artists in typical music video format are delightfully captured on the DVD. A bonus is the cover of the Bob Dylan tune "The Times Are A Changin," which had previously been released on a CD single (audio) format only. We especially enjoyed the "Way To Mandalay" video, the standout of this section.
An extensive array of documentary material including various German TV performances (dubbed with simply stunning video of the performers) and the story of Blackmore's Night as well as the Candice and Ritchie story was well presented and was certainly not overdone. Those not familiar with the artists, especially how they met and Candice's extensive training prior to meeting Ritchie, will find the presentation essential.
A section called "Proclamations" includes full discography and biographical sketches of all of the artists. Interviews with the band provide some unique insights not available previously in recorded or printed media. The final section contains a slide show with some of the best photographs of the artists ever shown. They are indeed better than any available on the official websites! The second DVD concludes with "Candice Night Private Movies," a lovely amateur-produced video presentation for real enthusiasts.
Castles & Dreams is an essential DVD collection for longtime Blackmore's Night enthusiasts and newcomers alike. The value-packed two DVD set is available for under $20 at amazon.com new while second hand copies are already available for substantially less. Video and audio production are superb throughout the 230 minutes of recorded presentation and the material spans the band's entire catalog dating back to 1997. It is a tremendous testament to both Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night.