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Meat Loaf

  • Bat Out Of Hell
  • Dead Ringer
  • Midnight At The Lost
    And Found
  • Bad Attitude
  • Blind Before I Stop

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    Meat Loaf

    Bat Out Of Hell 9 ( 1977 )
    Bat Out Of Hell / You Took The Words / Right Out Of My Mouth / Heaven Can Wait / All Revved Up With No Place To Go / Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad / Paradise By The Dashboard Light / For Crying Out Loud

    Marvin Lee Aday was born in 1947 and met Jim Steinman when touring a production of the musical 'Hair'. Meat had already released one flop LP recorded for Motown Records as 'Meatloaf & Stoney', an album of duets recorded after he'd sang with Stoney Murphy performing 'Hair'. Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman started working on Bat Out Of Hell in 1972, resuming work in 1974 after a two year break. Producer and songwriter Todd Rundgren picked up on the duo and 'Bat Out Of Hell' was eventually released in October, 1977. It was not an immediate hit yet despite peaking at only number 9 on the UK charts, it stayed in the charts for a total of 474 weeks. It's a figure bettered only by Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours'. Unsurprisingly given such massive success, Meat Loaf would inevitably struggle to produce a follow-up, but that's another story and shall be told another time.

    Between them, Jim Steinman and Todd Rundgren had a shared love of Phil Spector and the contribution two Bruce Springsteen musicians made to the finished LP also bore an influence. The entire album is finely balanced between testosterone rockers and epic, weepy ballads both chicks and guys can enjoy. For me, that's a huge part of the albums appeal, it crosses boundaries and Meat, let's face it, plays a role within the album that's more than just vocalist. He inhabits the songs, his experience in acting and musicals coming into play. Jim Steinman packs keyboards and piano into every song, Todd Rundgren plays the role of crazed genuis and the result is...... rather interesting.

    The title track is nearly ten minutes long and has everything the album has. Todd plays motorcycle guitar, Jim's piano lines are classically inspired and lend the overall sound a touch of class and the main man Mr Loaf sweeps from soft and delicate to impressively loud and angry. We're not sure exactly why he's angry, but hey, it's a song featuring bats, hell and lovely touches, the backing vocals, for instance. It's preposterous really, influenced by Springsteen perhaps but taking everything that little bit further than they probably should have done. It's utterly fantastic, though. Well, the stupid intro to 'You Took The words Right Out Of My Mouth', the daft but strangely cinematic lyrics and then Meat Loaf absolutely convincing you. More than a nod to Spector in the construction of this track, particularly in the drumming department.

    A whole dimension is added with the utterly lovely ballad 'Heaven Can Wait', a song i've loved my entire life. It's a song that's had a massive effect on the types of songs I like. It's one of those hairs standing up on your arms moments - the music is piano and strings and the production and arrangement uncluttered. The lyrics may be sentimental, yet with the top-notch performances both vocally and musically, nobody can really fail to be moved, surely? What am I thinking? Probably a cross between David Bowie's 'Life On Mars' and Hollywood. Saxophone attacks 'All Revved Up' and there you are, side one over. Meat Loaf would never repeat the quality of this side of this album. Even the second side of this album you see doesn't quite match the quality.

    'Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad' isn't as lovely as 'Heaven Can Wait', 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light' is just as epic as the albums title track but betrays orgins in the land of musicals. The closing half-ballad, half-rocker 'For Crying Out Loud' reveals how important acoustics are when working in a recording studio, something almost undefinable when describing a music album yet something works throughout the 'Bat Out Of Hell Album' acoustically. 'Crying Out Loud' takes you through the mixer emotionally and the album ends.... you really want there to be a part two. Yeah, even with the faults. Naturally, there was a part two, but not quite how we expected it to be.

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    Dead Ringer 8 ( 1981 )
    Peel Out / I'm Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us / More Than You Deserve / I'll Kill You If You Don't Come Back / Read 'Em And Weep / Nocturnal Pleasure / Dead Ringer For Love / Everything Is Permitted

    So, this is the true follow-up to 'Bat Out Of Hell', ignoring the fact Jim and Meat hadn't yet thought of the marketing gimmick of actually calling it 'Bat Out Of Hell Vol 2'. No matter, it's an album structured in a similar way, it uses loads of musicians and guests. The key differences I suppose are the songs by Jim Steinman aren't quite as good and the production (Jimmy Iovine this time around) isn't half as imaginative as Todd Rundgren's. The situation is more muddied by the fact Jim Steinman had written an album called 'Bad For Good' which was intially intended to follow 'Bat' and did, only with Jim singing the songs himself, rather than Meat Loaf. 'Dead Ringer' was then the third set of Jim Steinman songs and one can't help but wondering if Jim and Meat weren't in the process of falling out at the time whether 'Dead Ringer/Bad For Good' released as one album, produced again by Todd preferably, wouldn't have made for a much truer follow-up record?

    The sound of 'Dead Ringer' is more straightforward adult rock than the bombastic yet imaginative production that lent 'Bat Out Of Hell' it's uniqueness. That's not say Jimmy and the other engineers and producers did a bad job, the songs here are well constructed and the production is accomplished. The musicianship again is wonderful from the variety of players used, yet something is clearly not the same. Well, fans of 'Bat' expected more and in truth, Meat Loaf was in an impossible position. Four years after 'Bat Out Of Hell', 'Dead Ringer' lacks the same kind of flow or 'Narrative' if you want to use such a term, although individual tracks remain superb.

    Opener 'Peel Out' isn't one of them, it fails badly to stick in the mind, although Meat sings well and the drums batter away. I suppose the lack of a real chorus doesn't help. 'I'm Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us' is immediately better, far more in tune with the quality of the tunes from 'Bat' and the ballad 'Read Em And Weep' really is right upto par, although if you compare the feel of 'Heaven Can Wait' to 'Read Em And Weep' you can spot what i've tried to highlight re the acoustics. 'Heaven Can Wait' sounded real and alive, 'Reed Em And Weep' sounds like what it is, a song recorded in a recording studio. 'Everything Permitted' makes for an emotional, dramatic album closer and the duet with Cher is fifties styled fun, Cher perfectly cast to match the power of Meat Loaf's voice.

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    Midnight At The Lost And Found 6 ( 1983 )
    Razor's Edge / Midnight At The Lost And Found / Wolf At Your Door / Keep Driving / The Promised Land / You Never Can Be Too Sure About The Girl / Priscilla / Don't You Look At Me Like That / If You Really Want To / Fallen Angel

    Meat was without Jim Steinman for the first time and co-wrote several songs with his touring musicians. The sound and style changed almost completely from the previous two discs with Meat going for a radio-friendly, contemporary sound. Well, contemporary to the 1980s of course. The 1980s? Well, yes and that's part of the reason the sound here is a little, well, weedy. Meat's last album for EPIC Records, 'Midnight' was a contractual obligation but could have been better. Meat was offered 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' for instance but the record company wouldn't pay Steinman. So, we open with the likes of 'Razors Edge' and 'Midnight At The Lost And Found'. Surprisingly, both are fairly decent songs if you go listening to them with a level of expectation. What level? Well, understand the sound and style is utterly different from what we usually associate with Mr Loaf. 'Razors Edge' but particularly the title track do rock out a little and had the title track received radio-play it's possible it could have been a hit. Meat still plays this tune live in concerts to this very day.

    Meat's vocals are fine throughout but struggles to overcome some average, rather generic material. Well, 'Keep Drivin' is listenable, but only for Meat's rather impassioned performance. 'The Promised Land' is a Chuck Berry tune and works very well and here is the problem, lack of planning. What do I mean? Well, the title track from 'Dead Ringer' could have been taken as a stylistic template for 'Midnight At The Lost And Found'. He could have re-worked some old rockers and recorded new ones. Ok, so that might not have worked any better than what he did release but it's worth a thought, isn't it? Clearly, he'd have needed some better production values too. 'Midnight' too often sounds cheap. Still not as bad as some fans would have you believe though. I mean, it's not absolutely wretched, or anything.

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    Bad Attitude 7 ( 1984 )
    Bad Attitude / Modern Girl / Nowhere Fast / Surf's Up / Piece Of The Action / Jumpin' The Gun / Cheatin' In Your Dreams / Don't Leave Your Mark On Me / Sailor To A Siren

    A change of labels can often bring about a resurrection and so it was here. Well, at least a step in the right direction, at any rate. Meat collects a couple of old Steinman tunes and writes half a dozen more with two collaborators. We're still stuck in the 80s sound-wise, even more so than last time out, although it's clear to all but the cloth-earthed than a lot more effort has gone into 'Bad Attitude' than 'Midnight At The Lost And Found'. In short, it's an eighties take on the Steinman/Bat style. It's not wholly successful of course, yet for close to forty minutes it feels like Meat Loaf has produced something worthwhile again. 'Modern Girl' might just be the single best example of 80s Meat Loaf, it rocks, it's got massed vocals and massed emotions. It stirs and even has a nifty electric guitar solo half way through. What's not to like? Well, Steinman's 'Nowhere Fast' has thin, eighties bass and try as he might, Loaf can't rescue it from the production constraits. Shame, as it's quite a nifty, rockin' tune. 'Surfs Up' first appeared on Steinman's 'Bad For Good' album. Meat's vocals are truly impressive here although i've problems with the arrangement. It sounds cluttered, clunky and whoever recorded Loaf's vocals should have thought differently about mixing his voice before making him sound like he'd lost ten stone in weight.

    Six songs from the album were written by Sarah Durkee & Paul Jacobs, two hacks who at least managed to write songs that evoked the Steinman style, something critics felt was lacking from the 'Midnight' album. 'Piece Of The Action' was released as a single yet failed to chart. Funny thing is, i've a real soft spot for this tune. It's so eighties and those eighties drums are so bombastic and booming that one can't help but grin. John Parr wrote or co-wrote two songs, both best forgotten. Hey, in this day and age we can program them out and pretend they never existed. Well, 'Cheatin' In Your Dreams' is just so generic, hollywood type nonsense. 'Sailor To A Siren' by Durkee & Jacobs is far better and funnily enough sounds like it was mixed and produced differently. That's part of the problem 'Bad Attitude' faces, there doesn't seem to have been an overall vision, or if there was it was a vision that got diluted somewhere along the way. 'Bad Attitude' is ultimatly a guilty pleasure if you like both mid-eighties pop and if you like Meat Loaf.

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    Blind Before I Stop 5 ( 1986 )
    Bad Execution Day / Rock 'n' Roll Mercenaries / Getting Away with Murder / One More Kiss (Night of the Soft Parade) / Blind Before I Stop / Burning Down / Standing on the Outside / Masculine / A Man and a Woman / Special Girl / Rock 'n' Roll Hero

    German producer famed for his work with Boney M and Milli Vanilli teamed up with Meat Loaf in 1986 and completely missed the point of what Meat Loaf was, and still is. Meat himself wrote in 1988 that he believed the album sold poorly due to the production. This is an album with synths as prominent as the guitars yet the overall sound seems rather thin to my ears, cheap even. The arrangements are solid if unimaginative and Meat even co-writes three of the songs and plays guitar on at least one. Not much has been written about 'Blind Before I Stop' around the web, it seems to be something of a forgotten period in Meat Loaf's career. He ended his contract with Arista with this release, and a live album, then didn't record again until the early nineties when he re-appeared with the best-selling 'Bat II' record. Only one single charted from 'Blind Before I Stop', the duet 'Rock N Roll Mercenaries'. A rock record with rock guitar that doesn't sound like a rock record? Well, yes it is a rather bloated five minutes of synths and funk bass which, almost despite itself, still manages to sound memorable and catchy in places. 'Execution Day' opens and lasts for six and a half minutes, a typically epic slice of Meat Loaf, with numerous musicians and instruments and sem-operatic vocals. Eleven and a half minutes into the album then, you've either experienced and/or enjoyed only two songs. Par for the course with Meat Loaf, even the guy best known for Boney M songs hasn't tampered with the structure, merely the sound.

    'One More Kiss' was penned by Meat and is probably my favourite track. Meat does these power ballads well of course, and this is no exception. We may have booming eighties drums and fairly horrible synths, yet Meat sings as passionately as ever. True, there's a misplaced funk mid-section to the song which borders on the silly, but we can't have everything. The rest of the album is fairly accomplished yet utterly forgettable eighties synth rock, with the occasional guitar solo thrown in for no apparent thought-out reason. Nothing wrong with stylistically spreading your wings, but making a recording that sounds like it forgets your own personality is questionable. One stirring moment to mention alongside the likes of 'Rock N Roll Mercenaries' and 'One More Kiss' before I go, is the closing 'Rock n Roll Hero' - it sounds like Meat Loaf which a majority of Meat Loaf's 'Blind Before I Stop' forgets to do often enough.

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    this page last updated 19/05/13

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