Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published August 8th 2019
A sequel and an equal
Very rarely does an album get a sequel, a literal sequel, following with similar themes as the first and with a similar title. And even rarer does that sequel match up to the original. Well, somehow, sixteen years after Bat Out Of Hell, Meatloaf managed to do just that.
That album was 1993's Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell.
With Jim Steinman once again taking up songwriting duties (even if a few of the songs had previously been released/recorded by others), this matches the bombast and sheer over-the-topness (is that a word?) of the original. It clocks in at well over an hour, but you know what? that doesn't really matter. This is an album that deserves to be played loud.
This album I bought on CD from the word go because I knew it would be played often. And it was. It was during the tour for this album that I saw Meat Loaf live for the first and (so far) only time. And this was one of the things that my (unfortunately now ex) wife and I bonded over. I was by this time becoming a completist when it came to Meat Loaf products, and so I actually got the album on the day it was released (Meat Loaf is one of 5 artists/groups of whom I have all their official recorded output), and the next day the first single was released, and I went and bought that as well. Yes, I am sad, no arguments here.
While the original Bat Out Of Hell was certainly a classic album, I actually personally prefer this one. There may not be the songs that have a connection to me, and I may not have sung it with a mate while we were wallowing in self-pity, but the album itself I like more.
Now, whereas the first album was almost a celebration of teenagers in love and going through teenaged angst, this album feels a little more mature in its outlook, with lyrics about looking back at the past and finding hope in the future. Sure, the lyrics are often a little ludicrous and wild, but there is a different feel about the album and its attitude. At least, that's the way I see it.
[No sides this time; I have it on CD.]
The album opens with the first single, the 12 minute epic 'I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)'. It is sung with Lorraine Crosby, and the single version is considerably shorter. The video version is over 7 minutes long. Oh, the video an all-out modern telling of the Beauty And The Beast fairy-tale, with everything as over the top as the song itself. The song is a glorious piece of almost rock opera. The counter-point between the two voices is perfect, and the music is fantastic. Now, it is a common thing for people to ask, "What is the 'that' that he won't do?" It's in the lyrics! Sure, you have to listen, but it's there. The way the song goes from slow to fast, to a choral effect, to a piano-led crescendo, it's just so wonderful. And one of the best opening tracks of any album.
Next up is 'Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back', which is rather bleak lyrically, but which, at the time, I seem to remember Meat Loaf saying was almost a funny song. From that drum-based opening with the cry of "I want my money back!" to the full rock orchestra ending, it is 8 minutes of pounding rhythm.
The next track is one I have a few problems with. I like it, don't get me wrong, but the original is so perfect to me that for a long time I almost resented the fact Meat Loaf remade it. But now I am older, I can appreciate it as a fine version (with an extra verse) of its own. The song is my favourite song ever, 'Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through'. But, again, it has an amazing video clip, and it features a young Angelina Jolie, featuring the same storyline as Billy Joel's 'Second Wind (You're Only Human' okay, It's A Wonderful Life. And I have argued with a few people over which version of the song is the best, so it obviously resonates with people out there. A cool 6 minutes here.
Still from the video.
Another cover next. Originally by Pandora's Box, 'It Just Won't Quit' is a 7 and a half minute exercise in power ballad excess. I prefer the original, but Meat Loaf's version is still pretty good, maybe just a little bit too long.
Another cover! Originally appearing on his solo album, Jim Steinman's 'Out Of The Frying Pan (And Into The Fire) is up next and, in this case, the cover is better than the original, in my opinion. Meat Loaf's more powerful voice gives it a force the original lacked a little. The addition of the chorus behind him gives it a depth of sound that just makes its 7 and a half minutes (again) feel like they fly by.
The song up next was my ex's favourite on the album, with lyrics that are surprisingly poignant. 'Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are'is about how much influence the past has on a person's life, but, as the title indicates, the past might feel a lot closer than it actually is. It is a rather depressing song, really. And, at a little over 10 minutes, it is probably a little long. Still, cool song, and a fantastic power ballad. This is a song I am surprised hasn't been covered by someone else yet.
The next track is not just a cover, but a complete transplant. It is a two and a half minute spoken-word piece, with Jim Steinman providing the voice. On the Jim Steinman solo album, it was called 'Love And Death And An American Guitar; here it is exactly the same track, just retitled 'Wasted Youth'. I have always liked it, and can still recite the whole thing, word for word, but it is essentially a bit of ego, some beat poetry/prose poetry that I think many non-fans would just disregard.
Now we have my favourite track on the CD: 'Everything Louder Than Everything Else, 8 minutes of over the top gloriousness. It has amongst my very favourite song lyrics ever: "If you want my views of history then there's something you should know/The three men I admire most are Curly, Larry, Moe " I love that! This is not a song to be taken seriously, but a song to be played loud and screamed along to. I love having this song playing while I'm doing a cardio workout, still, to this day.
Yet another cover-up next, a straight forward 7 minute cover of Pandora's Box's 'Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere). As good as the original (I should probably point out, I own the Pandora's Box album as well. This is a decent little rock song, but when it is sung by a male, the meaning changes ever so subtly, even if the lyrics remained the same. It is a strange dynamic.
An almost 3 minute instrumental track is next 'Back Into Hell'. Now, look, this is a fine track, but it stands out here. It does not feel quite like it fits. But considering Steinman's own album featured a rock-classical instrumental as well, it must have been something he enjoyed.
And to close, we have yet another cover of a song from Steinman's album 'Lost Boys And Golden Girls'. Again, Meat Loaf's more powerful voice gives this an added sense of drama and emotion that was lacking in the (still fine) original. It is another ballad, and a tender way to finish the album, once more looking back at what has been lost.
This is a great album. I enjoy it, and to this day, 23 years later, I still listen to it too often and still love it. It often gets put down as being too much, but I don't care. I will encourage anyone to give this a go, and not be tapping their foot at the end of it.