Number 607 - Meat Loaf
"Bat Out Of Hell"
"Then Im dying at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike
There is no other album like Bat out of Hell, unless you want to count the sequel. This is Grand Guignol pop -- epic, gothic, operatic, and silly, and it's appealing because of all of this. Jim Steinman was a composer without peer, simply because nobody else wanted to make mini-epics like this. And there never could have been a singer more suited for his compositions than Meat Loaf, a singer partial to bombast, albeit shaded bombast. The compositions are staggeringly ridiculous, yet Meat Loaf finds the emotional core in each song, bringing true heartbreak to "Two out of Three Ain't Bad" and sly humor to "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." There's no discounting the production of Todd Rundgren, either, who gives Steinman's self-styled grandiosity a production that's staggeringly big but never overwhelming and always alluring.
While the sentiments are deliberately adolescent and filled with jokes and exaggerated clichés, there's real (albeit silly) wit behind these compositions, not just in the lyrics but in the music, which is a savvy blend of oldies pastiche, show tunes, prog rock, Springsteen-esque narratives, and blistering hard rock (thereby sounding a bit like an extension of Rocky Horror Picture Show, which brought Meat Loaf to the national stage). It may be easy to dismiss this as ridiculous, but there's real style and craft here and its kitsch is intentional. It may elevate adolescent passion to operatic dimensions, and that's certainly silly, but it's hard not to marvel at the skill behind this grandly silly, irresistible album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
What does Rolling Stone think about Meat Loaf?
Meatloaf earned his somewhat eccentric name as a performer in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the theatrical torture, although he had previously spent several years as a rock singer in Detroit, even recording a single or two for Motown. Bat Out of Hell reflects such diversity, but can't resolve it. Meat Loaf has an outstanding voice, but his phrasing is way too stage-struck to make the album's pretensions to comic-book street life real. He needs a little less West Side Story and a little more Bruce Springsteen.
Jim Steinman, who wrote and arranged the entire album, needs a lot less of both. Some of the songs here, particularly "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth," are swell, but they are entirely mannered and derivative. Steinman is wordy, and his attempts to recapture adolescence are only remembrances; he can't bring out the transcendently personal elements that make a song like "Night Moves," an obvious influence here. The arrangements aren't bad, although they play into the hammiest of Meat Loaf's postures, and the playing is excellent, led by pianist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg of Springsteen's E Street Band and producer Todd Rundgren's guitars. But the principals have some growing to do. (RS 254)
For Bruce Springsteen see Number 817
Labels: Meat Loaf 607