The sole survivor from the Rainbow’s short-lived reunion from the mid nineties stands it’s ground as one of hard rock’s and heavy metal’s finest releases. At the same time it remains as a monument for rock’s biggest missed chances as if being a beginning of an interesting story that somebody left unfinished. Who knows, maybe it’s this sad side of the history that gives ‘Stranger In Us All’ some extra magic. Maybe. But even without that the album is nothing short of a classic.
Who knows if Ritchie Blackmore acted too hastily in putting Rainbow back together, since clearly his mind was already partially in his subsequent reneissance endeavors. And maybe it was the reason why the Rainbow reunion met it’s end all too soon. But at least the rock fans can be happy and grateful for getting one more top class Rainbow release in the guise of ‘Stranger In Us All’.
The songwriting of SIUA had clearly benefited from the lengthy gap of time since the band’s previous studio album, 1983’s ‘Bent Out Of Shape’. Benefited in the sense that after all the amount of water under the bridge, Blackmore seemingly no longer felt the pressure from the previous album, as most likely was the case back in the 70’s and 80’s when new Rainbow albums were released almost on yearly basis. This time he was free to build up a new band around his ideas and consider more carefully the soundscapes that would eventually become ‘Stranger In Us All’.
Enlisting the services of then rather unknown, but undeniably talented young musicians Paul Morris on keyboards, John O’Reilly on drums, Greg Smith on bass and most notably gifted Scot Doogie White to handle the demanding singer’s position. With especially White contributing to aid Blackmore in songwriting, the songs written for the album resulted into an excellent array of high quality hard rock that drew influences from, but wasn’t too one-sidedly dependant, on all the previous lineups of Rainbow.
Stranger In Us All contains ten songs that together make up a classic album. The different sides of Rainbow are fused into a sort of musical culmination, and though it’s silly to even compare all the previous Rainbow albums with each other, the fact remains that on SIUA the band has succesfully brought together the dark, mystic elements of early Ronnie James Dio -fronted classics, the rowdy rock belters of the Graham Bonnett’s days and the incurably catchy commercial feel from the three Joe Lynn Turner fronted records.
The succesful marriage of different styles results in songs that have the catchy qualities of the best Rainbow stadium favourites but are simultaneously shrouded in the mystic feel that harks back to the RJD lineup days. The sound has become heavier, and the certain dark atmosphere present on many songs is perfectly fitted by – Blackmore’s playing obviously – but also by Doogie White’s voice, which fits the mood perfectly. Whether it’s the steaming opener ‘Wolf To The Moon’, driving rocker ‘Too Late For Tears’ or majestically nocturnal ‘Black Masquerade’ (that for one shows why Blackmore deserves to be the legend he is) the songs sink right into your consciousness and manifest themselves as true hard rock diamonds.
As usual to Ritchie Blackmore’s music, the songs are full of interesting arrangements, nifty hooks, riffs and solos that have an incredible amount of depth to them. And if this wouldn’t be enough, there are always some more tricks up the sleeve. For example, the songs ‘Hunting Humans (Insatiable)’ and ‘Ariel’ display a beutifully haunting side that is something Rainbow never really explored before (at least since the early years). The first casting a shadowy, passionate spell that sounds damn entrancing. As for ‘Ariel’ the song is definitely one of the most haunting ballads ever written. The shadowy beauty of this musical ghost story is created skillfully by Blackmore’s guitar and White’s emotional vocals. The last section of the song offers the first chance to shine for backing vocalist Candice Night, whose eerie vocals rise from the background to create an effect of sheer beauty. Years before Blackmore’s Night the combination of Night’s angelic voice and Ritchie’s weeping guitar create an effect the duo seldomly reached so well again.
One more song that deserves to be lifted from the album is ‘Hall Of The Mountain King’. The captivating song shows Blackmore’s passion for classical music as it’s built around Edvard Grieg’s classical composition. Combined with Doogie White giving another prime example of his vocal talents and sense of drama, the song becomes one of album’s highlights. I’m sure even Grieg himself would love the version.
And so – that’s it. ‘Stranger In Us All’ – another album that should belong to any self-respecting metal fan’s collection. It’s a shame that Rainbow’s story didn’t carry on to the next album, as there isn’t a doubt in my mind it could’ve been the very pinnacle of the band. As we know, Blackmore decided differently and went on to form Blackmore’s Night with Candice. But though the new band’s first couple of albums were excellent and most enjoyable, their reneissance style has subsequently started to repeat itself and the new ideas have seemed to get more and more scarce. Hats off to Blackmore for doing what he loves, but the past has shown he’s topped himself any time he has opted for a change. And from the fans’ point of view, the next Rainbow album is long overdue. But who knows. Maybe one day. Till that, we’ll always have these old KlassiKs to spin in our players!
1. Wolf To The Moon
2. Cold Hearted Woman
3. Hunting Humans (Insatiable)
4. Stand And Fight
6. Too Late For Tears
7. Black Masquerade
9. Hall Of The Mountain King
10. Still I’m Sad