Here, There be a Writer

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Which is Better? Classic or Modern MeatLoaf?

My best friend in college was the one to introduce me to Meatloaf.  We had been friends since we met the summer before her senior year in High School (circa 1995. I was a pretty dumb kid, I thought she meant food, until she played  the "Bat Out of Hell" album. I was unsure of what to make of it. It was probably a Saturday in her dorm room at college, she was a a Junior and I was a Freshman when I really found the passion within the Loaf (into 1997).

Fast forward to 19 years later, now I am a pretty big Meatloaf fan. I have most of the albums in official format, and the rest included on a nifty mp3 collection from Russia (see below). Meatloaf spoke to me in during a time when I was not sure of myself and when I was angry about a good many things. If I was angry I played Meatloaf. If I was sad, I'd usually play Meatloaf or Savage Garden (that's for another time). "If I gotta be Damned, I wanna be Damned with you..." So, what is with this guy named after a dinner entree and had the voice of an (horny) Angel?

I know why he's important to me. There is something magical about any Meatloaf song, whether a standard 3 1/2 to 4 minute song or one of his up to 11 minute epic ballad. "...took the words right outta my mouth. Must have been while you were kissing me..." There is something about the loud rush of one those songs that just makes my heart soar and I want to belt along with his vocals. Even with the gentle ballads he has the ability to tell a story with his voice. It's simply beautiful. Simply awesome!

My question this week is this,which is better: Classic or Modern Meatloaf?

Or you can break it down  two way; Bat Albums versus Non-Bat albums. There is a certain, almost formulaic way the the Bat albums are set up. I don't really see much of a difference between "Bat Out of  Hell" and "Bat Out Hell 3: The Monster is Loose". But, when I listen to the Non-Bat albums versus the Bat Album, I see a greater difference. There is a style quality to a Bat Album, that doesn't always match with the Non-Bat albums.

Or, you can compare 1970's Meatloaf to 2014 Meatloaf. I shall tackle a bit of both. Let's get started.

Bat versus Non-Bat:
First off, Jim Steinman is involved in all of the Bat album and that is a big reason why Meatloaf is so successful. Jim Steinman writes AWESOME songs! Bat 3 also features Jim Steinman and Desmond Child (songwriter and musician) as the primary songwriter on Bat 3 (there were some other fine folks included). This is the reason that the songs are as strong as they are, there is a common theme running through them; large epic sounding sounding songs and vocals, the feeling that there is an underlying story with the songs (I figured that Jim Steinman was the drive force behind that). Bat 3 is less cohesive, but not necessarily weaker than Bat 1 and 2. I love pretty much all the song on all of the Bat albums, but there are a few that I would tend to skip if I am thinking about it. This happens more with Bat 3 than Bat 1 or even Bat 2.  There are too many good songs on Bat 3 to not consider it a modern classic. The point is that each of the Bat albums stand well on it's own and when combined you have a fantastic trilogy of music worth listening to.


If I was going to introduce Meatloaf to someone, I would start with the Bat albums. They are the stronger albums, also more well know. If you were to ask most people what albums Meatloaf released, they would most likely say one of the Bat 1 or 2; not excluding 3 here, but it is newer and the first 2 have had time to ingrain themselves into our consciousnesses. There are, without a doubt quintessential Meatlaof. They showcase his power, emotion, vocal range, ability to make grown men weep. Here are my stand out tracks for the Bat albums:

Bat Out of Hell - Bat Out of Hell (1977)
1. You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Nights) - Love the sexy intro spoken by Steinman.
2. Bat Out of Hell - This is obvious, I think.
3. Two Out of Three Ain't Bad - Something about his presentation makes me smile during this song.

Sad fact is that two out of these three are all that is usually played on the radio now-a-days.

Bat Out of Hell 2 - Back into Hell (1993)

1. I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't do That) - This song is the most romantic song EVER! See the Literal Video to it. I know the creator and both the singers.
2. Rock and Roll Dream Come Through - A thoughtful, if slightly sad sounding song of hope. Featuring a young Angelina Jolie!
3. Life is a Lemon/Wasted Youth - A tie, because Life is a great rock song, even good for head banging (I don't recommend head banging unless you can do it. I usually get a headache). Wasted youth includes Jim Steinman doing the guitar monologue, "Love and Death and an American Guitar".

Only one of these songs is usually played on the radio, guess which one.  I swear, Meatloaf needs to play on the radio more often.

Bat Out of Hell 3 - The Monster is Loose (2006)

1. It's All Coming Back to Me Now - Celine Dion sang it first, but Meatloaf nails it!
2.Cry Over Me -Written by Diane Warren (as known as the ballad Goddess, amongst others).
3. Bad for Good - Bad for Good was on an album produced by and sang by Steinman after Meatloaf stopped making albums. Meat was supposed to record the Bad for Good album, Steinman ended up recording it himself.

Now onto the Non-Bat albums; there are 8 of them (2 of which I only have mp3's of). There is also the first Meatloaf album, "Stoney and Meatloaf" (I do not have this one at all. It's kind of rarer). These are more eclectic in nature, but still good albums. Well, not all of them are all good, "Blind Before I Stop" is pretty terrible. I only have that one in mp3 form and when I listened to it, I was NOT impressed. It is really overy produced and lyrically weak.  The current album, "Hell in a Handbasket", I have only listen to once or twice. I cannot form much of an opinion on it at the time of this blog, so I am abstaining. So the list is: "Dead Ringer", "Bad Attitude", "Midnight at the Lost and Found", "Blind Before I Stop", "Welcome to the Neighborhood", "Couldn't Have Said it Better", "Hang Cool, Teddy Bear", and "Hell in a Handbasket".

Albums that I would introduce to a new fan or interested parties as a good representation of Meat's Non-Bat work, showing his vocal style, or are all-around well produced album/songs would include "Bad Attitude". I have a long history with this album. It is a feel good album and perfect for belting out. "Welcome to the Neighborhood" and "Couldn't Have Said it Better" round out my trio. "Welcome..." is an album that wanted to be a Bat album, but is not one. It features songs by Steinman, Diane Warren (the Goddess of Songwriting), Sammy Hagar, Steven Van Zant, and Tom Waits; with this powerhouse of writing "Welcome..." cannot go wrong. It's kind of little the Bats little brother, trying to act like the big boys. It's that's spunk that makes me love this album. More people need to know about it. Each song has a unique flavour and honestly, I love every track of it. "45 Seconds of Ecstasy" is the odd one out, because it's not sung by Meatloaf. It's a neat and random, the singer isn't terrible and it acts as sort of an interlude. There is another  interlude,"Fiesta De Las Almas Perdidas" an instrumental, which is common on Meatloaf's later albums. "Couldn't..." is Meat's first album after his long hiatus. The title track feels exactly like he left off with "Welcome..." Many of the songs on "Couldn't..." were written by James Michael and one track written by the awesome Diane Warren (yet again? YAY!!!!!), and while there weren't Steinman songs on this album. It didn't stop the album from sounded amazing. It did not well on the charts, due mostly to poor promotion of the album. That doesn't hamper my love for "Couldn't...", it simply couldn't, Ki tell you. When Meatloaf sings, I listen.

Bad Attitude (1894)
1. Bad Attitude
2. Nowhere Fast
3. Piece of the Action/Jumpin' the Gun

Welcome to the Neighborhood  (1995)
2. Where the Rubber meets the Road
 3. Original Sin

 Couldn't Have Said it Better (2003)
1. Couldn't Have Said it Better - This is just pure Meatloaf!
2. Testify
3. Did I Say That

Classic versus Modern:
2010 - The years have rolled on, taking Meatloaf for another ride. I won't deny that his voice has changed over the years. He is in his sixties. But he can still sing. I think that with Bat 3, there has a renewed vigour in his desire to make music. While I have listened to his newer material less than the classic albums; I can still hear the same old Meatloaf in there. There is one noticeable difference is that I can hear him trying new things with his music. I explained this to a friend who had just heard about Bat 3 being released. She wanted to know how I thought it sounded. My thoughts are that Bat 3 was what Meatloaf needed to sound like in 2006. He was evolving, still is. He has taken his talent and evolved into the 21st century. I stand by this statement. Maybe he doesn't sing like he did in 1977, but would anybody after 35+ years? I doubt it. He was a powerhouse back then and a powerhouse today.

I have to mention, "Hang Cool, Teddy Bear"; it was not an album I was sure that I could like. "Los Angeloser" was a song that confused me on first listen. Oh, especially after watching the music video, probably should have done that. I just couldn't reconcile my vision of Meatloaf to what was in the "Los Angeloser" video. Yet, when I listened to the song by itself and not let the video influence me (that was hard to do). I found that it was actually a pretty good song. It had all the elements of  a Meatloaf song: powerful vocals, a storyline, and musicality. "Hang Cool..." also boasts an all star cast of writers from: James Michael, Kara Dioguardi, Desmond Child, and John Bon Jovi; also, there are the guest stars Kara Dioguardi, Hugh Laurie (Dr. House), Stevie Vai, Jack Black, and Brian May (of Queen). Fun Fact: the album is based on the short story, "Hang Cool, Teddy Bear" by Kilian Kerwin.

Hang Cool, Teddy Bear (2010)
1. If I Can't Have You (features Kara Dioguardi and Hugh Laurie)/If It Rains
2. Elvis in Vegas
3. Los Angeloser (This video is weird, but makes more sense with the story. Read the story, then watch the video. It's still weird, but it'll make more sense. Sort of...I am warning you now. Just remember that.)

This is better after you read the story. I recommend checking it out through the link above.

He also player Eddie in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and the Sage production of "The Rocky Horror Show".
Hot Patootie/Bless My Soul (if you haven't heard or seen the song:.

What are some of your favourite Meatloaf tracks (if you are into Meatloaf, that is), Dear Readers? What do you think about Meatloaf return and continued musical career? Leave me a comment below, I'd love to hear from you.

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