REVIEW: Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Stranger In Us All (expanded edition)

RITCHIE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW – Stranger In Us All (originally 1995, 2017 Sony expanded edition)

Blackmore said “adios” to Deep Purple for the second and final time in 1993.  He beat them to the punch with new music, in the form of a resurrected Rainbow…sort of.  As he is prone to do, Blackmore assembled an all-new Rainbow of unknowns.  The only familiar face was bassist Greg Smith who happened to be in Alice Cooper’s band when Wayne’s World was filmed.  The new singer was the smooth-voiced Scot, Mr. Doogie White.  White’s career almost broke in a completely different direction earlier, when he was one of two finalists in the running to replace Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden.  It went to Blaze Bayley.  Signifying new beginnings, Blackmore reverted the band’s name to Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow once again.

Back in 1995, my impressions of Stranger In Us All, the new album by Blackmore’s Rainbow, were significantly underwhelming.  It has taken its time, but over the years the album slowly penetrated my stubborn refusal to accept it as legitimate.  By now I think we know all Rainbow needs is the Man in Black.  And there he stands on the front cover, pilgrim-hatted again, gloriously silhouetted against a cloudy sky.

The only serious weakness in Stranger In Us All has nothing to do with the lineup.  The production (by Pat Regan and Blackmore) sounds low budget and the drums sound muddy.  Blackmore’s guitar tone is thankfully impeccable and his neo-classical leanings on the first track “Wolf to the Moon” were refreshing.  “Wolf to the Moon” is one song that has stood the test of time.  It is thoroughly still enjoyable today, and Blackmore is unleashed.  And the singer?  It is true that Doogie White stands in the shadows of some great lead vocalists.  I’ll resist ranking and comparing.  White has a very smooth voice with impressive power and range, and he doesn’t sound like any of his predecessors.  Where White really impresses is in live renditions.  He is an entertaining and amicable frontman.

Track two brings a slower grind to Rainbow, and White slinks along with him, adapting perfectly to every vibe.  Going slower still, “Hunting Humans (Insatiable)” really prowls.  It is spare, dark and sweaty.  Moving on to inspirational hard rock, Rainbow brings the harmonica-inflected “Stand and Fight”.  What is not to like?

Rainbow ended the first side in typically epic fashion.  “Ariel” was quite a track, featuring backing vocals from the lady who is now Ritchie’s wife, Mrs. Candice Night.  She co-wrote a number of the album’s tracks including “Ariel”.  This kind of thing is Ritchie’s bread and butter, he’s been writing epics like this since “Child in Time” back in 1970.  As an added bonus, the extended edition of Stranger In Us All has the single edit of “Ariel”, trimming it to a tidy format-friendly 4:00.  This is more like a re-edit, moving parts around and making it more compact.

They step on the gas again for “Too Late for Tears”.  Side two has a couple “stock” rockers — “Too Late for Tears” and “Silence”.  Good blood-pumping tracks, nothing to save for your greatest hits album, but decent enough.  “Black Masquerade” is better, as it has a dark neo-classical edge.  Thing go kind of goofy when they cover Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” and add lyrics.  They also have another go at the Yardbirds’ “Still I’m Sad”, this being the second time.  The first Rainbow version was an instrumental.  This one has vocals, and it’s pretty good.  Just like with lead singers, I don’t think it’s worth comparing this version to the 1975 one.  It’s unique enough that it’s almost two different things.

Back in 2013 I found the Japanese edition of Stranger In Us All at the 2013 Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale for $15.  Instant no-brain purchase right?  Now that this expanded edition is out, I no longer need it in my ever-expanding collection.  I am passing it on to massive Rainbow fan Brian over at Boppinsblog.  Now that CDs are worth nothing, I like to pay it forward with my retired music.  The expanded edition contains the Japanese bonus track, “Emotional Crime”.  It has a cool, “smoove” groove and a bluesy feel.  Think Purple’s 1988 remake of “Hush” in terms of vibe.  The other extra tracks are the aforementioned “Ariel” edit, and a live take of the old Rainbow classic “Temple of the King”.  This is and the “Ariel” edit are taken from the old out of print CD single.  “Temple of the King” was recorded in Stockholm October 2 1995, meaning it is not the same as the one on the double live CD Black Masquerade.  That was recorded exactly a week later in Germany.  (Thanks to Scott the Heavy Metal Overlord for pointing this out.)  It’s a brilliant arrangement giving Candice Night and Doogie White a chance to harmonize over a very quiet backdrop.  The Man in Black whips out a solo that surely must be considered one of his most passionate.

That’s how this version of Rainbow succeeds — by a putting a fresh spin on it.  You avoid trying to compare to other versions of the band and just enjoy.  Ritchie reveals in the extensive liner notes that he wanted to call the band Rainbow Moon.  And speaking of the liner notes, there are also recollections from Doogie White.  In short this expanded edition is worth every penny, even if you’ve bought it before.

3.75/5 stars

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33 comments

  1. Interesting idea of ‘when is the band still the band?’ I’m not too familiar with this group, but Blackmore’s the guy by all acounts here.
    I remember seeing a Guess Who album in the 90s without Bachman or Cummings – it felt like at that stage, time to call it something else, even if you’ve got the rights!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Rainbow is a different kind of band. By their second album the only originals left were Blackmore and Dio! So Blackmore can do whatever he wants as far as I’m concerned. It’s Blackmore’s Rainbow. He’s the man with the hat….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i loved Rainbow as a kid. Just got Live in Birmingham and I love it. Wish I could have been there. Thanks for the review. I’ll be sure snatch this up if I ran into it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m listening to Birmingham at the moment.I got the chills listening to the first cd, almost got tears in my eyes. Don’t see why people are so hard on Romero. Will u review Birmingham?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not familiar enough with Blackmore or Rainbow enough to comment on the merits of this being Rainbow and not a Blackmore solo gig (though HMO explained the solo shenanigans to me…). Still, I’d imagine that Blackmore’s name would be enough to sell albums without the need to use the Rainbow title…

    Anyhoo, sounds like a decent ‘return’.

    Though there’s only one Man In Black. When I read that I think “Cash”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, true. Hey I didn’t give him the name! I can’t even call him “The Man in the Black Hat” because that’s Danko Jones!

      Blackmore’s name would be enough to sell albums. But calling it Rainbow means that people familiar with that name know what this is supposed to sound like.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. cannot stop listening to Birmingham. So just ordered Stranger in us all expanded. Have the original somewhere. Thanks Mike. can’t believe Blackmore is over 70.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I seen Randy Bachman live a few weeks ago and he’s 73 and it was good seeing him playing a strat plugged into a Marshall Amp still at his age!

      Like

    1. I have no problem with the multiple live albums. Purple did a couple (or more) from their last tour. I’m just trying to enjoy it for what it is. Great rock and roll. Nobody forced me to buy it.

      Like

  6. Just bought this too, as you know! Not massively excited about it but I enjoy it more now than I did years ago when I first heard it. Do like Doogie’s vocals. Need more listens though… still pretty new to me.

    I really enjoyed the Birmingham CD. It is very quiet though. But that’s what the volume knobs for so hey-ho!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Not a problem sir! I’m eager for your feedback when you hear it. Doogie was a very playful frontman and I honestly liked his style very much after I got it.

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  7. I think I seen this advertised in a magazine once! Haha..
    Dunno Mikey I just prefer the JLT version of Rainbow…
    Having said that I have a Dio Rainbow coming down the pike soon!

    Liked by 1 person

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