Meat Loaf Bat Out Of Hell Reissue
Jimmy Metal, KNAC.COM Pure Rock Patroller
Three of my first musical memories included the Donny & Marie TV show, the ’78 Kiss dolls TV jingle, and seeing the cover of Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell album while over a neighbor’s house. Well, the classic Meatloaf song “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” fits perfectly here of which two (out of three) memories that should be looked upon fondly (and I will let you figure out which two). Bat Out Of Hell is back complete with a re-master job and bonus tracks and like any great record this is surely a must pickup for any type of music fan. BOOH is one of those rare breed type of albums that is among the best sellers the world over by simply containing a certain charm that crosses music “barriers.” Like Back In Black (AC/DC), Purple Rain (Prince), Led Zep IV, Eliminator (ZZ Top), etc. it wouldn’t be uncommon to find BOOH in say a country or jazz lovers music collection. And like the great albums I just mentioned EVERY song on BOOH is a ten across the board. And as a side note, part of BOOH was recorded about a stone’s throw from where I grew up but that’s another story.
Meatloaf (a.k.a. Marvin Lee Aday) was probably the most unlikely person who would find a huge place in rock history, but that is the sheer beauty of rock & roll as just about anything can happen. This is kind of similar to Brian Johnson working in his father’s garage in 1980 before getting the call of his life via AC/DC. Meatloaf led kind of a Forest Gump type of life before becoming one of the greatest stories in the music biz. As legend has it, Meatloaf was in the Parkland Hospital in Dallas, TX when JFK was pronounced dead and he once provided a ride for a hitchhiker by the name of Charles Manson. Even getting his first role on Broadway came by being in the right place at the right time and this eventually led to his meeting with musician/songwriter, Jim Steinman. Meatloaf even landed a small role in the mega “cult” classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hell, Meatloaf (still relatively unknown) even provided some lead vocals on Ted Nugent’s 1976 classic Free For All album, but it would be Bat Out Of Hell where he and collaborator Jim Steinman would make history.
The partnership of Meatloaf and Steinman (who wrote all the songs on BOOH) was PERFECT and is on the same level as Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, Simmons/Stanley, Tyler/Perry, etc. In fact, the whole team (producer Todd Rundgren, backup singers, musicians) really made BOOH soar to unimaginable heights. After overcoming insurmountable odds to get a record deal, BOOH was released in the last quarter of ’77 via Cleveland International/Epic and within a year Meatloaf was (no pun) just about the biggest thing to hit the ‘70s. By 1978, Meatloaf was bigger than KISS, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, etc., as those bands never had a record as huge as BOOH. The only band that really may have had Meatloaf “beat” were the Bee Gees but, again, that's another story. Meatloaf’s timing couldn’t be better for an era that spawned KISS and Studio 54 and both were huge!!! And yes, like many acts in the '70s, Meatloaf provided some interesting “theatrics." Where else would you find a 300-plus pound man dressed in tuxedo suit singing lengthy, bombastic, lustful anthems and tear jerking ballads in a crazed fashion??? Meatloaf kind of reminded me of Ozzy Osbourne in how he could feed off an audience to provide a supercharged show.
As far as the songs off BOOH per say go, who isn’t familiar with the roaring title track, the tender ballad “Two Out Three Ain’t Bad,” which broke the album courtesy of a Saturday Night Live clip, the monster radio smash sex anthem “Paradise By The Dashboard Light,” etc.??? The title track opens the album and it is probably one of the most memorable openings in rock history. Drum cymbals crash, guitars wail, piano keys run in a frenzied fashion and then everything pulls back and allows that voice to take over!!! It would be hard to find a voice that has impacted an album the way Meatloaf did on BOOH. His voice is so huge, moving, powerful and confident, with his southern tone firmly rooted in tow.
But again it was the team that really made Bat fly, as key members included producer Todd Rundgren and backup singer Ellen Foley. Rundgren’s production was simply fantastic, as the album still sounds so fresh and bouncy and that is saying a lot as there wasn’t a big budget for BOOH. Rundgren also provided guitars, percussion, backing vocals, and brought in Bruce Springsteen drummer Max Weinberg to play on a few tracks. Just listen to how the team makes “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” sound, as it provides a “gang” vocal style surrounding Meatloaf. And take close notice to the bouncy piano keys (courtesy of Steinman and Roy Bittan) between verses (mainly after verse one) on “Paradise,” as it adds tremendously to its upbeat vibe.
If there was an “unsung” hero on BOOH, it was singer Ellen Foley. Obviously, she was overshadowed by Meatloaf, but by 1977 you can count on one hand of how many females played a pivotal role on a major rock and roll album like Foley did. She was confident, sexy, and simply had a killer voice. Her co-lead vocals on “Paradise” will always be her calling card, but her presence is also strongly heard upon tracks “All Revved Up With No Place To Go” (Foley is on the bridge singing “You know what its like”) and the previously mentioned “You Took The Words.” It should be noted that Foley put out a few solo albums after the Bat album and tour success with little fanfare.
The songs on “Bat” are so memorable because Steinman wrote them in a fashion that everyone could easily (and who hasn’t?) relate to them, as they insinuate passion and dirty teenage lust to the max. DJs across the country have this one in their collection and it's mandatory for karaoke gatherings, wedding receptions, and other social events to feature Bat Out Of Hell. You just don’t get tired of hearing these songs played over and over. The ballads are so genuine that you could “borrow” lyrics for love letters to your girlfriend.
This re-mastered edition contains two bonus tracks and since they are no demos available, obviously they are live tracks. The bonus tracks are taken from Meatloaf’s 9/1/78 Nassau Coliseum (Long Island, NY) concert and they include the show instrumental opener “Bolero” and right into the title track. It’s always nice to have extra goodies on a re-issue, but these two tracks really don’t add anything of great value. Meatloaf’s vocals may be doctored on this live cut, as his voice sounds post BOOH era (i.e. when his voice was shot). The packaging is a little misleading courtesy of the sticker on the jewel case because it advertises (or hypes) more than there really is (lyrics, bonus photos, extra tracks, etc). The lyrics were in the previous issue and the “unseen” photos aren’t that big of a deal; one in the jewel case, two in the booklet, and a different picture on back of jewel case. By the way, the classic back cover photo (now on back of CD booklet only) is still one of the coolest pics in rock history. Meatloaf (decked out in tuxedo and sunglasses) and Steinman sandwiched with a hidden chick, and Meatloaf’s left hand (wearing his wedding ring while grasping his red scarf) is placed nicely on her ass. That is what rock and roll is all about and how can anyone ever forget that photo?!?!
There is also a small issue of what number this re-mastered version is for BOOH because over the last couple of years there was a re-mastered gold disc version (I’ll let that slide). Then the standard version carried a re-master label over the last couple of years. Though that one did sound juiced, this “official” re-master, make no mistake about it so stick to this new version with the bonus tracks. Most importantly though, these marketing flaws take nothing away from the music itself. Also mandatory for fans of Meatloaf and this record is the ’91 Meatloaf video/ DVD compilation Hits From Hell. The highlights are the promo clips from BOOH, as it’s always cool to see videos pre-MTV era.
Almost a quarter of a century has passed and Bat Out Of Hell is still a steady seller and will continue to hold its rightful place among the top albums in rock history. Sure Meatloaf has had his ups and downs, including getting back to the top (with much needed Steinman reunion) 16 years later with his 1993 #1 smash album Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell. But again, that’s another story and it really is Bat Out Of Hell for which he will always be remembered for. In conclusion, Meatloaf has to be the only 300-pound man who was able to make girls across the globe went their panties with his voice alone courtesy of Bat Out Of Hell.