|Meatloaf Bat Out Of Hell 3||Universal Records|
Ah…yes indeed. I haven't heard anything quite like this since…well, since Bat Out Of Hell 2. Nobody does it like Meatloaf. No one throws themselves (literally) into each song with as much passion, heart and power as the big man himself.|
For whatever reason, the records recorded in-between the Bat records don't come close to these three records.
When the Bat Out Of Hell moniker is used, Meatloaf applies himself to the concept with a passion that is missing from his other records.
In the end I think it all comes down to the songs and the fact Meatloaf believes in the songs used on each occasion. And of course we have the masterful Jim Steinman to thank for that.
Each of the 3 Bat records has been a little different and Bat 3 is no different.
Bat 1 was produced by Todd Rundgren and featured the songs of Jim Steinman; Bat 2 was written and produced entirely by Steinman and Bat 3 is a mix of the previous 2 – Jim Steinman was to produce but things got complicated and lawsuits ensued.
The end result was that Meatloaf gets to use 7 Steinman songs with hitmaker Desmond Child stepping into the producers chair. Keeping the thread between albums going, Todd Rungren also contributed, credited here for "Vocal arrangements by Todd Rundgren."
Bat 1 is legendary of course, but Bat 2 was an absolute masterpiece and my favourite of the three records. Jim Steinman gets the credit for that - his arrangements and attention to minute detail made that record an event. Jim's unique songs are what made Meatloaf great – although it is Meatloaf's unequalled passion that brings these songs to life.
Both artists achieve their best when they work together, so I was very skeptical about this release once I learnt that Steinman wouldn't be producing. Desmond Child is no slouch – he is an accomplished producer and also knows how to get the best from the artists he works with. However, he doesn't have that same Steinman flare for the dramatic.
But with Steinman's song contribution and Todd Rungren on board, the team assembled have managed to surpass my expectations and deliver a great album that is still worthy of the Bat Out Of Hell moniker.
Yes, Bat Of Out Hell 3 is a clear winner for Meatloaf and while I still miss that extra flair and attention to detail that Steinman brings to the studio, this album works so well and Meat is in absolute cracking vocal form, and as per usual, throws everything into the delivery of these songs.
I'll go through each track, but aside from the 7 Jim Steinman songs there are 7 others to comment on. Thankfully and wisely, the guys behind the album and in particular Desmond Child, have managed to come up with some killer songs that fit the Bat format and Meatloaf's larger than life vocal style and work will in conjunction with the Steinman originals.
The production is huge – absolutely over the top pomp rock glory – with particular attention paid to the Steinman trademarks such as backing vocals, orchestration and instrumental passages. While these trademarks are present, at times you can tell that Steinman wasn't at work himself, but this I think is as good as it could possibly be without him involved in the studio.
Track By Track:
Naturally the album opens in typically dramatic style, but for the first time ever on a Bat Out Of Hell record, a non-Steinman song gets the nod. On a couple of occasions this album sees Meatloaf gets all modern on us and The Monster Is Loose is one of those occasions. The 7 minute hard rock epic was written by Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx with Desmond Child and John 5. It's quite the modern rock marvel, with super intense, super heavy down-tuned guitars and added production effects, but it really works in the scheme of this album and gets things off to a powerful start.
There are parts within the song such as the mid-song bridge where things mellow out and take on a decisively Steinman-esque twist.
Blind As A Bat is written by Child with James Michael and again features the hallmarks of a Steinman/Meatloaf classic. A dramatic vocal intro builds to a more pacey verse before an absolute gem of a chorus bursts through. I love this song and the passion in Meat's vocals are second to none. A perfect song for the album and proof that a great deal of thought has gone into getting the songs for this album just right.
The first Steinman song of the album is the classic rock ballad It's All Coming Back to Me Now. Unfortunately sometimes referred to as a Celine Dion song (she did cover it with the help of Steinman), it is rather a song written for and featured on Steinman's all female star project Pandora's Box (Virgin Records, 1989). A couple of the songs from that album also appeared on Bat 2.
This track is a duet in typical Meatloaf style – this time with the up and coming rocker Marion Raven. She has a great voice and suits the song perfectly.
Bad For Good reaches even further back into the Steinman archives – this time being the title track from his only solo album in the early 80s. Queen guitarist Brian May guests here – his contribution obvious – the intro and outro guitar riffs plus a classy mid-track solo are worthwhile additions to the song.
Meatloaf and producer Child stay true to the formula, style and personality of the original version of the song and I must say the updated version with Meatloaf's voice is killer. A great song that lives on again although I think Desomond Child underplays the important piano parts of the original.
Cry Over Me is a Diane Warren song. Now Dianne is a wonderful songwriter, but she has a bad habit of getting far too syrupy at times. Meatloaf has used her before – lastly on the Couldn't Have Said It Better album, but this song is a Meatloaf classic in waiting. A very powerful and emotion filled rock ballad, the songs is memorable from the outset.
Bat 2 featured a couple of left turns and I'm pleased that Bat 3 is the same – with both turns delivered at the hands of Steinman. In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King is a completely over the top aggressive modern rocker with that Steinman flair and some lead guitar parts from Steve Vai.
No one but Meatloaf could pull this vocal off – heavy, modern and out of character with the album it would seem, but it fits the flow of the album perfectly and adds to the whole theatrical experience a Bat album should be.
The sort instrumental Monstro (written by Child/Holly Knight/Elena Casals) is an orchestral segway that brings the dramatics of the last track together with the high octane, melodic rock anthem that is Alive.
I love this track. Perfect Steinman without even being written by him. Child/James Michael/Holly Knight and Andrea Remanda are responsible for this pure rock anthem with a huge chorus and some of that classic rocking piano that both previous Bat albums featured. Add in additional orchestration and a flying tempo and a classic is born.
Following this over the top rocker is a hard task, but again, the perfect song has been chosen. If God Could Talk (Child/Marti Frederiksen) is a mid-tempo rock ballad with more dramatic flair and orchestration and fits the flow of the album perfectly.
If It Ain't Broke, Break It is another of the album's left turns and again features a heavy, tuned down guitar sound. I didn't actually pick this for a Steinman song, but it is…and something akin to his Pandora's Box release where a couple of songs go heavy/high-tech. I have never heard brass mixed with modern rock, but here you have it. Completely over the top, but for some reason it works.
What About Love? Is another gem of a song from outside the Steinman circle. The Child/Frederiksen/Russ Irwin/John Gregory song is classic Meatloaf – changing tempo and featuring a female lead in places (courtesy of Patti Russo). Generally uptempo and featuring more classic Bat piano work, the song reminds me of Bat 1 in places. A strong chorus and those ever changing tempos make the song – especially when it gets even faster!
The dramatic and orchestral Seize The Night is another Steinman classic. Nearly 10 minutes in length, the song mixes Objects In the Rear View Mirror with Life Is A Lemon and even some Everything Louder – in other words, classic Steinman. The song has several different parts and passages, but you know the drill.
The Future Ain't What It Used To Be is another old Steinman solo album remake and again is kept very faithful in this version. Brilliant song made even better with the power and energy of Meatloaf.
Cry To Heaven is a short vocal only track written again by Steinman. I'd swap this with The Future to close the album, as after all the over the top moments, this seems just a little simple to close the album with. Pretty song, but perhaps the only disappointment for me on the whole record.
The team assembled has done the right thing by Meatloaf and the good name of Bat Out Of Hell, and I think the majority will be impressed by this record.
I'd still love to hear more brand new Steinman songs though…and perhaps one more outing with the big man…
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