Meat Loaf: Braver Than We Are (429 Records)
Those of you that have been following this blog for a while probably read my dismay and sadness about the last Meat Loaf album Hell In A Handbasket, as a lifelong Meat fan it seemed to me to be a bit depressing and lackluster. I bemoaned that it might be the final record and suggested that the only true way to finish the career on a high would be to reunite with Jim Steinman. Well obviously he listened to me as shortly after the album's release he announced just that a new album with every song written by Steinman. There were a few setbacks along the way as both men succumbed to the perils of age but have come out fighting after it and nearly 40 years after Bat Out Of Hell stormed into the public consciousness the two men were back once again.
Yes there has been disagreements and fights and legal issues but never have two artists been made for each other Steinman writes huge songs that need a certain type of singer and Meat Loaf is that kind of singer. The album kicks off with Who Needs The Young a Vaudeville styled first song where the character that this album revolves rallies against the faults of youth. It's the movie Cabaret with more New Orleans jazz and a tongue in cheek delivery as Meat grumbles in his lower tone backed by the swaying horns. It's a slightly odd opening track I will admit but works as a welcome back to the rock n roll theatre of Jim Steinman's writing.
The first full force Steinman track is Going All The Way Is Just The Start (A Song In 6 Movements) which is an over top uber-piece that features the trademark piano runs heard on I Would Do Anything For Love, starting slow it's evident that Meat doesn't possess the range or power he once had but much of his appeal to me is the way he delivers the lyrics and that remains it's overwrought and emotional so happily when bolstered by the female vocalists it sounds like the Bat years.
The Neverland Express led by guitarist Paul Crook power through an 11 minute plus epic as the second song. The vocal partners here will be familiar to Meat Loaf lovers and I will admit I did get a little too excited when I heard the song featured Meat's old school vocal partners Karla DeVito and Ellen Foley. Ellen sang Paradise By The Dashboard Light the spiritual predecessor to this song, on the record and Karla part of the original touring band doing the part live. It's familiar and impressive Meat and Jim at their finest.
Two songs into the album and already I've forgotten all about Hell In A Handbasket, both the men who are so suited to each other's sound back together in harmony, Speaking Tongues is slower soulful ballad featuring Stacy Michelle and just needs an acoustic guitar, a piano and a choir to make it's mark. Loving You's A Dirty Job continues the tradition of duets as a couple (Meat and Stacy Michelle) reminisce on their relationship and come to the conclusion given by the tracks title, oddly with modern backing (synths and programming) Meat's fractured age-hued vocals are in juxtaposition well.
The Neverland Express are all on top form the working Steinman's songs into the arrangements you hear here, musically spreading their wings a little with the sax-filled blues of Souvenirs which has nods to the past with the line "You've been cold to me so long, I'm crying icicles instead of tears" and actually has a lot in common musically with The Boss. Shaking things up again with buzzing loops and synths on the heavy More which takes it's cues from Bat III, Godz is one of the few weak parts but it segues into Skull Of Your Country which is chest beating rock ballad complete with the "Turn around bright eyes" refrain and packed with guitar solos.
Paul Crook's production is a lacks a little of the bombast but still it's the sheer musical force of the record that's at it's core as the album ends with the 80's tastic Train Of Love (slide guitar solo by Rickey Medlocke). It's a stupendous return to form for Meat, his best most concise record for a long time with only really one lull the rest of it displays the synchronicity between writer and performer. If this is the last dance then it's a filthy, flirty, fist throwing, defiant blast of opulence that Jim and Meat built their legacies with. 8/10
(If you can seek out the Tesco/Target deluxe edition which features a cover of Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth with Stephen Stills, the excellent Prize Fight Lover and an orchestral version of IWDAFL with Imelda May)