Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

December 7, 2012

Meat Loaf ~ Hell In A Handbasket

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Style: hard rock
Year: 2011
Label: Sony
Home: n/a

Members: Meat Loaf ~ vocals
Paul Crook ~ guitar/keyboards/synthesizer/programming
Randy Flowers ~ guitar/b. vocals
Danny Miranda ~ bass
Justin Avery ~ keyboards/b. vocals
Dave Luther ~ saxophone/b. vocals
John Miceli ~ drums
Patti Russo ~ vocals

Additional: Ginny Luke, Caitlin Evanson ~ violin
Glen Duncan ~ mandolin
Bruce Bowden ~ pedal steel
Jerry Flowers ~ b. vocals
Jamie Muhoberac ~ keyboards

Guests: Chuck D ~ rap
Mark McGrath, John Rich, Trace Adkins ~ vocals
Lil Jon ~ rap/drum programming

For fans of the Loaf, which I am, there's a few truths about Meat for those who want to chew: a) the best albums are with Jim Steinman writing, performing, arranging, & b) all other albums tend to have a big epic Steinman-esque hit & a lot of forgettable filler. "All Of Me" is, in my ears, the Steinman wannabe piano ballad without embarressment on ML's latest album. It has the musical feel of Steinman's complicated arrangements, but it lacks what makes Steinman Steinman - its all about the intricate lyrics that are impossible to sing with a single breathe. This has straight ahead lyrics but stretched out trying to make one word last for four & sound complicated. If one can make the line "all of me" last like "objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are" ML is certainly trying to. While it lacks the long soaring notes that once marked ML's music, as he no longer sings out like he once did - I wonder if he can - but instead gives off a smaller ranged constant annoying warble. Having seen recent live footage of him routinely losing breathe on stage I'm apt to think the decision has been made to avoid anything that will tax him too much. Of course, ML has aged & that can't be avoided ... but I wouldn't be adverse to a little studio trickery to make up for it. Since Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose a cluttered anti-climactic affair that fell more than it climbed, ML has stumbled, but at least the presence of Steinman's words gave him a chance even if it didn't in the end since Steinman didn't want to be involved & after hearing the album his instincts were probably proven right. ML stumbled after first dumping Steinman following the over-produced but still listenable Dead Ringer & stumbled after Bat Out Of Hell II released in 1993, but he was younger & could write off a bad album due to bad label deals or changing music styles. III was an attempt to pull out of the stumbling, but only was a breathing moment. Now, you know, he's desperate to have an album that's successful without Steinman's direct involvement. He wants to show that he can do it on his own & you want him to have that success because when he's good he's amazing. ML & his team knows what music works for him & try to stay within the epic template of highs & lows, even if his voice has lost its range & the lows lack the punch of Steinman's classic ballads. No one has ever been able to really be able to write for ML like Steinman. ML has engaged an array of music to make up for this shortcoming & he's no stranger to experimentation, for better or for embarressment. Sadly, he's never really been able to find a musical identity that could replace what made him great. It must be a difficult struggle by now to have as many musical facelifts as Madonna but with none catching on. Hell In A Handbasket might be the closest ML has gotten to an overall successful album on his own terms in awhile, certainly compared to his 80's work its far better. Musically its very powerful & very elaborate only occasionally being too cluttered, & is helmed by former Anthrax/Sebastian Bach guitarist Paul Crook whose been by ML's side for many years. But, with ML's voice is now suffering & the warble just doesn't do what the music needs but is a bit painful to listen to. The heighs here are all musical. While the lyrics aren't that interesting. The catch with Steinman is the fact that he paints very visual songs. It's poetry, not just songs. These are songs with rhyming. They're songs, not poetic stories. Regular duet partner Patti Russo appears on a few cuts, in true "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" tradition, but these aren't really duets or any sort of real conversation but glorified backing vocals. Speaking of backing vocals a couple songs also feature some rapping & some tv stars. One wouldn't think ML would need a rap break or guests. The world might be going to hell in a handbasket, but so is parts of ML's career yet again. This isn't so bad of an album, it has a few hits & a lots of filler ... but yet again stick with the first two Bat albums & leave the un-batty alone.

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