Loafing around

Well, it took me a while, but I finally got around to buying Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose. And it’s pretty good.

I was a late convert to Meat Loaf. I spent years mocking him until someone finally made me listen to Bat Out Of Hell, and I thought it was a good album. Then I heard Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, and I was blown away. It’s one of my favorite albums.

That’s when I discovered Jim Steinman writes incredible music. (“Incredible” meaning “I really like it, so it’s great.”) He writes fantastic songs with amazingly convoluted titles that just blow me away. Besides writing pretty much every Meat Loaf song worth listening to, he’s had his stuff performed by artists as diverse as Air Supply (“Making Love Out Of Nothing At All”), Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse Of The Heart”), Celine Dion (“It’s All Coming Back To Me”), and others.

It was with Meat Loaf, though, that Steinman found the singer who could properly give voice to his works.

Bat II is filled with amazing songs. “Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are.” “Life Is A Lemon (And I Want My Money Back).” “It Just Won’t Quit.” And the lead track, “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

Bat III, though, is a bit of a letdown. Only half the songs are penned by Steinman, and five of them have been done before. It’s painful for me to say this, but the Meat Loaf/Marion Raven duet of “It’s All Coming Back To Me” is actually inferior to Celine Dion’s version. (For the record, the only two Celine Dion songs I can tolerate are both covers of others’ songs — this one and her version of Cyndi Lauper’s “I Drove All Night.”)

Of the 14 tracks, I consider four of them worthy of being on a “Bat” album — “Bad For Good,” “If It Ain’t Broke, Break It,” “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be,” and the single best track — “In The Land Of The Pigs, The Butcher Is King.” And if you can’t tell by the titles, all four are written by Steinman.

I hate to say it, but Bat III drives one point home: Meat Loaf needs Jim Steinman more than Steinman needs Meat Loaf. Steinman can write music that others can turn into monster hits, but I find myself struggling to think of a great Meat Loaf song written by somone besides Steinman.

That being said, Bat III is still a fine piece of work, and ought to appeal to fans of the first two. But it is a serious letdown from Bat II.

And in my fantasy world, Bat IV would feature all songs by Steinman, and at least one duet between Meat Loaf and Christina Aguilera — if not a solo track by her. That woman has pipes MADE to do a Steinman song justice.

I mean, if Steinman can make Celine Dion sound magnificent and tough and strong, imagine what he could do with Aguilera?

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