Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
If you want the complete mainstream Meatloaf experience, you can simply listen to the original versions of Bat Out Of Hell and Bat Out Of Hell 2. That was really it for radio's love affair with Meat Loaf. He was great in the late 1970s, he disappeared for the 80s, and emerged triumphantly in the 90s for an encore. Sure, VH1 played some videos from a couple of albums after Bat Out Of Hell 2, but that was about it.
But Meat Loaf put out a dozen albums, not including live albums and a greatest hits collection. Surely there were things on those albums worth listening to. And, let's be real, neither of the first two Bat Out Of Hell albums were flawless. The first one was intriguing rock opera from the 1970s. Very Paul Williams. Very Rocky Horror. But do I want to listen to all of those songs? Not really.
So here is a condensed discography of the songs that I enjoy listening to from the nearly 50 year career of Mr. Loaf.
1. This album is all about bombast and cheese and musical theater singalongs. So even though the title track is the basis of Meatloaf's career, I'm not including it. It's pretty much a sin that the original album didn't start with the completely ridiculous dialogue from the intro to You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth. I'd be shocked to find out that this isn't in the top ten most performed duets in karaoke history. It's a hit from the stilted intro all the way to the hand clap fade out.
2. I'll be jumping around Meatloaf's 80s albums (and the real Bat Out Of Hell) because thy all tend to suffer from a sameness of sound. Each one has a particular drone where even the ballads and bangers tend to sound indistinguishable after a while. I don't think it's true of his whole discography, so I'm going to go from 77 to 88 to 83, etc. Burning Down is a synth and saxaphone track, which is about as 80s as you can get. It's got a hint of Miami Vice to it, and the choir who sings the chorus is vintage musical theater.
3. From synths and saxaphones to a country-esque foot stomper. Midnight At The Lost & Found is just silly and fun.
4. Meat Loaf has claimed that Jim Steinman wrote Air Supply's "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" for him, but gave it to them during a time when there was a financial dispute between them. If that's true, it seems like Cheatin' In Your Dreams is his revenge, as it seems very 80s soft rock. He eventually gets to his usual belty vocals, but it's very soft and smooth for the first half of the song. It ends like a lost track from Little Shop Of Horrors.
5. Back to the hits from the first album! Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad is a classic piano crooner with some of the cheesiest lyrics commited to paper.
6. Given how they share a songwriter, it's a pity that Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler didn't work together. But Meat Loaf did work with Cher on Dead Ringer For Love, which definitely sounds like an outtake from either the original Bat Out Of Hell or maybe Rocky Horror Picture Show.
7. The low end of the piano bangs in through the end of "Dead Ringer For Love" before it gets layered into a very 80s build-a-ballad. It's a weird conceit, I'm Going To Love Her For Both Of Us talks about how he wants an abusive boyfriend to let him date his partner because Meat Loaf will treat her right. He's not singing to her that he's going to rescue her, he's singing to the abusive boyfriend that he needs to do the right thing and let Meat Loaf have the relationship with her so that everyone can be happy.
8. Before recording his own albums, Meat Loaf was a touring member of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar and, or course, The Rocky Horror Show. If You Really Want To is a weird little nugget of a love song that, much like some tracks from the first two of those musicals, seems to be building to a belting verse that never comes. It's a rhythmic rock lullaby. It's not a ballad, it's just got a very repetitive bass and rhythm. I get drawn in at the beginning, and then I'm trapped there for the rest of the song.
9. Some times, I see two track titles, and think "I hope those fit together." Thus we fllow up "If You Really Want To" with the ballady Everything Is Permitted. It soars. Something about Loaf's vocals sound vaguely sour, though. Like a mediocre opera singer. It's still better than most rock musicians, but it's certainly not of the caliber of the Bat Out Of Hell albums.
10. Getting Away With Murder could be any 80s soundtrack song. I can't even place who it sounds like because it just sounds like upbeat 80s soundtrack rock track #4. It's catchy and inoffensive, despite the title. You can almost see him wearing Raybans, and a white suit with a Hawaiian shirt under the blazer.
11.We knock it back down a notch for a little John Cougar Mellancampy blue collar work song. Piece Of The Action is like barely pre-Bon Jovi narrative rock about how it's tough to have a job, and how you've got to dream big, baby.
12. Another of the original hits, Paradise By The Dashboard Light fits in perfectly here. You can see the co-leads doing a little Fosse as the background singers ooo-bop-bop in the background.
13. While I feel like a lot of 80s Meat Loaf songs do go Nowhere Fast, this particular rocker is a fun little stand-in for "Hot Patootie". If you stripped the vocal tracks away, this could be a cool Nintendo theme song. Probably Ice Man or Cut Man from the original Mega Man game.
14. Despite namedropping Virginia and California at the beginning of the song, The Promised Land sounds like Alabama or The Oak Ridge Boys might have recorded this very American song about moving from city to city and state to state.
15. "Promised Land" blends right into Bad Attitude, Meat Loaf's song about how the old squares hated his freedom, man. The guitars are very Queen, but they're sadly buried in the mix.
16. One More Kiss (Night Of The Soft Parade) is a spare piano ballad for soft rock radio. There's a lot of whispery singing to kick this song off. It does eventually build to belting with a set of female background singers to levitate his pleas.
17. From pleas to threats we go, as I'll Kill You If You Don't Come Back has some of the worst, cheesiest lyrics on this album (which is a high bar). How do you abuse me/ Let me count the ways is so Roger Rabbit that it makes me laugh.
18. If you've ever wondered what a Huey Lewis & The News song would sound like if it had a chorus of female vocalists, wonder no more. Blind Before I Stop has a touch of Robert Palmer, and a touch of generic 80s girl rock band.
19. We close off the album with what should have been the closing ballad for the real Bat Out Of Hell, Heaven Can Wait. It's a pleasant unwind.