Dead Ringer

Meat Loaf

Epic, 1981

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/28/2017

The story of Bat Out Of Hell and singer Meat Loaf's rise to fame has been well documented, even here on these pages. With the fame, however, came a price to be paid – Loaf pushed himself so hard (and indulged in the odd substance here and there) to the point that his voice simply gave out. A follow-up album, Bad For Good, was instead recorded by songwriting partner Jim Steinman and released.

Turn the clock ahead to 1981. Loaf's voice had recovered (mostly – more on that in a minute), and Steinman had written a new album to take the place of Bad For Good. The end result was Dead Ringer, and it's an indication that, somewhere in the span of the four-year whirlwind, both Loaf and Steinman seem to have lost the plot. It's not a terrible album – and, let's face it, anything released as a follow-up to Bat Out Of Hell was going to have a difficult time living up to its predecessor – but it's got more clunkers than solid efforts.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

One fact is fairly obvious early on: Loaf's voice had not recovered 100 percent yet. At times, he is noticeably straining to stay on key with the songs, as evidenced at times on “I'm Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us” and “More Than You Deserve.” Granted, four years between albums, especially following up one that had mammoth success, was a long time (though to some bands these days, four years is about the equivalent of a week, and this was in a time when bands were cranking out an album a year). But one has to wonder what the end result would have been had Loaf put more effort into rebuilding his voice.

Still, if the songwriting isn't solid, vocals don't mean much, and, sadly, some of these are not Steinman's best efforts. “I'll Kill You If You Don't Come Back” is a great title, but fails to live up to the swagger it sets up for itself, leaving it the worst song on the disc. Likewise, “Peel Out,” “Everything Is Permitted,” and “More Than You Deserve” all have the feeling like we've been through these musical scenarios before, and they feel more like retreads of Bat Out Of Hell material than fresh new ideas. And the less said about Steinman's spoken-word intro “Nocturnal Pleasure,” the better.

This isn't to say that Dead Ringer is a complete failure; indeed, there are moments in the second half of the album where it seems like Loaf and Steinman are firing on all cylinders again. “Read 'Em And Weep” is a surprisingly good track, while Loaf's duet with Cher, “Dead Ringer For Love,” is simply an amazing track that should be up there with some of Loaf's best work.

Had Bat Out Of Hell not been released, chances are Dead Ringer might have been seen as a stronger album, but the reality is that neither Loaf nor Steinman seems ready to break out of the mold they had set on their previous album. The old saying goes, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” The problem with Dead Ringer is that it suggests their previous success might have been the right album at the right time, and trying to repeat its success only ends in a fairly uninspired album with moments of brilliance.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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