Jim In A Box
By Neil Jeffries
Album Review: Pandora's Box 'Original Sin' V2605
'Ah, come on, come on. Let me tell you all about it. We got all the time in the world...I've been dreaming up a storm lately...' (from 'I've Been Dreaming Up A Storm Lately')
I remember dreaming how I was hurtling down this impossibly steep, snow-glazed mountain - only I've lost both poles and one ski, and this is my first run down a slope anyhow. Through my terror, I see a figure ahead standing close to the edge of the cliff that is tearing up to meet me. In his outstretched hand he holds a crystal glass of green liquid and I know instantly that to taste one drop will save me from the killer drop that await me. As my downhill speed approaches terminal velocity we come side-by-side and I reach out desperately to take the glass - but misjudge the geometry in my panic and knock it tumbling into the air. I look down to see the life-saving panacea stain the virgin snow a ghastly green. As I go screaming over the edge, I look up again to see the glass glinting in the sunlight, sailing through a crazy, lazy, slow-mo arc. I just couldn't grasp it...
Then I awake panting, in a cold sweat and it's all coming back to me now. I'd just heard 'Original Sin' by Pandora's Box for the first time. Impossible to grasp, to swallow, to taste or understand.
I don't have that dream anymore, but I have a long green cocktail beside me at all times. I sip it constantly but the glass never empties - and 'Original Sin' tastes better with every hearing, every mouthful.
It is, of course, the album Jim Steinman fans have been waiting for since 'Bat Out Of Hell'. Me? I never really got that excited by 'Bat...'. Liked one or two tracks; laughed at Meat Loaf on 'Old Grey Whistle Test'; learned to love Todd Rundgren and his "motorcycle guitar"; still don't own a copy.
It is, of course, the album CD players were invented for. There's a bit in the title-track that could be the sound of 11 Wembley Stadiums clapping their hands; or 111 SS regiments stamping their jackboots - all in perfect synchronicity. Jim says it's his tribute to Queen ('We Will Rock You') - but overall this album makes 'Bohemian Rhapsody' or 'Night At The Opera' sound like the first Budgie album. Wagner eat ya heart out...
It's more over the top than Duncan Goodhew's fringe, than Dolly Parton doing the high jump, than the entire population of China laving a WWI slit trench.
I'll come clean straight away and admit that Side Two lets it down pretty badly. Only Ellen Foley's completely manic 'The Want Ad' rap and the epic 'The Future Ain't What It Used To Be' stand out. For the rest you'll need several more slugs o' that ol' green stuff to stop you from reaching to the end of Side One then moving directly to Go...
Where you'll writhe in ecstasy as 'The Invocation' (spoken intro over howling winds of change) gives way to 'Original Sin (The Natives Are Restless Tonight)'. 'I'm applying for a license to thrill/Going out on the edge/Moving in for the kill...There'll be hell to pay someday/Put it all on the bill...'
Guitars, it must be said, are not the featured instrument. That honor goes to Jim's soon-to-be (?) leather-and-stud shrink-wrapped Steinway grand piano. But the damn thing is so grandiose, so overblown, and - at times - so plain stoopid that it's just got to have 'Metal' written all over it. I bet when this lengthy leviathan finally lumbers onto a stage, all the keys will be chrome and titanium.
The four girls - Ellen Foley, Elaine Caswell, Gina Taylor and Deliria Wilde (what a name, gotta meet that girl!) - sing like demons, their vocals soaring like angels.
Side One also offers 'Twentieth Century Fox' (the old Doors tune with '80s-style samples of Jimi Hendrix's 'Foxy Lady'); the Phil Spector-ish 'Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)'; Steinman's insane rap about mirrors '...Dreaming Up A Storm...'; and the excruciatingly operatic first single 'It's All Coming Back To Me Now'.
But best of all is 'Safe Sex': mind-bogglingly magnificent multi-faceted mayhem. Play it to me L-O-U-D!!! I want to hear it laying naked on my back, at the stroke of midnight, on the cold floor beneath the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. I want to hear it lashed to the mainmast of a tea clipper ploughing round the 'Horn in a storm. I want to hear it as two teams of rippling black stallions tear me in half before a crowd of baying heathens.
I gotta go now, the men in white coats are coming up the path and I think they've come to take my green stuff away...