Picks and Pans Review: Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell

Meat Loaf

If blockbuster movies can have sequels, why not blockbuster albums? Meat Loaf's 1977 Bat Out Of Hell has sold 25 million copies and remains an FM staple, while his five subsequent records have failed to reach such stellar heights. So the titanic singer has been working since 1989 (with songwriter-producer Jim Steinman, whose glorious excess has always suited Loaf's larger-than-life lungs) on mining a second slab from the same mountain of Velveeta. Bat Out Of Hell: Back Into Hell is so grandiose it makes the Wagnenan original seem subtle, but it equals Bat I as a guilty car-radio pleasure.

This second at-Bat is a similarly operatic remembrance of teenage life, the way it was dramatized in Phil Spector and Shangri-Las' singles. But while Bat l was nostalgic for misspent youth, Bat II sings of the flip side: that adulthood has turned out to be scary and disillusioning, as summed up in the title "Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back. In the album's haunting centerpiece, "Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are," Meat Loaf, who is now 46, sings chillingly of how the ghosts of youth pursue you but remain just out of reach when you look over your shoulder.