The Other


The Magic Touch

Meat Loaf, The Very Best Of Meat Loaf- Bob Gajarsky
REVIEW: Meat Loaf, The Very Best Of Meat Loaf (Epic)

By Bob Gajarsky
From Consumable Online

The magical touch of Jim Steinman has been spread amongst a diverse group of stars. Adult contemporary artists such as Air Supply and Barbara Streisand, pop stars including Bonnie Tyler and Celine Dion, and even the gothic Sisters Jim On Fireof Mercy are a few performers who have been united with the hitmaking prowess of Steinman. But mention Steinman's name to a group of rock and roll fans, and there is only one person who is associated with Jim Steinman.

Marvin Lee Aday was born in 1951 in Dallas, Texas. Initial musical success was fleeting; a 1971 duet with Stoney under his stage name, Meat Loaf, provided only one minor hit, "What You See Is What You Get". And prior to the Rocky Horror Picture Show (in which he had a minor part as Eddie, singing "Whatever Happened To Saturday Night" before being quite literally served up to guests) became a cult hit, the only real musical exposure for Meat would be his lead vocals on Ted Nugent's 1976 Free For All.

The subsequent pairing between Steinman and Meat Loaf was a match made in heaven. Meat's bombastic, over-the-top vocals were the perfect complement for Steinman's opera-esque rock epics. The talented backing band (members of the E Street band lent their talents to the project) became perfectionists in Steinman's image, and countless takes were done...and redone...until everything was just right.

And, there was *that* song. "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" has, for all intents, replaced "Stairway to Heaven" as the #1 rock song of all time. It has become a rite of passage for college students (and high schoolers who want to seem cooler than their age) to know all the words, pair off (with boys on one side of the room/circle, and girls on the other), and alternate the male/female vocals which Meat and Ellen Foley sang.

The irony, of course, is that the song was initially deemed too long to be a single, and the Phil Rizzuto baseball play-by-play, synchronized with the sexual imagery conjured up by the Meat/Foley exchange, became one of the best known songs to hit the airwaves. And Bat Out Of Hell, which has gone on to be one of the best-selling debut albums in history, was rejected by almost every label.

Depending on who you believe, Meat's vocals were shot from overwork, or booze, and the second album ( Dead Ringer ) crashed and burned from the charts, despite Steinman's best single - a blue dressed devil duet with Cher on the title track. Most of Steinman's better tracks from this era were used on his own Bad For Good in 1981, but as Jim's vocals didn't have the power present in Loaf's, it also was a second-rate seller.

Steinman has a history of recycling his own songs. The Dion hit "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" previously appeared on the (import only) disc from the all-female Pandora's Box disc, Original Sin; Streisand's "Left In The Dark" and the Meat Loaf songs "Out Of The Frying Pan" and "Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through" first showed up on Bad For Good and Meat Loaf's "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad" was redone - with Steinman's supervision - by Bonnie Tyler.

The 1980s weren't kind to Meat Loaf. Subsequent efforts (with new writing partners, and lawsuits with Steinman and record labels) barely made any kind of dent in the charts, and Meat Loaf vanished from sight. That is, until 1993s Bat Out Of Hell 2, a reuniting with Steinman, catapulted Meat back into the spotlight.

Featuring his first #1 single, "I'd Do Anything For Love", a new generation of fans would get the opportunity to see the portly Texan do his thing live. And that, in turn, inspired people to purchase the first Bat Out Of Hell more than fifteen years after its initial release.

The Very Best of Meat Loaf crosses over his multiple labels (Cleveland International/Epic, Arista and MCA) to offer a nearly complete anthology of the Meat Legend. This two disc set's highlights are the songs from both Bat albums, but also the new tracks.

There are three new songs from Steinman, two co-written with Andrew Lloyd Webber. "Home By Now / No Matter What" is grandiose in its structure, but has its roots in a traditional Broadway or London musical, rather than the rock format. "Is Nothing Sacred" winds up going nowhere, but the second Steinman- Webber composition, "A Kiss Is A Terrible Thing To Waste", brings together all of the elements fans love (or hate) about the full-fledged productions behind Steinman and Meat Loaf in yet another seven-and-a-half minute epic.

In collecting these tracks, there is one pleasant surprise - the inclusion of full length songs. It is obvious that "Paradise" wouldn't appear here in an edited format, but it's a pleasant surprise that songs which perfectly fit their original FM-radio format - such as "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth", "Bat Out Of Hell" and the eleven minute "I'd Do Anything For Love" - appear completely unedited, in their original album format. A searing, more in-your-face remix of "Life Is A Lemon" remains the only tinkering from an original version - and at a length of 8 minutes, there's no editing here for commercial airply.

While this compilation is an excellent opportunity to get all of Meat Loaf's best tracks on two discs, it also highlights the marked difference in quality between songs which Steinman wrote and/or produced, and those in which he wasn't present. May the Steinman / Meat Loaf collaborations continue for years to come.