18 January 2014

Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell

It's often said that the 70's was a time where rock became more progressive (hence the term 'prog rock') and that's certainly the case on this album! It's been a while since I heard it so I thought I'd give it a go for the blog! The first time I heard this was when I was 13 and just getting into rock music. My uncle loaned it to me as well as a couple of other Meat Loaf albums. This was the only one that landed with me, however (And a quick scan on wiki would indicate I'm not the only one who feels that way). Mind, the only things my uncle loaned me that landed were his Sabbath collection but that's another story altogether. So, upon hearing this album at 13, I remember thinking the title track was awesome but the rest of the material wasn't that good. What does it would like to a 35 year old scabby father of one who still rocks out from time to time? Well...

It's not bad, and I can finally see and hear this album for what it is - a big stage musical production best suited for Broadway or London's West End. The songs are bombastic and epic! It's the kind of thing that Andrew Lloyd-Webber would've churned out if he'd listened to Beethoven and Wagner whilst shooting 'roids and spending time at the gym. Each song sounds like it would be in some kind of production. Fuck knows what the plot would be but listening to each song, you can imagine the production in the background. Backing singers, backing dancers, special effects (Or whatever they do in the theatre), it would certainly make a great show!

Mind, it's no surprise the album sounds like this as Meat Loaf himself (Real name: Marvin Aday) met songwriter Jim Steinman whilst auditioning for a play called 'More Than You Deserve', as Meat Loaf was into the theatre before getting into music proper. The idea of 'Bat Out Of Hell' came about in 1972 but it didn't become serious until '74. The songs were taken from a Steinman play called Neverland, which was supposed to be an update of Peter Pan or something. Recording commenced in 1975 and once it was done, it was a case of trying to get the album out as no record companies would touch it due to the unconventional (for the time) nature of the record. The musicians who recorded this album are quite numerous but the most famous ones are Todd Rundgren (guitars) and members of Bruce Springsteen's backing band - The E Street Band - crop up as well. Aside from Broadway influences, they also went for a Phil Spector "Wall Of Sound" effect.

As mentioned, the album goes for an epic Broadway-esque sound with rock elements in there too. The results aren't too bad. There are areas however, which could've been refined, polished slightly or just abandoned altogether. It's not a perfect album by any stretch but when it's good, it's fucking good!

The first song is the title track - and it doesn't fuck around. Opening up in possibly the most epic way it could, it quickly turns into a tale of some fella on a bike who reckons he can go "faster than any other boy has gone before" but because he's too busy thinking of his bird, he goes off a curve on the road and into a hole where he dies. Once you strip away all the bells and whistles, it's basically a 'crash' song. There are a few of them about, most notably 'The Leader Of The Pack'. It's an awesome song to kick the album off with! Track 2 - "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth" - opens up with what is possibly the most ridiculous intro ever. It's a man asking a woman if she'd offer her throat to "The wolf with the red roses". It may have some kind of significance to something or was only put in there to conjure an artistic, even gothic image but for ucks sake, it sounds like shit. The rest of the song is better, but it's still average. A bit wishy-washy as well and you can hear the Phil Spector influence. The next song ("Heaven Can Wait") is a ballad, not too bad, better than the previous track but still average. However, things pick up on the next song. Titled "All Revved Up And No Place To Go", it's essentially about teenage love and  shagging, although it's not the only song on the album about that (But more on that later). Nice saxaphone riff throughout and a steady, driving beat propels the song along whilst Mr Loaf laments teenage hormones. But he popped her cherry as he "got to draw first blood!" Then the song finishes in a frantic pace!

We then go onto what would've been Side 2 in the days of vinyl - the 3rd best song on the album - "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad". It's certainly the best ballad on the album, of which there are three ("One Out Of Three Ain't Bad"). It seems like more work gone into this ballad than the others as everything is perfect on this song. Perfect arrangements, perfect playing. Which then brings us to...

The album highlight, the masterpiece, "Paradise By The Dashboard Light". Another song about young love and shagging, but this one goes all epic about it as it's in three sections and is a duet. It's essentially in three sections - the first details the boy and girl parking at the local lovers lane, about to get ready ready for the action. This section is a straightforward bar-room boogie type-rhythm with a slow chrous. The second is a bit more frantic as they're gonna get down to it, but disaster as the girl essentially makes him say he loves her before she gives him access to the sugar walls. This bit is most notable because it contains a play-by-play commentry from a baseball game which is supposed to be a double-entendre for the foreplay. This bit was recorded by New York Yankees commentator Phil 'Scooter' Rizzulto who then claimed he had no idea of the true context of what was happening. Trivia: Some radio stations in Boston played an edited version where the Boston Red Sox commentator read the play-by-play instead. This was a nod to the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Fuck knows how that got started, I don't follow baseball. The third section is the guy vowing to the girl that he's gonna love her "until the end of time" just to make her shut up so they can get down and dirty. Well, he keeps his vow but now he's sick of her! Ah well, son, that's the price you pay for not thinking straight when trying to bust nuts...(NOTE: Me and a very good female friend of mine did a duet on this song on karaoke)

The last track is the final ballad, "For Crying Out Loud". It starts off slow but then gets all bombastic before easing off towards the end. It's not too bad but there isn't much to say about it.

Well, there you have it. The negatives are that the album is a bit overblown in parts and could've done with a bit of a trim. It seems there is so much going on that it's impossible to take in. The positives are that everything was written and recorded with Meat Loaf's voice in mind, as it compliments the music perfectly. The production seems dated now, which is to be expected. All in all, you cannot go too wrong with this, I suppose.

Top Track: Paradise By The Dashboard Light (As if you didn't guess).

7 - This is good and well worth a check.

Chris J.

The album is on iTunes.

Click to buy on Amazon
Click to listen on Spotify

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