Friday, September 23, 2016

RECORD REVIEW: Meat Loaf "Braver Than We Are"

RECORD REVIEW
Meat Loaf
Braver Than We Are
________________________

Hot patootie  bless my soul,
one of rock's all-time greats
has just released his latest.
So, what's the verdict? Let's
dive in and have a looksie.
________________________

My writing partner, Bryan Dumas, and I have been friends for more than 35 years. And ever since our crazed teenage party days, we've both maintained personal passions for the brilliant music created by the team of vocal powerhouse, Meat Loaf, and songwriting genius, Jim Steinman. In fact, when Bryan and I bought our first CD players back in '84, Meat Loaf's iconic, 30 million-selling, 1977 Bat Out of Hell record was the first disc that each of us purchased.

During a phone conversation earlier this week, Bryan and I were actually discussing Meat Loaf and Steinman's perceived "Where are they now?" status. So imagine my surprise when I discovered Braver Than We Are tucked away in the "New Release" section of my local supercenter later that same day. I notified Bryan immediately, who in short order, located a few selected tracks online. His review? Not good. In fact, his critique was so honest (and by "honest," I mean "brutal") that I had to buy a copy and hear it for myself. I mean, how bad could it really be? But within seconds of popping the CD into my car Hi-Fi, it became painfully clear that Braver Than We Are actually is 17 times worse than Bryan had described. And suddenly, it was as if I could hear the voice of Nigel Tufnel  chiming in from the backseat — Is this a joke? Excuse me. Is this a joke?

The musicianship  impeccable. The backing vocals — superb. The production — top-notch. And the signature-style arrangements  world-class. So, how on earth can a record that warrants such a glowing endorsement be so patently bad? It's simple. Everyone involved with the project stepped up to the plate and hit home runs — everyone that is, except for the two legendary names printed on the cover.

Produced by Meat Loaf guitarist, Paul Crook, the record sounds fantastic. And while the music is certainly there, the songs are not — surprising and disappointing, given the level of expectation associated with purchasing a record with the words, All Songs by Jim Steinman emblazoned across the cover. Simply put, the compositions here are monolithic aural slabs meandering, while never arriving at a desirable destination. Lyrically, Braver Than We Are also delivers disappointing results. In "Speaking in Tongues," Steinman writes (in true Spın̈al Tap fashion), It's time to start a fire. And I know we'll make it good. We're overflowing with desire. You've got the spark, I got the wood. I expect that level of dopiness from Gene Simmons — not from the guy who wrote "For Crying Out Loud."

As I've learned from years' worth of first-hand experiences, rock stars simply can NOT handle the truth, and they need to be surrounded by "yes men" at all times. But holy cow, Meat Loaf really needed (and deserved) a dose of truth on this one. Vocally, the record is an embarrassing disaster embarrassing not only for the listener, but also for the one-time virtuoso. To say that Meat Loaf has lost his chops would understate his dreadful performance. The man who decimated fans worldwide 40 years ago with his chilling delivery of "Heaven Can Wait," now barely possesses tavern-type karaoke caliber ability — struggling even with spoken vocal parts.

Giving this misguided record a pass would be dishonest and misleading to fans who might be considering plunking down their hard-earned dollars based the duo's otherwise stellar reputation. Furthermore, ignoring the Emperor's extreme lack of clothing would impugn this team's truly magnificent past work. The cover, however, is magnificent! 

-Christopher Long
(September 2016)

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