Review Summary: Blackmore makes his final stand.
For those unfamiliar with it, let me summarize the story of Ritchie Blackmore. In the late 60’s, he formed Deep Purple
, the band that would grow out to be one of the most famous hard rock acts of all time, with great thanks to the guitarist’s virtuoso skills. Ritchie was well know for being an selfish person, however, and initiated firing band members multiple times. By Purple’s third formation, more commonly known as Mark III, he had grown so frustrated with his band he decided to form a new hard rock outfit with Ronnie James Dio and his then-band Elf
. The new group, entitled Rainbow
, enjoyed a streak of quality albums with the tiny singer, until straying off into a commercial direction. At the beginning of the 80’s, Rainbow was going more and more downhill, eventually disbanding after the plainly bad Bent Out of Shape
in ’83. A year later, Blackmore reunited with the disbanded Deep Purple, who had not been able to continue for long after his absence. That wouldn’t last, however, and after yet another rock abomination in ‘93’s The Battle Rages On
, Blackmore quit the band he helped form for the final time. A few years later, he reassembled Rainbow for a new album. It would also be their last. Stranger In Us All
was the final stand.
The line-up is completely new, reprising none of Rainbow’s earlier members. Wisely going for a fresh start, Blackmore got together vocalist Doogie White, bassist Greg Smith, drummer John O’Reilly and keyboardist Paul Morris. With them, he revisited his classic blues-inspired hard rock sound, mixing it with a dose of medieval/mystical 70’s Rainbow. It was about the best thing he could have done.
Because after some very poor work from the brilliant guitarist in the 80’s, now he knew what his strengths were. His strength was not being dramatic or cheesy: his strength was making honest hard rock with a traditional bluesy flare. Stranger In Us All
does this, and does it well, never really trying to create something new when it shouldn’t. Thanks to White’s powerful an distinctive enough voice and Blackmore’s revitalized guitar work, the album succeeds. White is the best vocalist Rainbow has had since Dio, not overdoing his work like Turner, or being a bit too cocky like Bonnet, and is a huge relief, and for the first time since the 70’s, we can hear the rhythm section playing.
As said, Stranger
’s strongest part are the traditional bluesy hard rock songs, once again empowered by Blackmore’s strong leads. The likes of Wolf to the Moon
and Cold Hearted Woman
can easily measure up to the guitarist’s earlier work, and remind us he can definitely still do it in 1995. To great surprise, there are even some successful Dio-era-inspired cuts with a mystical sense, such as Black Masquerade
and Hall of the Mountain King
. Stranger In Us All
wraps together what was good about Deep Purple and what was good about early Rainbow.
Much more isn’t there to say. Stranger In Us All
is as good as it would get, and after earlier continuously fading hope, Rainbow went out with a kind of bang at last. This was also Blackmore’s final hard rock endeavour. Shortly after, he would form Blackmore’s Night
with his now-wife Candice Night, a neo-medieval/folk rock group. He’s still in it today, and it’s probably what he does best now. For both him and Rainbow, Stranger In Us All
was a final hurrah.
Stranger In Us All’s Rainbow was:
- Richard Hugh Blackmore ~ Lead Guitar
- Doogie White ~ Vocals
- Greg Smith ~ Bass Guitar
- John O’Reilly ~ Drums
- Paul Morris ~ Keyboards
Wolf to the Moon
Cold Hearted Woman