Most people laugh at Meat Loaf. Let's face it, he's old and he's fat. What's not to laugh at? Ask anyone about his music, and they'll say, "pfff... cheesy 70's rock opera music. Who's got time for that rubbish?"
And, in doing so, a majority of people miss out on one of the greatest rock albums in history. Of course, some people don't realise that it is, in fact, a very popular album - it's one of the five best selling albums ever, having sold nearly 35 million copies (not including the Revamped, 25th Anniversary or Live versions). And, if you listen to it objectively, it's not hard to see why. It's is a fantastic ROCK album - poudning basslines, thundering drums, screeching guitar solos, racing pianos and keys, all led by an absolute power house of vocal talent. And this album isn't just rock - it contains three incredible balads aswell.
Vocals - Marvin Lee "Meat Loaf" Aday
Guitars - Todd Rungren
Piano - Roy Bittan
Keyboards - Jim Steinman, Roy Bittan, Todd Rungren
Bass - Kasim Sultan
Drums - Max Weinberg
Percussion - Jim Steinman, Todd Rungren
Synthesizer - Roger Powell
Motorcycle Guitar - Todd Rungren
Background Vocals - Rory Dodd, Ellen Foley, Todd Rungren, Kasim Sultan
Other people involved with the album, but not credited in the album sleve
Saxophone - Edgar Winter
Radio Announcer - Phil Rizzuto
NB: Kasim Sultan, bassist, is the only member of this line up that still plays with Meat today. Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg, pianist and drummer respectively, are full-time members of the E-Street Band - Bruce Springsteen's backing band. Since 1993, Max Weinberg leads the house band on the Conan O'Brien Show. Jim Steinman also wrote the Bonnie Tyler hit, "A Total Eclipse Of The Heart"
On with the review, then.
1. Bat Out Of Hell
The opening track is probably the greatest rock epic of all time - the soaring vocals tell a fantastic story, the guitar solos in the intro and middle incredible, and on this song Todd Rundgeren arguably pionered the technique of depressing the guitar strings using a wammy bar to emmulate a motor bike. The 3-minute long introduction builds up the song well, showcasing the skill of the whole backing band. A quiet, piano-accompanied section starts the song off in earnest, followed by a pre-chorus with some bass work in the background too, which builds up into the first power-house chorus. The second verse is accompanied by chugging chords on the guitar, followed by a bridge section before leading back to the pre-chorus and chorus. An instrumental section leads onto another verse, before a very fast, dramatic wind down leads up to the outro. The outro itself could be a different song initially - a quiet, reproachful mourning that eventually leads back into the air-punching splendour of adreniline that accompanies the final few lines. This song is nothing short of breathtaking - musically it is complex, and is a great rock epic. The lyrics may well have been cheesy if song by some lesser vocalist, but with the powe and emotion that Meat puts into it, any faint traces of cheese is removed, and you're left instead with raw, hard rock goodness. This is also my favourite song of all time. 5/5
2. You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)
This song starts off with a short, spoken skit of sorts, before a crack of the snare brings us into this slow rocker. This song is pretty good, with the backing band bringing an air of fantasy to the song. The song istelf, however, isn't as good as the previous song, and lets it down slightly. However, it would be a good song for anyone else, but is probably the weakest song on the album, and hence seems worse than it actually is. 4/5
3. Heaven Can Wait.
The first of three ballads on this album. This song is very good, with Roy Bittan's piano playing being very calm and beautifuly, and strings swell in an out through the song to give the song different feels at different places. The highlight of this song is definatley Meat's vocals, and this song is an excellent show case of the more tender capabalities of such a powerful voice. 5/5
4. All Revved Up With No Place To Go
A real rocker, this. Skillful sax playing by Edgar Winters starts the song of well, and his sax playing throughout is superb, whether it be playing the memorable hook, playing underscore counter-melodies during the bridge, or the fantastic sax solo. This is a great song, it really bounces along in true rock 'n' roll style, with a contrasting bridge section that's fantastic. The final, speeded up section is great, too. 5/5
5. Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad
The most 'pop' song on the album, a long, forlorn love ballad. A good song, with several contrasting sections too. It's a good song, but there isn't too much to say about it. Nice vocals, and good backing from the band. 4.5/5
6. Paradise By The Dashboard Light
This is a great song, made up of three different sections and an interulude. It tells the story of a guy on his quest to have 's3x0rz' with this girl.
The start of the story. Meat takes this girl to an empty carpark in his car, by the side of the lake, and starts 'getting it on', so to say. Fantastic, if only for the cringe-worthy line "Ain't no doubt about, we were doubly blessed, coz we were barely seventeen and we were barely dressed". A good rock song, very VERY 50's, quite jazzy too, using flattened thirds in the vocals of major chords to create that jazzy, funky feel. This section ends with them starting to make out - then comes the interlude.
The interlude is essentially funk. Very funky background, the live version even uses wah and flange on the bass & guitar to increase the funkiness. Over the top of it, the apparantly legendary baseball announcer Phil Rizzuto calls a baseball game, in particular a kid who's making his way from base to base. Rather fitting, don't you think :naughty:
II Let Me Sleep On It
"STOP RIGHT THERE" declares Ellen Foley, bringing the funky interlude to an abrupt halt, bringing the song back to 50's rock. This is essentially short dialogue between Ellen and Meat, that goes like this - "do you love me? do you need me? will you take me away and make me your wife"? and meat responds - "let me sleep on it, i'll give you answer in the morning". AFter this extended dialogue, the song moves onto the out-and-out rock climax:
III Praying For The End Of Time
Meat agrees that he'll Ellen until the end of time... "so now I'm praying for the end of time to hurry up and arrive, coz if I gotta spend another minute with you, I don't think that I can really survive". A great rock number in it's own right, it bring the story to a sutibly hillarious ending, and is great fun. It's fantastic to watch live, too (says the reviewer who's seen this song performed live twice. except, live it normally ends with Meat and his current lead female vocalist Patti Russo screaming at each other "SHUT UP!" "NO YOU SHUT UP!" "*** YOU!" "*** YOU BACK" "*** YOU TWO TIMES!" "*** YOU FIVE TIMES" etc).
5/5 for the whole song, and 5/5 for all the sections individually.
For Crying Out Loud
The album closes with a ballad, and is the finest of the three ballads on offer in this album. This song is great, initally being a seductive duet between Meat's voice and the beautifully played piano. The two interweave and brings the songs from bitter, love-torn quiet sections to sweeping highs, dripping with grandoise. After the initial verse, pre-chorus and chrous, the piano drops out to be replaced with strings. This second verse is quite similar, but lacks the rythm of the piano, and it almost floats without the pulse, which is quite a fantastic effect and adds hidden texture to the song, which now revolves solely on Meat's voice for the pulse. The strings suddenly drop out to be replaced by piano and bass for the pre-chours. Instrument on instrument is added until a blaze of glory for the chorus, with drums, bass, piano, string and horns all crying out, yearning for the woman Meat sings about. After the chorus, the outro section (which is still a good 3 or so minutes) returns to being just piano and voice, again playing teasing counter-harmonies between each other. Again, instrument upon instrument is added, until the song reaches its musical climax, before ending with a very soft, drawn out note by Meat, backed by piano and strings. A very definte 5/5
This album is nothing short of incredible. Whether your mood is very something soft and romantic in the background, or something to really headbang to as guitars screech and squeal all about you (which they'd do if you've got allthewayaroundtheroom stereo), this album is PERFECT.