Friday, 28 October 2011

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”.

No comments:

Post a Comment