Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow: Stranger In Us All - Album Of The Week Club review

Rainbow’s unloved final album was released in 1995, after Ritchie Blackmore’s nine loveless years married to the re-formed Deep Purple

Stranger In Us All cover art
(Image: © BMG Entertainment)

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Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - Stranger In Us All

Stranger In Us All cover art

(Image credit: BMG Entertainment)

Wolf to the Moon
Cold Hearted Woman
Hunting Humans (Insatiable)
Stand and Fight
Too Late for Tears
Black Masquerade
Hall of the Mountain King
Still I'm Sad

In 1995, two years after he left Deep Purple for the final time, Ritchie Blackmore revived his second great band. It turned out to be Rainbow’s last stand until 2015.

In contrast to previous line-ups, the mid-90s Rainbow was staffed by B-list names such as singer Doogie White, who could do a passable impersonation of Ronnie James Dio but perhaps lacked the gravitas to front a legendary band. The trouble was that if Rainbow were to re-form, hardcore fans wanted Ronnie James Dio as the singer. No one cared about a line-up of unknowns.

And, perhaps, Blackmore didn’t give him much to work with. Today, though, White sounds like the next best thing. While at times (Too Late For Tears and Black Masquerade) he seems to be channeling Rainbow’s 1980s singer Joe Lynn Turner… mostly he sings very much like Dio.

Hence this plays like an album nearly 20 years out of its time, the missing link between the two eras as Blackmore heads back in the direction of Rainbow’s mid-70s heyday.

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Other albums released in August 1995

  • Answer That and Stay Fashionable - AFI
  • Fight for Your Mind - Ben Harper
  • Set Your Goals - CIV
  • Wholesale Meats and Fish - Letters to Cleo
  • Hot Charity - Rocket from the Crypt
  • The Sacrilicious Sounds of the Supersuckers - Supersuckers
  • Dogs of War - Saxon
  • Dirt Track Date - Southern Culture on the Skids
  • Garbage - Garbage
  • I Just Wasn't Made for These Times - Brian Wilson
  • Soup - Blind Melon
  • ..And Out Come the Wolves - Rancid
  • The Damnation Game - Symphony X
  • Methodrone - The Brian Jonestown Massacre


What they said...

"Many songs, such as Wolf To The Moon, Cold Hearted Woman, and Stand And Fight, are decent enough. The two standout tracks, Hunting Humans (Insatiable) and Black Masquerade, are the best at recapturing classic Rainbow's energy, drama, and dynamics... Does Stranger in Us All live up to the Rainbow name and reputation? Not really. White is a decent, fully capable hard rock vocalist, but he is not as distinctive as Dio, Bonnet, or Turner. Then again, few vocalists are. (AllMusic)

"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." (Mike Landano)

"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 KingStranger In Us All wraps together what was good about Deep Purple and what was good about early Rainbow." (Sputnik Music)


What you said...

Chris Elliott: It's not as bad as I thought it was. It has its moments and Blackmore is on form.

Now come the buts. It was intended as a solo record and it shows. The band are tight but utterly anonymous and the production is odd - it's all toppy with an annoying drum mix. It's an odd selection of tracks. Rainbow through the years giving the feel of outtakes cobbled together.

And then the vocals... and the lyrics. He's very much the journeyman singer, and you get the feeling he's trying to match the past rather than imprinting his own style. Weirdly, the best track is the least Rainbow-like and the one he actually seems at home on, Hunting Humans.

The obvious Dio-era throwback Hall Of The Mountain King is interesting, but again lyrically it's awful and it's just Blackmore. Keyboards and drums don't add a thing so it rapidly loses interest.

It's still the weakest Rainbow album by a long margin. Bent Out Of Shape wasn't great but it was consistent, while this is so up-and-down. However, compared to how disappointed I was back then it's aged better than I'd have imagined. I still won't play it again, mind.

David Watkins: The 70s called and they want their riffs back. I enjoyed it, but there weren't many hooks on an initial listen to warrant a second (although I am about to put it on again, as I always listen to albums at least twice).

Neil Wilson: Best Rainbow album since Down To Earth!

Evan Sanders: I admit I haven't paid a lot of attention to Rainbow once Dio left them in the late 70s. This album was a refreshing listen, as it feels tighter and more focused than their 70s work, while still maintaining a familiar guitar sound. I kept imagining what the songs would sound like with Dio singing them rather than Doogie White. Their reworking of Hall Of The Mountain King seemed like a perfect vehicle for Dio's growl. Not a bad album, but not on a must-play list. 6/10 if this wasn't a Rainbow album, 5/10 since there are much better offerings from Ritchie Blackmore.

Robert Dunn: I remember being pleasantly surprised when Rainbow reappeared following the musical chairs era of Deep Purple personnel, but being slightly underwhelmed by the album itself. There's nothing wrong with this album as such, it just doesn't really ever catch fire. The standouts for me are definitely Ariel, The Hall Of The Mountain King (but only towards the end), and Still I'm Sad. I loved the instrumental version on the very first Rainbow album so it was a nice bookend to update the original Yardbirds vocal version.

It is hard to pinpoint why I don't like this album more. Maybe in the end Rainbow was a victim of Blackmore's ever-changing idea of what he wanted the band to be and this landed somewhere in-between the Dio and JLT eras. A decent album with some good songs on it, but not much more than that.

Alex Hayes: I was very late to the party on this one. Stranger In Us All bypassed me completely on release in 1995, and I only got around to picking up a copy for myself about a year ago. That's a bit of a shame, as I'm actually quite fond of this album. It will never win any awards for originality, but it's a very satisfying listen, that I feel bookends Rainbow's career very effectively.

Plus points? Ritchie Blackmore himself sounds reinvigorated here, and has managed to put a pretty good Rainbow line-up together for this album, including journeyman vocalist Doogie White. I also need to go back to the point that, for me, Stranger In Us All brings Rainbow's career full circle in a very satisfactory fashion. I'm saying that in the firm belief that we will never see another full length Rainbow album, but you never know.

In places, this is the closest that Blackmore ever came to reviving the spirit of Dio-era Rainbow. My favourite moments on the album are Wolf To The Moon, Ariel, Black Masquerade and Hall Of The Mountain King). We even get a reprise of Still I'm Sad here, to neatly tie Rainbow's recording career in a nice little symmetrical bow. This new version of the song doesn't measure up to the Dio-era recordings, but it's still damn good, and it's pleasing to see Blackmore willing to revisit the classic Rainbow sound and identity.

The downside to all this is the undeniable fact that we've heard all this before, and better, and I occasionally mean that literally. For example, Blackmore almost lifts the main riff from Can't Happen Here verbatim, and drops it into Too Late For Tears here, just after the chorus. That's one of the most blatant examples, but Stranger In Us All is full of these little, not-so-subtle, nods to the past.

This was never gonna be an album to potentially rival Rising. That would only ever have been a pipe dream. For a reassembled version of Rainbow, put together in the mid 90s, it deserves some credit though. It was completely against the spirit of the times upon release, so earns extra brownie points with me just for that. Good stuff, and a bit like putting a pair of comfortable old boots back on after a few years of them gathering dust. 7/10

Greg Schwepe: Was aware of this album in the Rainbow catalogue, but never had a reason to check it out. And since it’s this week’s Club choice, what better time than now? I’m a fan of all the other iterations with different vocalists; Dio, Bonnet, and Turner. Doogie White in this case. Had seen Rainbow on his resume but didn’t know which album he sang on…until now. And dang, he’s good too.

First off, lineup changes are a common thing for Rainbow. So, if you happen to get hung up on the fact that no one from the very first Rainbow album (other than Blackmore) plays on this one; don’t even bother to listen. The Man in Black continually tinkers with the lineup to fit the style of music he wants to play…on that particular date and time. Continually evolving. You can never say Rainbow gets stuck in a rut.

Wolf To The Moon starts off Strangers In Us All, followed by Cold Hearted Woman, Hunting Humans (Insatiable), and Stand And Fight. By this point I’m doing the mental calculations of where this album ranks among all the Rainbow albums. And believe it or not I’m saying to myself “I think I like this better than a couple of the Joe Lynn Turner albums.” And this is nothing against JLT or his vocals, it’s just that this album is a little “rawer” than the slick and polished Joe Lynn Turner ones. And don’t get me wrong, I really like slick and polished. Half of the bands I like could be labeled slick and polished. I’m saying that even if you dropped Joe Lynn Turner’s vocals onto this album, it would still sound great to me. Just the total vibe of this one really floored me.

And then we get to the deal closer; Ariel. Starts with the When The Levee Breaks drum beat, followed by the Kashmir-like guitar of Blackmore with the main riff. Best song on the album, hands down. And after that the album gets stronger, in my opinion. Too Late For Tears, Black Masquerade, and Silence follow…and the ante gets upped. Once again I’m doing that calculation; “could this be better than Rising?…..hmmm, nah!”

Last two tracks take me back, one further than the other. First is a hard rocking version of Hall Of The Mountain King. A music teacher in second grade would play a classical song each week to introduce us to various kinds of music, the Peer Gynt original was the one she’d play for us. She’d also let us pick a song some weeks and it always got picked. You got a roomful of smiling second graders as this “almost metal” song was pounding along; crescendo at the end. And I swear the music teacher turned up the record player when she played it. This version much louder and totally kicks!

And the second track that takes me back is a remake of Still I’m Sad, which appears on the first Rainbow album. Kind of a bookend here. With some strong songs and Blackmore’s playing, this one is a great add to the Rainbow catalogue. 8 out of 10.

Bill Griffin: Typical post-Dio Rainbow album but without the obvious hit single. Hunting Humans (Insatiable) is the only new ground here and is quite un-Blackmore-like.

Just as with the Dio-sung live version on On Stage of Still I'm Sad, I prefer the studio version on Ritchie Blackmores Rainbow. Vocals, even from RJD, just ruin that incredible instrumental.

A competent album then but not one that I will ever choose over the Dio years.

Gary Claydon: Another Rainbow album, another band line-up. That's OK, though, it's long been obvious that the only thing needed for it to qualify as Rainbow is the presence of The Man In Black himself. The itinerant nature of the rest of the band had become the norm. In this instance, there were no star names, Blackmore having enlisted the services of some solid citizens though.

I must admit, when I bought Stranger In Us All at time of release I was a bit underwhelmed by it. It's been a long time since I last played it, so I was curious to find out what levels my whelm would be at now. The answer is, in truth, about the same.

Stranger In Us All is OK but no more than that. It contains a couple of good tracks in Ariel and Black Masquerade while Hunting Humans is an enjoyable departure for Blackmore, with the bass and drum being forward in the mix giving it a nicely pumping beat along with an almost monotone vocal. Elsewhere, the album opens solidly through Wolf To The Moon and Cold Hearted Woman. Doogie White is a capable all-rounder (especially live) but I can't help feeling that there are times when he lacks a bit of presence.

So what stops Stranger In Us All being anymore than decent? Well, the production for a start, which could do with a bit more 'oomph' and slightly lacks atmosphere on the more 'epic' sounding tracks. There is also a bit too much that sounds like 'filler'. Too Late For Tears is a badly recycled Can't Happen Here. I really don't see the point of Hall Of The Mountain King, even with added lyrics and Blackmore's continued love-affair with The Yardbirds' Still I'm Sad makes me wonder if he hadn't simply run out of ideas.

It's never a hardship listening to Ritchie Blackmore and, not surprisingly, his guitar work, which is typically excellent in places, is the best thing about Stranger In Us All . Even so, I wouldn't score this above 6/10.

Mike Canoe: A workmanlike release from a man and a band that ignores the last decade in music and acts like the year is actually 1985 and not '95.

Ritchie Blackmore's playing is fine as always but doesn't really break any new ground. Just a look at the song titles (Cold Hearted Woman, Stand And Fight, Too Late For Tears) suggests a man looking backwards.

Singer Doogie White and the rest of the band obviously studied the Joe Lynn Turner and Graham Bonnet eras of Rainbow. Again, the album is generally fine, just with a strong case of déjà vu that's difficult to cure. Even variations on the formula sound stuck in yesteryear, like barroom rockers Silence and Stand and Fight - with harmonica!

Personally, I like the closing one-two punch of Hall Of The Mountain King and Still I'm Sad. While still obviously not new, those two songs have the pomposity and bombast I like from Blackmore.

On the whole, the album could have used a whole lot more castles.

Adam McCann: Underrated album, Doogie White does a great job. It may flounder in direction at times not sure whether it wants to play at JLT era or Dio-era, but when it does the latter tracks like Ariel, Black Masquerade, Hunting Humans and Wolf To The Moon are excellent. A real forgotten gem of mid 90s hard rock.

Alexander Taylor: A great album, better than "bent out of shape" and the rainbow wannabe "slaves and masters" sadly it flopped as grunge and everything else had taken centre stage by then. Blackmore was still creating superb tracks like Wolf To The Moon and Ariel, Doogie definitely had the pipes (check out the live gig from the tour, well worth a view). I'd like to see some of this stuff end up on a compilation, at least it would be exposed again.

Andrew Bramah: Surprisingly good given the totally new line up. Released at the wrong time, unfortunately.

Martin Wooliscroft: Well goodness me. I never knew this even existed. Amazing, isn't it, how instantly recognisable Blackmore's guitar is? Even if I didn't know who this album was by it would take about five seconds to suss it was Rainbow. 

It's surprisingly good. It very much sounds like Bonnet/JLT-era Rainbow but easily stands up in comparison to later albums like Bent Out Of Shape or Straight Between The Eyes. Wolf To The Moon is probably the standout track for me. Ariel you could almost imagine being on Rising'. It would be the worst track on Rising, but nevertheless... 

The album does save the worst for last. A Blackmore'd version of The Hall Of The Mountain King' sounds like it could be the greatest thing in the history of rock music ever but just... isn't. And then they have yet another crack at Still I'm Sad which just makes you want to chuck On Stage on the turntable for a bit of Dio. 

Mark Herrington: I remember the initial shock of Rainbow’s Down to Earth release in 1979 . I just couldn’t reconcile myself with the new sound - despite getting it on clear vinyl.

Where had the high fantasy, wizards and gates of Babylon gone? Who was this lesser pretender to Ronnie’s vocal prowess? You can take it to heart if you’ve grown up with a band, and loved their particular sound. Time has made me appreciate it more, but at the time I though it was a step down from their lofty position. 

I’ve always liked Ritchie Blackmore’s meandering, almost classical sound, and the new songs just didn’t seem to fit his playing style. I cast around for better stuff like Van Halen, Rush and Dio-vocal Black Sabbath, at the time, and was more than happy when Dio began his solo career. So I missed this 1995 incarnation with Doogie White on vocals  first time round, and assumed it was just Blackmore’s Night in disguise , probably because of the hilarious cover .

I came across it again a few years ago and gave it a spin and was pleasantly surprised . It’s not classic Dio Rainbow, but there were enough echoes of those heady days to get me interested. I’ve always loved the live version of Still I’m Sad, a far better, more energetic and bristling cut than the studio version. Here, there’s a great ballsy studio version that is more than a nod to the aforementioned live track. Hall of the Mountain King, Ariel and Black Masquerade have that classic vibe I prefer too. Hunting Humans is a sonic departure for Blackmore with its drum beat, but is enjoyable all the same. Then there are the more standard heavy rock tracks towards the beginning of the album. This is far more of a bridge album between Long Live Rock 'N' Roll and Down to Earth, and for me, therefore, is a good listen.

Jim Collins: The best Rainbow album after the Dio years. Saw the tour and it was amazing.

Keith Jenkin: Bought this on release, and yes, it's somewhat overlooked. But with the album lacking a standout classic or a obvious single I think it pales in comparison to the other Rainbow albums. Can't fault the performances but the songwriting just isn't quite up there for me. Still a interesting collection filler though for any fans of Blackmore's hard rock era.

John Davidson: I like Doogie White's vocals. He's pretty versatile and can sing the 'pop' rock end of the spectrum as easily as the more classic 70s heaviness. The song-writing isn't quite as iconic as it was in 1976 but other than that there's not much to dislike about this album. Its far more enjoyable than anything after Down To Earth and even if it doesn't tickle that nostalgia circuit like the old stuff it doesn't make me cringe either.

When Blackmore delivers his signature sounds (the solo on Ariel for example) it really does come to life. 8/10.

Mark Tucker: Highly underrated album. Out of step with the times but excellent nonetheless. In my top five Rainbow albums


Final score: 6.81 (108 votes cast, total score 736)

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