The CD isn’t due out in America for another few weeks, but it’s been out in Europe for months now. This is a review of the British edition of the CD, which is actually a two-disc set. I don’t know — in fact, I kind of doubt — if the American release will have the second disc. It collects three videos — one from the album, two from the VH1 Storytellers DVD — and an extra audio track of “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” from the VH1 Storytellers CD.
The main disc contains eleven tracks, none of which are written by Jim Steinman. It’s pretty easy to figure that out when you look at the track lengths and see how many of them are under five minutes. Heck, there’s even one that’s less than three minutes.
Many of the songs are written by a guy named James Michael, who is a strong songwriter on his own with some Steinman-esque qualities. Meat Loaf can sing more than just Steinman songs, you know. The problem is that he has the kind of powerful operatic voice that most pop songwriters don’t have a clue what to do with. It limits his options. They’ve put together a pretty good collection here, though.
In any case, Steinman and Meat Loaf will be working on BAT OUT OF HELL 3 next year. Knowing the way Steinman works, all you need to do is find all the songs he’s already written for other people that Meat Loaf hasn’t recorded yet, and you’ll probably know half of the set list for that album. (Hopefully, that won’t mean Pandora’s Box’s “20th Century Fox.” Ick.)
The two lead tracks on CHSIB already have videos made for them. “Did I Say That” is most likely to be released first, since the video is more complicated, special effects-driven, and MTV-friendly. (Who am I kidding, though? I’ll be lucky to see it on VH1.) It’s a song I saw the video first before I heard just the audio on. I wouldn’t recommend that. It’s a much better song than video, which is often distracting and meaningless.
“Couldn’t Have Said It Better” is my favorite song on the album, sounding very much like a Steinman song but without being a clone. It’s got the powerful hook, the slow section, the dramatic pause, catchy chorus, and more.
“Why Isn’t That Enough” is a mopey ballad that never gets out of second gear. I skip it a lot when I listen to the CD.
“Love You Out Loud” sounds like something Rick Springfield would have written in the 80s. It’s a power pop song with some Australian instruments to it. I like it. James Michael and Nikki Six wrote it.
One of the much-hyped tracks of the album is “Man of Steel,” which is a duet by Meat Loaf with his daughter Pearl Aday. Written by Nikki Six, it starts off with a Steinman-esque spoken word bit before spinning off into its own thing. It’s not the greatest song on the CD, but it’s probably in the top half. The best of it happens at the end where Meat Loaf and Pearl sing directly to each other.
A little instrumental whistle plays to lead us out of the first act of the CD and onto the second. Thatís right. The CD is broken up into a Side A and Side B in the track listings. The second track 5 is actually track 10. Somewhat annoying, that is.
“Testify” is made to sound like a gospel song, and succeeds on many levels for it. Like so many of the songs on the album, it’s easy to get this one stuck in your head. Not too many lyrics, simple hook, fast beat.
“Tear Me Down” is a mostly forgettable song, but nothing obnoxious. I had to put the disc in the CD tray to remember what the song was. Not a good sign.
“You’re Right, I Was Wrong” is a Diane Warren song. You can tell that without even looking at the credits. It sounds like she wrote it, so if you hate her hits you’ll have this one. I like it a lot. Though it doesn’t vary much, it recognizes that and clocks in under four minutes.
“Because of You” is a catchy song that starts off deceptively slow but rips into a barn burner that is lifted by Meat Loaf’s theatrical rendition of it. He acts as he sings this song. You can hear it in his voice.
“Do It” is a two and a half minute time filler that’s not worth listening to. It sounds like something they created to give sports stadiums new music to play between innings or quarters or something. Just annoying.
The surprise of the album is the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” I find that I like a lot more of Dylan’s tunes when he’s not singing them. I can understand the lyrics a lot better that way. This is a power ballad for Meat Loaf and he shines in it.
After that, there are two hidden bonus tracks. The first is “Mercury Blues,” which sounds like a song lifted out of the Brian Setzer Orchestra catalog. I believe it is a cover, but I don’t know from whom.
The second bonus track is “Bat Out Of Hell” from the VH1 Storytellers special. It’s the only Steinman song on the album.
Overall, I think it’s a great CD. It’s my favorite of all his non-Steinman albums. You have to overlook those attempts at being a 80s pop music start from twenty years ago. I get shivers just thinking about how bad those albums are. “Modern Girl” isn’t bad, but even it doesn’t suit Meat Loaf’s operatic voice.
BAT 3 is due out in the next year or two. You’ll have to excuse me tonight, though, because I’m headed off to the Meat Loaf concert at the PNC Bank Arts Center tonight. I’ll try to file a full report on that tomorrow.