Heavy Metal With A Heart
By Sandy Robertson
"Bat Out Of Hell"
Epic PE 34974 import
**** out of 4
Garage bands, despite all their virtues, and even though groups like Yes and Uriah Heep are pretty convincing arguments against technology and heavy metal respectively, occasionally the accumulated knowledge of hardware and musical heritage can still combine to produce some pretty interesting plastic. I mean, Hollywood does make the best movies (sometimes), if you get my drift. And so it is with this album.
The cover is an Ace Frazetta-esque painting by Richard Corben of some Conan The Barbarian type on a jet propelled motorcycle/horse-thing, blasting his way up from the underworld through an EC comix styled graveyard while an enormous bat keeps the title concept all in line; all this against a blood-red cloudy sky. The reverse has the heavy (250lb.) singer and the songwriter (Jim Steinman) molesting this evening-dressed cutie, and...oh yeah, there's a record too, almost forgot. Understandable though, as this is a sleeve that'd do Blue Oyster Cult proud.
There are only seven cuts, and the whole thing is produced by Todd Rundgren. Don't stop reading yet, because the boy wonder has once again pulled himself out of his Utopian bilgetrance to do something clever (as he did on his last pop foray 'Faithful'). Why, some of them pomp-rocking Utopians even play on this record too! Todd on guitars is still a marvel when he chooses. Makes you wish he'd choose more often.
The title-track is the opener, heavy metal thunder with Bruce Springsteen overtones (it's L-O-U-D, but this fellow sang with Ted Nugent...), a lyrical, white-noise tale of screaming sirens, silver black phantom bikes, the Ultimate Girl and her purity (always an important symbol), ending in the final death crash when his heart tears out of his chest and flies away (awwwww...I bet Richard Meltzer'll love this album).
Next cut is the Spectorish 'You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)', which is the single in the US and sounds like it. Summer Night)', which is the single in the US and sounds like it. Preceeded by a boy/girl rap about wolves and red roses and throats (funny/serious). Blood and sex
are closely linked as evidence, see all vampire lore and the films of David Cronenberg. A hit, maybe.
Those two would be hard to follow so M.L. doesn't try. He slips in a fetching string/ballad piece called 'Heaven Can Wait'. The words evoke some kind of earthly optimism, which can't be bad although the tune is a bit off-the-wall.
'All Revved Up With No Place To Go' is better. Edgar Winter on sax and a fantasy about all-American boys 'n' girls and the loss of virginity with sagine, results, of course:
'You and me 'round about midnight
Someone's got to draw first
Someone's got to draw first blood'
Now that is dirty, huh?
Side two opens with 'Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad'. Clever lyrics (kudos to Jim Steinman for his fine understanding of the metaphysics of rock'n'roll literary technique throughout), good song.
The tour de force of Meat Loaf's reportedly amazing stage-show is 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light', with vocal interplay between Meat Loaf and 'Girl', as played by Ellen Foley. Seems they're barely seventeen and barely dressed (it says on this lyric sheet) and he wants to go all the way (how teenage!) and she won't unless he professes his love for her, so he says yes but he's lying, as he soon finds out (post-coital depression). Also includes a baseball-as-sex commentary by Phil (Scooter) Rizzuto, voice of the New York Yankees...
After that, the closer, the over eight minute 'For Crying Out Loud' comes as a slight anticlimax (no pun intended). Never mind, this is pretty impressive for a debut album. Heavy metal with heart, humor, technique, intelligent lyrics, plus Todd Rundgren on a rock album again. What more do you want?
To see Meat Loaf live that's what.