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Deep Purple’s mighty Mark-II line-up reunited for the third time after the ephemeral addition of Joe Lynn Turner on vocals by the early 90’s. Slaves And Masters became unfairly the most hated record of their discography, so it was a right choice to bring Gillan back and make a back-to-basics album. The Battle Rages On… was convincing and well-received by the fans in contrast with its predecessor, so by 1993 the group was back in business, touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Mark-II worldwide. Ritchie eventually decided not to accompany the band on Japanese dates, making the live recording Come Hell Or High Water his last contribution to Purple. Satriani would replace him and once again the band was going through formation changes, but what about the Man In Black? He definitely had other plans…2 years after his departure he reformed his old solo project and conceived one of the greatest albums of his career.
Blackmore surprises us with a splendid diversity of tracks here, starting with the powerful riffing and sophistication of “Wolf To The Moon”, which determines a very energetic sound provided of omnipresent melody and exquisite arrangements. Immaculately constructed and executed, the music combines explicit refinement with vibrant guitar lines, offering consistent structures and elaborated instrumental passages. The talent and inspiration reach peaks on both “Black Masquerade” and “Ariel” specially, designed by enchanting immense riffs of Arabic nature, accompanied by Doogie’s emotional vocals, supported in the background by Candice Night’s heavenly voice. Those cuts are configured meticulously, including acoustic arrangements, stratospheric vocals and truly lyrical solos. Contrary to all that irresistible class, “Too Late For Tears” and “Stand Up And Fight” are straighter, giving harsh riffs and speed bigger attention, developed with competent simplicity, plenty of energy and melody in equal percentages. The quality and presence of the riffing is undoubtedly notable and indispensable. “Cold Hearted Woman” is totally based on them, so even though melody is vital to conceive this music, guitar lines are taking great control, providing power and certain aggression too. Guitar lines on “Silence” are very insistent and sharp, for instance, once again revealing amazingly professional solid basis for White’s lyrics, offering coherent variations and changes, continuity is achieved. The only vocal-based number of the pack is “Hunting Humans (Insatiable)”, featuring a dark sinister atmosphere and climax Blackmore & Paul Morris define vividly. Both covers of the traditional “Hall Of The Mountain King” and a renewed version of The Yardbirds’ “Still I’m Sad” complete the song-list, including more instrumental supremacy and advanced clean arrangements.
Certainly, this was a surprising comeback, specially Rainbow’s sound is absolutely inspired and talented, combining elements from each preceding era to create something unique. The enchanting melody, technique and perfectionism of the Dio years, the romance and sophistication of the Turner records and the accessible essence of the Bonnet stuff are present here. Doogie White’s vocals sound a lot like Joe’s actually, though this time there is no commercial attempt or excessive politeness. Vocals are numerous, at times catchy but it doesn’t seem Ritchie’s intention to make this sound simple and easy. On the contrary, the superior configuration of the tunes, the numerous arrangements and superb instrumental virtuosism obey ambitious schemes. The astonishing passion, abilities and fresh ideas of the Man In Black must be highlighted, making each cut so magic and original with his classical & baroque music influence, along with the inspiration took from medieval stuff, characteristics that have been generally present on the group’s music during each record, yet now they’re more notable and essential. Stranger In Us Allsounds more refreshing and inventive than anything Deep Purple did in the 90’s for sure, exploring alternative textures and adding unexpected details Ritchie didn’t have permission to make use of or experiment since Bent Out Of Shape, so this guy was saving his real creativity and innovation for this record. While most heavy metal veterans were getting exhausted and predictable during the uncertain 90’s, Blackmore & co. proved they could do something big and refreshing no matter how negative the circumstances were in the scene. All tunes are so challenging, splendorous and fluent that brought the magic of the 70’s to present times, renewed.
Well, after all it came as no surprise Stranger In Us All was so epic, fascinating and solid, Ritchie made impressive comebacks before (remember Perfect Strangers or Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow after his departure from Deep Purple) but stuff like this undoubtedly made a big difference among the general lack of creativity of the genre back then. The group would offer incredible gigs 11 years after the farewell Budokan show again, as you can check on the recent live CD & DVD Black Masquerade, naturally performing his music live has always been what Blackmore enjoys the most. However, the promising return abruptly ended, just like what happened with the Purple ’93 tour. The Man In Black had other plans and started a completely distinct solo project…but that’s another part of the story.
After releasing one of the finest albums by Deep Purple (The Battle Rages On) and with a bit of dissapointment because of the disregard it recieved mostly from massive media because of the crappy grunge movement, that pest from America and after major misunderstandings with Ian "I Hate You" Gillan, our favourite guitar sorcerer decides to summon his Rainbow for the definitive last time.
Now, the momentum and things implied into this were totally different from the environment that surrounded Blackmore's band more than 10 years ago. Somehow, Blackmore learnt from his mistakes and figured out that, since Ronnie James Dio's departure, nothing worthy for memories and future appraisal was made in his band. Yes, he achieved a bunch of top-10 hits, both in the UK and in the mainstream rock charts of US with some singles, but the name "Rainbow", far from being recalled worldwide as a popular rock band, actually was only remembered by that hardcore mass of fans, lovers of the now long and distant heavy metal period, when Blackmore, with a little help of Dio and Powell were developing (or highlighting Deep Purple's previous works) what would become later modern power metal, in the half-seventies. Notwithstanding, Blackmore, who enjoyed the taste of major fame and glory in DP, couldn't avoid from his mind the hope that in any moment and for any reason he could hit it hard and return to the spotlight.
That's why this album, far from being a "return to the roots" remains a hybrid attempt to look "hard but cool". From the bunch of guys he hired for the job, only Doogie White gained a name throughout time and was talented enough to share the line with Ritchie. Being this said, the content of the record lies between brilliance and, above all, mediocrity.
The opener "Wolf to the Moon" gives us no glimpse of the real intentions here. We get a nice intro opening, not a masterpiece but nice enough, and then Blackmore riffs and Doogie sings. The metal spirit can be felt here, we are sure about it, but there are dark reminiscences of pop Rainbow era here. This thing anxiously tries to look and sound mainstream. It never gets away from this. "Cold Hearted Woman" and "Too Late for Tears" are lingering around the same spot. Enjoyable, but hybrids, without defined shapes. An erratic Blackmore plays them without gràce and the rest of the crew do not provide very much to save this. And it is hard to admit it, specially if you are a diehard fan of the string sorcerer.
"Hunting Humans", without being a heavy metal masterpiece, shows us a brighter side of this album. It's about a seductive tune, with seductive lyrics and a nice tempo and beating. If versatility was the thing in here, clearly, Blackmore has it. But then, we get "Stand and Fight", definitely the worst piece in here. I mean, I have no problem with country sounds and using harmonica as an instrument but, ¿really? I mean, Ritchie, my idolized, ¿is that you? This track is the perfect proof of that hybrid feeling I'm talking about. Of course, this can be a way to be creative and to think outside the box, most of us, metalheads, detest to admire another styles of instrumentation besides the classic ones. But, hey, believe me, this was not the way and here Ritchie Blackmore shows us that he is human, after all. "Ariel", then, is a nice jewel. A song driven by that mid-eastern-like riff, it gains strength with Doogie White's singing, which is the finest one in the whole album.
Then "Too Late for Tears" returns us to the feeling produced by the first songs. An uninspired riff with correct but uninspired performances make this a totally forgettable piece. And almost the same would have happened with "Silence" if it wasn't for that riff, which makes us think about a possibility that Ritchie Blackmore, the wizard and guitar god of all times, could have been ripped off this from Metallica. To me, well, there is no posible way that Ritchie could have stolen this. No and no and no and no. And let's not talk about it anymore (and it is a mellow and weak song, by the way, disposable).
"Black Masquerade" is the top guy here. Powerful, filled with feeling and with a legendary solo by Blackmore, here we return to hope. Here we remember why Ritchie is Ritchie. And of course, here we started to know this dude Doogie White, delivering the best. A masterpiece worthy of "Stargazer" or "Kill the King". Maybe not as good, but worthy enough.
For the closing, "Hall of the Mountain King" and a cover by Yardbirds "Still I'm Sad". From the latter one there are not many words to say. But the first one has some unique-ness. It's like an ode to the classic influences Blackmore recieved during his lifetime, the riff based in the famous ouvre by Edvard Gireg "Peer Gynt" is a blast and this song, which has lyrics written by the female I-shall-not-name, stands strong as a nice creation by Ritchie.
In any case, Ritchie looked for indulgence with this record. From his fans and specially from himself. Maybe, for a couple of reasons, we shall never know if he found it or not. Well, we are most sure that he actually found something during that time, but wasn't precisely the way for returning to the metal realms. An evil spell corrupted Ritchie's mind and we, probably, are going to die without knowing what could have happened if he kept on playing his Fender instead of those medieval things. ¿Can someone perform an exorcism on Ritchie and deliver him from the devil, if you know what I mean? We will really thank your help.
After Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple for the millionth time, the Man in Black brought back his baby in Rainbow one last time before venturing into the medieval times with Blackmore’s Night. This last incarnation of the band basically featured a bunch of nobodies with Doogie White on vocals, Greg Smith on bass, Paul Morris tickling the ivories, and John O’Reilly on drums. It is easy to see why Blackmore picked Doogie to sing because of his resemblance to one of his former singers in Ronnie James Dio. While some may find Doogie trying too hard to be like Dio, he does a fine job on this album and closes the end of Rainbow with a sparkle.
Musically speaking, this album is kind of a cross between the Dio-era albums and the more commercial and pop oriented direction with Joe Lynn Turner. The most commercial sounding of songs though does not reach a level of “I Surrender” or “Magic.” However, Blackmore is not just rehashing the glory days with majestic power metal tunes or catchy hook-ups as he introduces some new elements to Rainbow’s sound.
“Hunting Humans (Insatiable)” and “Ariel” are two brooding tracks which are haunting with their vocal delivery and dark moods. The former has a thumping riff and plods along with Doogie shining on the microphone. I think the song is about vampires and it just adds to the coolness this song brings. The latter tune, “Ariel”, has a biting, quick riff and lets Doogie shine again. The closing to the song features a nice solo by Blackmore. Both these songs are highlights of the album.
The true masterpieces lie near the end of the album with “Black Masquerade” and “Hall of the Mountain King.” These two rank near the top in Rainbow songs. A great, dancing guitar riff decorates this fast number and a soaring vocal performance makes this song Grade A material. The abrupt acoustic break in the middle of the song brings a nice touch as well and fits in seamlessly with the song. This is a bit of foreshadowing to what Blackmore would be doing in the future and still to this day. “Hall of the Mountain King” bears no resemblance to the power blast by Savatage, but it employs a classical tinge that Savatage’s did. The mad riffing and castle roaming lyrics make this one a winner.
Where “Stranger in Us All” fails is with the driving rockers that were more known in the Turner-era of Rainbow. “Cold-Hearted Woman” reminds of a country song and that is not a good thing. The cheesy lyrics don’t help either. “Stand and Fight” also falls on the dull side even though the use of a harmonica and the up-beat nature make the song a bit interesting. “Silence” is another song about love that has a nice guitar part, but the odd use of a horn section puts this one in the bad barrel. If these three were left off the album, I’d give this upwards 90%, but that can’t happen here.
In the end, what we have here is a solid and very good end to the Rainbow saga. While a couple of the songs tend to be boring, there is nothing offensively bad and are worth listening too. “Black Masquerade” and “Hunting Humans” will bring people back for more with this release and is a good way to remember when Ritchie Blackmore still let his electric guitar shine.
So after toying around with a Deep Purple reunion for a while (and making a Rainbow album masquerading as Purple) Blackmore finally buried the hatchet and called up Zippy, Bungle and George and got Rainbow back together. You’d be forgiven for thinking ‘Stranger in Us All’ is a hidden classic due to the other reviews, well, its ok and probably better than both the JLT era Rainbow (see pop Rainbow) and the Purple reunion albums, with possible exception of ‘Perfect Strangers’, but Rainbow really lost their spell and charm went Dio decided that singing ‘All Night Long’ just didn’t leave sufficient scope for Dragons.
This line up is a completely new one for the band (barring Blackmore of course) and to be honest it’s a pretty dull one. Doogie White is perfectly fine rock vocalist just, better suited to Rainbow than JLT and Graham ‘Accounts’ Bonnet. However, the rest of the new fellows are competent but uninteresting and as such I’m going to invent new names for them… namely because I can’t remember who they actually are. Sir Jimmy Saville may well fix it but his bass playing leaves much to be desired and his constant cigar smoking can only have been a negative influence on the others. Ricky Martin’s drumming lacks the Latino flair of his vocal work and his sound is flat and weak. Peter Andre is a sleazy Guido and his keyboards are barely audible. My this is immature. Anyway, Ritchie himself as always provides some nice guitar work and although it’s hardly his finest playing he’s interesting and melodic throughout. The riffs here have their moments but you can’t help but feel you’ve heard it all before, for instance one song is a straight up rip off of ‘Can’t Happen Here’. It’s more workmanlike Blackmore than “I’m a fucking Wizard” ala ‘Kill the King’.
There are some pleasant tracks on ‘Stranger in Us All’, but nothing that affirms your faith in music and has you screaming “Let it Live!” whilst compulsively masturbating like some randy meth fiend. ‘Ariel’ has a nice eastern vibe and a ethereal atmosphere that even Candice Night can’t ruin…hell she could well actually be contributing to the song. YOKO! ‘Wolf to the Moon’ is a good fast paced opener with a catchy chorus with some real melodic class to it. ‘Too Late for Tears’ is the aforementioned shameless self plagiarism track, but it’s a rather agreeable retread. ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ is actually based on Greig’s (Alton Tower’s?) piece unlike the Savatage song. It’s fairly faithful to the original music (in a rock context of course) just with some spooky lyrics added on top and in all a pleasing homage to Blackmore’s roots. ‘Black Masquerade’ continues this neo-classical feel and is one of the albums stronger tracks but lacking in the bombast of early neo-classical Rainbow songs.
Some of ‘Stranger in Us All’ is however just banal and run of the mill hard rock. I wouldn’t have a problem with generic song writing except it’s not very strong song writing either. ‘Cold Hearted Woman’ is a bit of cheesy 80s rock with some incredibly dull guitar work and ‘devils daughter’ lyrics which Sabbath and Rainbow seem to use as they often can’t just sing a straight love song. ‘Hunting Humans (insatiable)’ is plodding and again let down by some dull riffs. Then again everything Blackmore put out from about 1979 had some dreary moments so I guess this is no different.
This was Ritchie’s last rock album and it’s a shame really as although it’s no ‘Rising’, ‘Stranger in Us All’ shows real promise…and perhaps the band could have been on to something. But then of course something horrid happens; the beast herself emerged from her wicked veil of death…
Enter Satan in the form of Candice Night as Ritchie studiously plays the electric guitar in preparation for the next Rainbow album.
Satan: Hello, Ritchie. How are you enjoying your worldly success?
Ritchie Looks around the room as if to say ‘What’s not to like?’
Satan: Good, then you agree I lived up to my side of the bargain
Ritchie: But Candice, I mean Satan, I can’t, what about the fans?
Satan: Bah, I give you infinite knowledge and riches and you ask whether your fans will actually enjoy my proposed direction of crummy medieval music more akin to ABBA than actual medieval music…Ritchie what is more important your future or your soul?
Ritchie looks mournfully towards his Fender Strat and lays it on the ground and then takes Satan’s hand and flies into the night…
(Sounds of horrific laughter followed by impossibly Twee and dull tones of Blackmore’s Night)
Rainbow has historically been one of the most influential bands in the realm of heavy metal, although like Black Sabbath they carried many remnants of the hard rock genre that metal essentially grew out of. This album functions mostly as a revisiting of that early style of metal, where the blues and jazz influences are highly blatant, and where there is a strong element of musical eclecticism that drives some of the material. One can notice that Ritchie Blackmore has been experimenting with acoustic guitars on both this album and the last Deep Purple album “The Battle Rages On”, which clues us in on how he has grown as a musician from his Smoke on the Water days.
“Stranger in Us All” has a strongly symmetrical structure in terms of song placement, exhibiting a sort of back and forth between innovative metal songs on the odd numbered tracks, and more traditional hard rock influences on the even numbered tracks. “Cold Hearted Woman” and “Too late for Tears” are highly blues driven and remind heavily of Deep Purple’s early material, where the music was distinct from that of other classic rock bands only in the virtuoso nature of the solos. “Stand and Fight” probably has the most minimalist set of riffs out of the bunch, and is the only song on here that probably is devoid of anything that resembles metal, though it does pass for an excellent rock song. “Silence” proves to contradict its own title with a rather prominent brass section, a set of blues inspired riffs, all on top of a quasi-big band inspired rhythm section.
Among the more metal tracks we have the guitar driven “Wolf to the Moon”, driven along by one of Ritchie’s signature speed riffs, and Doogie White’s Ronnie Dio inspired vocals. “Hunting Humans (Insatiable)” is a slow gloomy track that flirts with the early Sabbath Doom sound. By contrast, the remake of “Hall of the Mountain King” is up tempo, and the re-arrangement of the instrumentation is quite well done, not to mention the words utilized to bring out the grandeur of the character depicted in Grieg’s original composition.
However, the true gems on this album prove to shine quite a bit brighter than the solid songs mentioned previously. “Ariel” has a solid drum production, a rather haunting Eastern influenced riff that is somewhat reminiscent of “Gates of Babylon”, and some more top notch vocal work both by Doogie White and Candice Night. “Black Masquerade”, by Ritchie Blackmore’s own testimony, is essentially a variation on the original theme he composed for Deep Purple’s “Anya” off “The Battle Rages On”. It is loaded with technically intricate guitar and keyboard work, in addition to a brilliant classical guitar interlude reminiscent of the Spanish Flamenco style. We then close this album off with another cover version of Yardbirds classic “Still I’m Sad”, as sort of a final gesture to the original brilliance that was captured on Rainbow’s debut album back in 1975. It starts off with a brilliant clean electric guitar solo, followed by a rather somber yet up tempo body section. This song, more than the others, truly demonstrates Doogie White’s versatile vocal abilities, as well as how the dimensions of a song can be radically altered with some well placed keyboard and vocal effects.
In conclusion, this album underscores one of the primary differences between Deep Purple and Rainbow, unlike the former this project is completely Blackmore’s beast, and he has proven himself not to be the second rate guitarist who is saved by John Lord’s innovative soloing style that some quarters have pigeon holed him as. This album is mostly geared towards fan of Rainbow during the Ronnie Dio era, and has a highly classic rock feel to it at times that will probably sound old fashioned and passé to younger fans of metal who are looking for the technically driven speed sound of bands in the power metal genre. But regardless to one’s personal tastes, this album is fine for what it is, and that is a remembrance of the roots of where the music we love comes from.
Well after a twelve year hiatus, Blackmore decided to rebuild Rainbow, and what a great decision that was. This album is full of killer bluesy hard rock/ metal. The songs move along at a decent pace, and their are melodic leads to be found all over the place. Also, the vocals are awesome featuring Doogie White current singer for Yngwie Malmsteem.
The first song is Wolf to the Moon. This one has most of the classical work you'd expect from Blackmore, it opens with one hell of a riff. One of the best Blackmore's written. Killer vocals and killer guitarwork = awesome song.
Cold Hearted Woman is straight up blues metal, and it is killer. Reminiscent of some of the work on Dio's Holy Diver.
Hunting Humans (Insatiable) moves along at a slower pace as it plods along. The main idea stays the same, but each time Blackmore returns with something new. Good song.
Stand and Fight is another bluesy cruncher. Complete with harmonica.
Ariel has a wierd atmosphere to it in the beginning, with some cool keyboard work, then we get a cool acoustic passage. I guess this could be classified as a ballad, but it has some killer parts with the guitar and keyboard, and a great solo around 2:30.
Too Late for Tears continues the heavy blues rock. This is one of my favorites on the album. Heavy riffs with some great vocal work. Oh yeah, another killer solo.
Black Masquerade is next. This is another killer song. It sounds like it came straight off of Malmsteems first few albums. The way the keys and guitar blend together to produce some great melodic ideas. The vocals are at their best on this one. This is the highlight of the album. The spanish guitars towards the end are awesome as well.
Silence opens with a riff that Metallica must have heard when they were plotting out Load, because they ripped it off on one of the songs, cant remember the name of it. All in all this is a good song.
Hall of the Mountain King is next, this one, as you might guess, is based on the song by the same name. Immediately you recognize it under the vocals in the versus. This is a killer adaption. The way the guitars keep building as the versus continue, until at 1:58 we get the riff everyone knows. Good song.
Still I'm Sad closes the album, if you were wondering why Blackmore was holding back the classical stuff, he threw alot of it into this one. The killer opening leads to a fast past crunching song.It features on of the best solos, and is a great closer.
Well, this is a killer return of one of my favorite guitarists. He keeps up the tradition of Rainbow by pumping out some fine blues rock/metal. Fans of Rainbows older stuff will most likely enjoy this album. The only thing that could make this album better would have been a Dio reunion, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon, and Doogie's vocals are top notch on this album. Go get this!