It's all coming back to me now....
Released October 2006
After 1993's excellent "Back Into Hell: Bat Out Of Hell 2" Meat Loaf released a couple of extremely patchy albums in "Welcome To the Neighborhood" in 1995 and "Couldn't Have Said It Better" in 2003. On this one, he decided he wanted to revisit the old "Bat Out of Hell" theme again, which, after all, is the only one that ever really, properly worked for him. There was one problem, though, composer and resident genius Jim Steinman didn't want to be involved and indeed, began proceedings to sue Loaf over the "Bat" title, as he owned the rights to it. In the end, though, an agreement was amicably reached out of court and seven Steinman songs were used on the album. Unfortunately, however, songwriter Desmond Child was hired as producer, so the album didn't bear any of the Steinman production hallmarks. Can you tell, despite the use of the Steinman songs? Of course you can. For me, the production is willy-nilly, lacking in thought and cohesion. While Steinman's work often included operatic, theatrical bombast, there was always a progression to it, a vague linkage between the tracks that resulted in a continuity for the listener. Here, you get nu-metal thrashing next to big, build up Steinman musical theatre-type songs. It just doesn't sit well for me and there is also too much filler on here. You could lop four or five tracks off the album and it would knit together much better.
Meat Loaf sings well, with enthusiasm and commitment but he cannot turn some of the base metal into gold. The Steinman tracks sit alone as the good ones, in comparative isolation, in the same way that a couple of his tracks did on the "Welcome To The Neighborhood" album, making you think "it's not so bad an album after all", before you get bumped back down to earth. The point does also need to be made as well that, unusually, not all the Steinman tracks are great ones either, for probably the first time.
1. The Monster Is Loose
2. Blind As A Bat
3. It's All Coming Back To Me Now
4. Bad For Good
5. Cry Over Me
6. In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King
9. If God Could Talk
10. If It Ain't Broke, Break It
11. What About Love?
12. Seize The Night
13. The Future Ain't What It Used To Be
14. Cry To Heaven
"The Monster Is Loose" is an industrial metal clunker that lasts over seven minutes. It is seven minutes too long for me. Meat Loaf's voice sounds decidedly odd on it too. "Blind As A Bat" has Desmond Child trying to write like Steinman, and failing. Does it make sense to say it sounds too overblown? That is an odd thing to say as a fan of Steinman's very over-the-top music. It just sounds a dull, mock-theatrical rock ballad-by-numbers to me. Sorry, it just doesn't do it.
Time for some good stuff. Steinman's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now", previously released on his "Original Sin" project album and also covered by Celine Dion. Here it is a convincing duet with Marion Raven with both vocalists on fine form. This is proper Meat Loaf. It as a great guitar solo too. The same can be said for "Bad For Good", featuring some searing guitar from Queen's Brian May, a track that originally appeared on Steinman's 1981 album of the same name. May makes it sound like a Darkness track here. It is one of the best cuts on the album. It should have started it.
Diane Warren's "Cry Over Me" is a sombre rock ballad that the album could possibly do without. "In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King" is an often discordant operatic piece of bizarre Steinman pomp. It is rather Gothic and not a little unsettling. It is certainly not Steinman's best work at all. "Monstro" is a brief orchestral, Wagnerian interlude that leads into Desmond Child's "Alive" which is one of his better ones, but still nothing special. The big production, orchestrated ballad "If God Could Talk" is another one that just leaves me a bit cold. Maybe some love it, but it is just not my thing. "If It Ain't Broke, Break It" is a Steinman track most unlike his usual material, being a horn-driven rock chugger. It is nothing like his previous stuff at all. However, it is better than the Desmond Child big rock ballad fare.
"What About Love" is a duet with longtime stage partner Patti Russo. It is a Child song, but a good one, probably the best non-Steinman track, lifted high by Russo's powerful voice. "Seize The Night" is a nine minute epic Steinman song, but it has always seemed to me a bit a directionless mess to me. Sorry, Jim, you know I love you, but you've got a hell of a lot to learn about rock 'n' roll...(I couldn't resist that one). "The Future Ain't What It Used To Be" is another Steinman song that first appeared on "Original Sin". It provides some late redemption for this album with a strong, dramatic performance from Meat Loaf and the massed backing vocals, particularly at the end. "Cry To Heaven" is a sort, mournful, Celtically lachrymose Steinman number to bow out on.
I have written more about this album than other Meat Loaf offering, even more than the original "Bat Out Of Hell", which is odd as it is one of my least favourites. I have tried to be fair about it, though, and there are some good parts to it, which I hope I have highlighted.