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Rainbow - Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow: Stranger in Us All CD (album) cover




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3.49 | 149 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The 1995 release STRANGER IN US ALL was intended to be guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's first solo album after permanently retiring the RAINBOW brand name and rejoining / then again leaving the legendary Deep Purple in 1993. Apparently a demand from the BMG label which released the album, Blackmore was forced to resurrect the RAINBOW moniker and put together the umpteenth version of the band that absolutely nobody was expecting to see make a comeback especially in the alternative everything mid-1990s when the grunge scene had all but made 80s hard rockers obsolete.

Blackmore was always up to the challenge and instead of recruiting past members to form some sort of reunion album took on the bold decision to recruit completely unknown but promising musicians who could reinterpret the classic RAINBOW sounds of the past and take them somewhere new. Blackmore was wise to avoid jumping on the bandwagon that many an 80s band did by trying to adapt to the alternative 90s and instead simply looked to the past and picked up right where the last RAINBOW album "Bent Out Of Shape" left off in 1983 thus making it a 12 year gap between albums and going back further by using the moniker RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW which hadn't donned an album cover since the 1975 debut.

The new lineup included American bassist Greg Smith, drummer John O'Reilly, keyboardist Paul Morris, Blackmore's wife, backing vocalist and future partner in Blackmore's Night, Candice Night and on lead vocals Scotland born Doogie White who was somewhat of a departure from all the other vocalists who came before with a grittier heavy blues rock style of singing. Despite the congregation of unseasoned newbies on board STRANGER IN US ALL was an amazingly great album of 70s and 80s sounding heavy metal and hard rock tracks that excelled in crafting catchy guitar driven hooks and strong melodic emotive lyrics which sort of mined RAINBOW's past and included not only fantasy themes but more mainstream themes as well. The album was a true surprise in its consistency and although while not performing well in the English speaking world, did amazingly well in Europe and Japan where it was certified gold.

Little wonder the American scene completely ignored this RAINBOW release since it basically gave the middle finger to anything 90s and proudly looked back and delivered one of the strongest sets of tracks in the band's eight album canon. The majority of the tracks were written by Blackmore and Doogie White. The opening "Wolf To The Moon" is by far the most metal on board and evoked the Dio years of RAINBOW along with more power metal intensity in the guitar riffs however the album cools down a bit in the energy department and remains in simple hard rock territory for the majority of the album's near 52-minute run. "Cold Hearted Woman" sounds more like something off of a Whitesnake album from the 1980 timeline but the following "Hunting Humans (Insatiable)" provides one of the catchiest bass stomp driven grooves with the most instantly addictive hooks.

"Stand And Fight," "Ariel" and "Too Late For Tears" also focus on heavy blues rock with strong hooks, dirty raw rhythms and despite being completely traditional are extremely well designed and performed. "Black Masquerade" reminds most of the Joe Lynn Turner years both compositionally and vocally. "Silence" is probably the track that sounds the most different from any other RAINBOW tracks despite a bluesy based riffing but still recognizable as a RAINBOW tune. The closing two tracks are the most different. "Hall Of The Mountain King" is a reinterpretation of an Edward Grieg piece from his most famous piece from "Peer Gynt" only arranged into a rockin' the classic hard rock extravaganza with Doogie White adding power metal vocals. The closing "Still I'm Sad" is a Yardbirds cover and if you have the Japanese version, the bonus track "Emotional Crime" is included but nothing extraordinary different to get excited about as it's just another blues rock song.

Very rarely do such comeback albums yield anything worthy of investigating but Blackmore hit a home run with this little gem. While nothing that would make anybody love the band if they weren't already on board, STRANGER IN US ALL is nevertheless an extraordinarily strong album that takes RAINBOW to its next level and obvious conclusion that didn't quite happen before Blackmore suddenly shut things down and jumped back on the Deep Purple bandwagon the decade prior. For anyone who stayed with RAINBOW after Dio jumped ship, this is definitely one that should not be missed as it is chock filled with instantly addictive hard rock hooks and excellent instrumental interplay that sounds like a band of well seasoned professionals but are in fact all brand new to the RAINBOW scene. This was Blackmore's last album as a rock performer for 20 years before forming Blackmore's Night with his wife Candice Night and then eventually reviving the RAINBOW brand once again in 2015. Will there be another album from this band? Who knows but if this is the last one ever made, it's certainly not a bad way to go out.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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