The third album from the Rock Minstrel's Renaissance outfit was all worth the wait. Not that his mission's finally completed - the search for the Holy Grail is infinite, and here's a perfectionist Blackmore after all! - but Ritchie came quite close to this most coveted balance between exquisite medieval music and his metal leanings. The result is excellent and alluring, heavy arrangements of old instruments and intricate if catchy textures create a magical atmosphere. There's no immediacy and experimentation of debut "Shadow Of The Moon", nor seeming superficiality of vocal-biased sophomore "Under A Violet Moon". Well, there's no moon at all this time around, even the cover suggests we're in a castle rather than on a lawn outside the walls. So it's the night, the music's tight and the fires are burning.
And, lads, do they burn slowly! Candice sings, "When you play with fire sometimes you get burned, it happens when you take a chance or two" - chances were taken with two previous efforts, and this one, approached with a certain caution, is scorching indeed, every new spin revealing another facet of a bittersweet pain. Lady Night sends her voice soaring on gentle strumming for "Written In The Stars" before marching band step in majestically with Ritchie weaving electric lace so familiar - yes, now this combo gets electricity like never before, underpinned with imaginative percussion. It's hard yet not rock, and in this context Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" feels very natural while steam organ part borrowed from Sonny & Cher's "I Got You (Babe)" makes a piece humorous - if Bob discarded past in favour of modern day, Blackmore obviously is having a ball playing simple licks that turn time back. Welcomed is hurdy gurdy which gives "I Still Remember You" a poignant depth, dramatic to the core thanks to effective drumming - no reason now to miss "Catch The Rainbow" you may be reminded of by this ballad. Whistles, flutes and crowd cheers sweep the sadness to burst out in "Home Again" uplifting chorus. Come up and join in, all jesters! Come around, people! Trumpets signal "Crowning Of The King", an authentic rendition of Tielmann Sussato's song Ritchie and Candice embellished and polished. At the same time pure acoustic "Fayre Thee Well" is Blackmore's, not the traditional tune of the same name, but what a rich sound Maestro draws from his guitar!
Then, "Fires At Midnight" getting weight on its long way from initial delicacy through magnificient rise on bagpipes playing King Alfonso's melody, expressive bass and hypnotising Blackmore's solo remindful of the past not so far - and finally to fiery court dance. Lady's vocals appear now unbelieveably mature be it sarabande or pastoral frailty of viola-adorned "Hanging Tree", a calm before "The Storm". Following the title track scenario intensity expressively builds in small portions but differently with instruments more involved in sending shivers down the spine when Eastern melody peeps in and the tempo speeds up. Still, those aren't "highway" stars out during "Midwinter's Night" borrowed from old Provencial song, which is why Night starts singing in French. The same dance arrangement that was applied to "Swan Lake" on the first album returns for "All Because Of You", much sophisticated in acoustic garb and no less funny with a shade of "Over The Rainbow" in the solo. Back to multicoloured arch in the sky leads "Waiting Just For You", credited to Man In Black and medieval composer Clarke, but in fact being the same old "Ode To Joy" by Beethoven that exactly twenty years earlier Ritchie had redressed as "Difficult To Cure".
His passion for classical music is really uncurable so, together with flute and tambourine, guitar kicks in Praetorius' "Courante", another dance of yore. Next, Sixteenth century and Europe are abandoned for Japanese shores, where goddess "Benzai-Ten" abides - an interesting turn even after Russian song from "Violet Moon", breezy and touchy. All gets carried away with "Village On The Sand", nervously arresting song redolent of JETHRO TULL not only because of the flute part but it's a melody itself that sounds as if taken from "Minstrel In The Gallery" to be given a "Lazy" emotive edge and a singalong mode. All over for a while, "Again Someday" romance melodically links the end with the album's beginning and bids farewell so sincere that you feel obliged to keep these fires burning until the ensemble drop by the castle one more time.