Friday, 28 October 2011

Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell 2: Back into Hell (1993)

1. I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)
2. Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back
3. Rock 'n Roll Dreams Come Through
4. It Just Won't Quit
5. Out of the Frying Pan (and Into the Fire)
6. Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are
7. Wasted Youth
8. Everything Louder Than Everything Else
9. Good Girls Go to Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)
10. Back into Hell
11. Lost Boys and Golden Girls

A Pathetic Attempt at Reliving Old Days – 6,5/10

Not many will have forgotten the huge impact the first Bat Out of Hell made on the music world. Well, at least Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf haven’t. After Meat Loaf’s announced hiatus from recording in 1987, he said he wanted to wait for more Steinman material to work with. While some of his albums since 1981’s Dead Ringer did feature a single Steinman song, he thought it was time to record another full Steinman album. And what better way is there to attract attention than to name your new album to the most successful one?

Seriously, what does album have to do with the first Bat Out of Hell? Apart from Steinman and Meat Loaf, absolutely nothing! It’s not as if the first part was a concept album to be further explored on this release. It’s a purely commercial move. And that just stinks. It makes the listener expect the album to be just as good as the first part, which… it just isn’t. It’s not a bad record, but not quite outstanding either. Jim Steinman was even that lazy that he used songs from his 1981 solo album Bad for Good for this release. He only wrote half of the songs especially for this album. How motivated was he on this reunion? Seeing as he hasn’t released anything significant since, we might as well conclude he was hoping to get one more quick cash grab and then disappear. It’s really a shame, but Meat Loaf is not to blame. While all Steinman does nowadays is boasting about the first Bat Out of Hell and its success, Meat Loaf still releases good records and updates his sound every time.

Bat Out of Hell 2: Back into Hell doesn’t start off that disappointing actually. The intro to “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” is a downright reference, or copy, of the intro to the title track on the 1977 album. The rest of the song takes a different approach though; it’s a twelve-minute over-the-top piece with gentle, epic, obligatory and wilder passages. It basically contains all the composed elements that made the first album so great, but it just sounds forced on a certain level. The spontaneity is gone and the two are turning into a cliché. “Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back” travels down the same road, but instead of piano-driven rock ‘n roll we get a mean guitar riff instead. That sounds quite refreshing, but the song continues for eight minutes, which is actually a little too much for this track, although it’s quite a good one. Absolute highlight of the album and one of the best tracks Steinman ever penned is the classic “Rock ‘n Roll Dreams Come Through”. Not surprisingly, it’s been released by Steinman himself on his solo record back in 1981 before, so this one hasn’t been put together hastily for a commercial cash grab. No, this song sounds honest, pure and Meat’s voice just sounds so beautiful on this song. Now this is what we want. Is the album getting better now?

We basically had the three best songs of the album now. From now on we mostly get mediocre concepts and agreeable melodies stretched and repeated to death on songs that peak on mostly six, eight or ten minutes. While not all of them are truly bad, it’s not enough as a sequel to one of rock’s most classic albums. “It Just Won’t Quit” has a nice melody in the chorus, but really mostly plods along without ever really bursting out. “Objects in the Rear View Mirror…” tries to crawl into the skin of “Heaven Can Wait” and would’ve succeeded at that if it wouldn’t last over ten minutes with the last three minutes being solely repeating of the chorus over and over again. “Wasted Youth” is a monologue of Steinman that serves as an intro to “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”, which is quite a good rock song not unlike “All Revved Up…” from the first album, except for the stretched structure. “Good Girls Go to Heaven” is the worst song on this record and is so terribly happy you’d just want to skip right away… to the title track “Back into Hell”; an instrumental interlude echoing the main melody of the previous track, which makes it an instant failure. So many fine melodies on this album to chose from and then they pick the worst one to reprise here. Luckily “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” ends the album on a relatively high note, even though it’s another “Heaven Can Wait”-clone.

What happened after this album? Meat Loaf went on to release more albums, each one better than this one as a whole and reinvented his sound, trying different things and styles and different songwriters. What about Steinman? Well… see his website and conclude how he is living in the past… We all know he can write another good album, but if one isn’t trying to, one will never succeed. This album is only to be recommended to big fans of Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman. Don’t be deluded by the title; this comes nowhere near Bat Out of Hell. I guess with some editing here and there, it’d still be an enjoyable record, but in current shape it is one of the weaker Meat Loaf releases.

Strongest tracks: “Life is a Lemon”, “Rock ‘n Roll Dreams Come Through” and “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”.
Weakest tracks: “Good Girls Go to Heaven” and “Out of the Frying Pan”.

Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell (1977)

1. Bat Out of Hell
2. You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth
3. Heaven Can Wait
4. All Revved Up With No Place to Go
5. Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
6. Paradise by the Dashboard Light
7. For Crying Out Loud

Classic to the Bone – 8,6/10

Nothing is more justified to start a string of Meat Loaf reviews with his most successful and unquestionably classic debut album Bat Out of Hell. This legendary album was the brainchild of composer Jim Steinman, who also performed keyboards on a few tracks. It was the first, but certainly not the last time Steinman and Meat Loaf would work on an album together, but I think it’s safe to say the two of them never succeeded topping the very first Bat Out of Hell; a milestone in the history of rock ‘n roll.

What is it that makes this classic album so worthwhile? Where Steinman’s trademark songwriting is a little too calculated and too forced on later efforts, Bat Out of Hell captures a few of his most spontaneous compositions in the genre. The songwriting is very over the top to begin with. These melodies are very catchy and the arrangements show a bombastic sound, but Steinman never finishes a song until you’ve got the tune in your head. This results in lengthy tracks that never get boring, because they all remain catchy as hell in every verse, chorus or interlude. Another nice flavour to the album is the theatrical influences. Steinman is a composer for musicals as well and it shows. The title track alone is a long, twisted tale about a motorcycle-crash; changing in tone from rebellious to heroic, from sad to real rock ‘n roll and overcoming death. Another sign of Steinman’s musical career is the club favourite “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, whose epic boy/girl duet has become a standard in rock ‘n roll history. And the second mainman of the album is of course Marvin Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf. The man has a voice so unique and so strong; he’s bound to get your attention on this album. Since he too was involved in musicals a lot, his voice tells a story so powerful you don’t need to pay attention to the lyrics. Unfortunately, Meat Loaf suffered vocal problems not long after this album and his voice never returned to the magnitude it portrays here.

So, what does this supposedly amazing duo bring us on Bat Out of Hell? Let’s begin with the amazing title track. A few numb chords enhanced by drums welcome us into the album until a loud piano takes over from the drums and the song turns into an almost ten-minute piece of melodic and heroic rock ‘n roll. This is one of the best songs ever penned by Steinman and ever sung by Meat Loaf: epic guitar leads; soaring high vocals; catchy chord progressions; and a story that strings every theme and every melody together. A dark, somewhat creepy conversation precedes “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”, which explores more cheerful melodies and more contemporary atmospheres that don’t question why this became a hit at the time. It’s a simple tale of love, but the way it’s packaged and sung, it becomes much more than that and it holds epic lyrics such as in the chorus:

"You took the Words Right Out of My Mouth
Oh, it must’ve been while you were kissing me"

“Heaven Can Wait” brings us the first ballad and proves Steinman also knows how to maintain enchanting atmospheres on quieter songs. Meat Loaf’s voice guides us gently, but steadily, through this landscape of powerful pianos, soft string ensembles and gospel-esque backing choirs. “All Revved Up…” brings back the 70s spirit we also found on the second track. It’s tracks like these that make the album one of a kind, even within the Meat Loaf discography. Again, Meat’s voice is the main attraction, especially in the pre-chori. The epic acceleration at the end just gives me shivers. Another hit single we find in “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and again does the trick. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” needs no further introduction; it’s the most well-known rock ‘n roll anthem and frequently played on radio station to this very day. “For Crying Out Loud” ends the album on a high note with another piano-driven power ballad that unfolds into a bombastic epic later up.

Honestly, the way Meat Loaf sings on this album is just amazing. Such a shame he suffered vocal problems a short time after the release of the record. He still sings very well nowadays, but the energy isn’t as pure as on Bat Out of Hell. If you haven’t heard this record, it’d be time for you to finally do listen to this. This is a classic through and through and deservedly so. I highly recommend it to fans of music.

Strongest moments: “Bat Out of Hell”, “All Revved Up…” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”.