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Meat Loaf, the rock legend who along with songwriter/producer Jim Steinman broke sales records with the classic multi-platinum albums Bat Out of Hell and Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, announces their reunion on the new album Braver Than We Are featuring 10 new Steinman songs performed as only Meat Loaf can! The project also showcases another reunion with vocalists Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito ( vocalists from the smash hit Paradise by the Dashboard Light ) on the epic song and first single Going All The Way .
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For those of you who sifted through grainy recordings of old concerts just to see Jim banging out "Great Boleros of Fire"...
For those of you who scoured the Internet to find footage of Ted Neeley opening with "Skull of Your Country" ...
For those of you who hunted down obscure recordings like the "Neverland" workshop to hear the songs before they were recorded for "Bat"...
...this album is for you. (And if this is you, you most definitely already own it and are just reading this review for fun.)
If this is not you, it might not be too easy for you to "get" it. This isn't really music. This is theater. STEINMAN theater. The opening track ("Who Needs the Young") really sums it all up and tells you what you're in for:
1. Meat is an old man but he is going to own it.
2. You're in for a wild, funny, passionate and macabre tour through Steinman's creations, old and new.
3. Our reunited duo is not going to hold back or allow themselves to be censored.
Overall, I like that Meat Loaf's voice wasn't really messed with in the production. It doesn't sound over-engineered and it's not auto-tuned. He sounds like an old man, because he is an old man. On a lot of tracks, especially "More," his old voice fits perfectly. If you've seen him in concert in the past few years, you know what to expect: low, gravelly, sometimes out-of-tune but still fevered and passionate. Meat Loaf has a way to make it sound as if he is singing every song -- every word -- to you and only you.
It is a absolute treat to hear classic Steinman, like "Skull of Your Country" and "Godz" recorded fresh and new. I found myself missing "The Formation of the Pack" ("Let the revels begin...") and wish they had included it.
"Train of Love" is fun, great beat but nothing too special. It sounds like a standard Meat Loaf song. I imagine this could be a song that most people would be able to tolerate off the album.
"Going All the Way is Just the Start" is the best one of the album and more fun that the English demo with Elaine Caswell/Marcus Lovett. Hearing Ellen and Karla reunited with Meat Loaf just feels so good and so right. The six movements actually feel rushed; I would have preferred some of the instrumental breaks to play out for another measure or two. A friend -- who is not a Steinman or Meat Loaf fan but knows music and voice very well -- gave this track a listen and liked it a lot, even commenting that he couldn't believe how quickly the time passed. He agreed that Ellen and Karla were shining stars.
He also agreed that the album made no sense without any context. When I explained the history of each track as it related to Steinman's career, he found an appreciation for it. Unfortunately, the album does not come with liner notes explaining all of that. Which is why I say, this is a gift for Steinman fans. I am surprised that it happened. I am shocked that they actually produced it. But I am so overjoyed that it's a reality.
Thank you, Jim and Meat!
Unfortunately, Marvin's voice isn't what it once was. It's had it's up and downs over the years, but time is taking it's toll. NOT to say that he sounds bad on this recording, he's just not in his 20s anymore. And the way he's used and abused his voice over the years, he's got a bit of a different sound.
Good effort, worth having, but we'll never have another "Bat Out Of Hell'.
Nicholas, 26 years old, Ohio.
1.) These backup vocals! Cabernet intro is fantastic, I enjoy the harsh/ sinister piano. This song is Steinman songwriting at its darkest, yet funniest. The artists are 100% comfortable with the sense of humor in the song. Meat is embodying his character with zeal. That outro... "La la laaaaa, la la la laaaaa.” Steinman and Meat at their guilty pleasure best.
-Rock and roll! 9/10
2.) Instantly more epic than the radio edit, the into and opening solo rock. The chorus is a monster from h***. The song is a triplet, the two ladies have their own sections. The transitions between movements can be jarring, hopefully I'll be more comfortable with additional listens. Becomes patchy with long sections without Meat. The piano work in the breakdown/ bridge section, which keep in mind is a large part of the song, is fantastic. The extended ending section is a chant to the gods. “How far is too far baby? Come on and take me, take me!” This line gets to me and is one of the emotional moments on the album. Everything from 6 min on is golden. “…all the golden boys and girls..." line used here. The backup vocals and Meat's emotion really sell it. If you don’t feel this way about your station in life, the people you're around, or the lover you're with, do something about it. “We’re crusaders of the heart!”
-The song is ambitious. 8/10
3.) A nice comedown after “Going All the Way.” Backup vocals and piano are doing the heavy lifting again, and I’m ok with that. Actually like the line “You’ve got the spark, I got wood.” Enjoy the emotional content of the lyric. Meat isn’t as capable of belting this out like he would have done years ago, but he can drench the lines with sentiment better than ever.
-The fire of love. 7/10
4.) Unique instrumentation for a Meat song. Begins with a musical buildup that’s positive in an 80’s soundtrack sort of way. “You’ve been drinking poisoned water from the fountain of youth.” A more mature take on a relationship than other Steinman songs can be. The duet gives the woman's perspective and analyzes the antagonist of the song as well. Meat’s voice is solid on this track.
-If you’ve been married awhile this one’s for you. 7/10
5.) The SAX is back! The “You’ve been cold to me so long I’m crying icicles instead of tears.” line from “Two Out of Three”…. and is that JIM harmonizing with Meat on this line!?! Eventually gets to a section that is exactly like “Left in the Dark” from “Bad for Good” and “Welcome to the Neighborhood.” This song may have been written before those versions. “If you’re tired of playing with yourself you can always take my toys.” The SAX solo.
-Best song on the album. 10/10
6.) Stark piano ballad. Short and sweet, with a cool end that transitions into the next song that is much harder. Young Meat would have elevated this humble song into something special.
-A modest into track. 6/10
7.) Switching musical influences into a harder, sort of goth punk style. Reminds me a bit of “The Monster is Loose” from Batt III. A few production moments I don’t enjoy, nothing particularly endearing about this. Backup vocals save the composition. This albums “Life is a Lemon” without the sense of humor.
-Not my style, but other Meat fans may enjoy this more than I do. 5/10
8.) Godz is insane in a glorious way! You wanted Steinman, you got him unfiltered on this track. “This country…” Meat sells the h*** out of this like nobody else could. Preach it to us brotha! Raging at the gods that were being prayed to in “Going all the Way.” Nice touch with the track listing, especially after “More.” The two thematically work together. Nice transition into track 9.
-Meat Loaf serving up an apocalyptic sermon. 7/10
9.) Piano intro guitar solo into rising vocals, strong start. “Turn around” line from “Total Eclipse” is a nice touch. Draws you into the guitar solo. Cian Coey can belt. Would have preferred an ending with Meat, but I can see what they were going for.
-A dark premonition. 6/10
10.) Video game intro from the 80’s. Is that JIM singing again!? Becomes something of a gospel church song which works well. Doesn’t have the gravitas of a typical ending song on a Meat album. Some neat guitar riffs toward the end. Cool country guitar outdo. Enjoyable, but disappointing for the conclusion to Meat’s studio album discography. You’ve got me Meat, what are you going to do with me? Need a more emotional end encapsulating the millions of fans journey with him over the years.
-If a gospel choir enjoyed playing Streets of Rage. 6/10
The album needs a more grandiose emotional wrap up. This isn’t another album, it’s Meat’s grand finale. Oddly enough, the album has one in “Souvenirs” with thematically appropriate lines like “Now it’s finally over… pack your bags… why not disappear?” It also has JIM harmonizing with Meat.
I would have enjoyed a Jim spoken word poem like in Bat I, II, and Dead Ringer.
The songwriter demo “Prize Fight Lover” is solid. Sort of a Meat Loaf Springsteen song. I know Jim didn’t write it, but it would slide into the place of “More” nicely.
The album is ambitious as h***, and I can tell Meat is giving everything he has left to make this work. Adored Jim’s songwriting as usual, although it would have been nice to get a brand new song from him instead of using only backlog material. When will they get a chance to work together like this again? Probably never.
Key tracks: “Souvenirs,” “Who Needs the Young,” and “Going All the Way.”
Notes on the Vinyl Release: The cover art is glorious at this size. Double LP gatefold with lyrics inside. Standard white paper inserts. Nothing flashy but a thick, solid pressing. I'm getting a slight popping noise during Track 9.
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