Bat Out Of Hell
Cleveland / Epic Records, 1977
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/11/2006
I’ve been sitting here for about a year and a half with this album, trying to decide when to review it. If this were any old crappy album then there would be no problem. However, Bat Out Of Hell is one of those records I cannot stop gushing about; it’s in my top five of all time and is so mind-blowingly brilliant that words really can’t express how I feel about it. But hell, time to give it the ol’ college try.
First off, trying to categorize Bat Out Of Hell is rather difficult. It’s rock, that much is for sure, but the material is massively epic in scale and over the top in a way only a few artists could reach (Queen comes to mind). The vocals, the arrangements, the instruments -- everything is loud and overblown in the best way possible.
God knows that only certain bands should be allowed to create songs over five minutes. Most of the time, a really long song loses my interest. Bat Out Of Hell refuses to let that happen. Producer Todd Rundgren and writer Jim Steinman really meshed Meat Loaf’s theatrical/opera qualities with pop/rock tendencies. This means that a 10-minute song like the title track switches tempo and moods to keep the listener interested. More importantly, those changes are not simply to vary the song; they are catchy in their own right, containing their own unique riffs and hooks.
One other word people tend to throw around when discussing Bat Out Of Hell is campy, and I won't argue that point. The-45 second intro to “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” is as hilariously campy as it gets. What makes it work is the utter seriousness with which Meat Loaf and co. work. Usually, it is the other way around, with the material being performed tongue-in-cheek.
Enough praise cannot be heaped upon Meat Loaf for his work here. 99.5% of all the vocalists to come out of rock in the past century could not have come close to his performance here. The prestigious Mr. Loaf (man, is that fun to say) can go from balls-to-the-walls rocker mode (“All Revved Up With No Place To Go”) to delicate, haunting vocals (“Heaven Can Wait”).
This range is demonstrated no better than on the track to end all tracks, “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” Granted, I only came into to this world in 1985, so I haven't been privy to radio's lovefest with this track, but $20 says you could find it playing somewhere at least once a day. However, it is completely warranted. One of the all time great “mini-operas,” “Paradise” compacts a teenage relationship into eight and a half glorious minutes through the guise of good old fashioned 50s rock and roll. It’s one climax (no pun intended) after another, with the only break the 7th inning stretch delivered by Yankee broadcaster great Phil Rizzuto. Things between the two protagonists start off pretty even, but by the frantic final minutes it’s a complete orgasm of sound. The interplay between Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley is quite simply musical bliss; it doesn’t get any better than this.
On an album of only 8 tracks, you’d think there wouldn’t be any sleepers, but there are. “All Revved Up With No Place To Go” is probably the most straightforward number on the disc, but between the killer sax solo and monstrous beat that “Mighty Max” Weinberg lays down, I dare anyone not to get caught up in the moment. “For Crying Out Loud” would seem to kill the momentum set by “Paradise,” but after thinking about it for a bit it makes sense. Such unobstructed sentimentality is truly touching and deserves its place.
Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose is scheduled to be released on Halloween, and after giving the title track a spin here my anticipation is high. The roots behind that excitement lie here, in one of the best albums ever, an album made stronger because the trends that should have predicted a failure were dead wrong. 30 years and 14 million copies later, Meat Loaf has the last laugh.