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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Meat Loaf

Bat Out of Hell

Review by Gary Hill

I remember that when this album was all over the radio and making news everywhere I was not taken by it at all. It was far too show tune oriented for me. Besides, in those days if it wasn’t heavy metal or progressive rock (or maybe jazz) I just wasn’t interested. Well, listening to it now it still has a lot of that show tune atmosphere, but it’s an incredibly strong disc. It still holds up well to this day. This edition includes a couple of live recordings as bonuses and the first one is really straight up progressive rock. I’d have to say that Jim Steinman was one of the best songwriters of the 20th Century and this album is a strong showing from him. Of course, Meat Loaf rocks, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Bat Out Of Hell
The opening jam on this feels very prog rock. I love how the keyboards carry a big chunk of it. It serves as a killer introduction to the album. It works out to more traditional hard rock from there. It drops to just piano. The vocals come in over that basic arrangement. Meat Loaf's vocals are powerful on this tune. Backing vocals join after a time. It rises up to more of a full melodic rock arrangement for the chorus. Around the three and a half minute mark it resolves to sort of a gospel bit. It works out from there to something with some old-school rock and roll and musical theater combined. In some ways as it works forward it feels like something that would be at home on a soundtrack album to a musical about the 1950s. This is dynamic, though, and makes good usage of contrasts and various musical segues. This is quite a ride, really. It gets into more 70s rock sounds for the final sections.
You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)
The opening section of this (the “Hot Summer Night” part) is a theatrical spoken dialogue bit. The song itself is less theatrical, but there’s still some of that element present. It’s a hard rocker with some 1950’s stylings on the backing vocals.
Heaven Can Wait
Here we have a pretty and potent ballad that’s arguably a bit over the top in terms of its arrangement. It’s basically a piano based tune, but there’s full orchestration. For my money I can hear the “overdone” nature of it, but I’d say it hits far more than it misses.
All Revved Up With No Place To Go
There’s a bit of an old time rock and roll groove to this piece. It’s still quite strong and is one of the most accessible songs here. Of course, pretty much everything here is accessible. There’s both a 1950’s groove and a bit of a show tunes feeling. There’s also some tasty saxophone work.
Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad
I’d have to say that this might be my favorite song here. It’s a powerful ballad and has less of that show tune atmosphere that pervades a lot of the disc. The lyrics and performance are both incredibly strong and this song, despite being played like crazy on the radio, still holds up very well.
Paradise By The Dashboard Light
There’s a lot of that theatrical element here. We also get quite a bit of old school rock and roll. The thing is, the second half of this track, with the baseball game double entendres, is so clever that this song is a classic and a highlight of the set. Again, that’s despite over saturation on the radio.
For Crying Out Loud
Another piano based ballad, this one doesn’t have the over-ambitious arrangement of “Heaven Can Wait.” It’s just Meat Loaf’s voice and the pounding piano and in many ways reminds me of something from Elton John. At least that applies to the first few minutes of the cut – this weighs in at almost nine minutes in length. After a time, though, classical instrumentation enters and this takes on a whole new dimension. As other instruments join this is quite nearly prog rock in texture. It’s a great piece of music and on the original disc was the closer – and a satisfying one at that. 
Great Boleros Of Fire (Live Intro)
This bonus live recording is amazing. It’s an instrumental introductory piece and it’s about as progressive rock as you can get. A rocking rendition of “Bolero,” this is like something ELP would do –with a bit more crunch on the guitar.
Bat Out Of Hell (Live)
Another bonus track, we get a live recording of the title track of the disc. This loses some of its show tune atmosphere and gains some metallic crunch in this treatment.
 
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