11 June 2012

Review: Meat Loaf - Hell in a Handbasket

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In 1967 Marvin Lee Aday formed his first band, “Meat Loaf Soul” and after 45 years of performing in everything from bands to acting in over 35 movies, over 25 television shows(most recently “Celebrity Apprentice”), and doing over 20 concert tours,  the man who now goes by “Meat Loaf” is releasing his 12th studio album.
If familiar with the work of Meat Loaf you know that he does everything big, crazy and unexpectedly. Most of all Meat puts his whole heart and soul into everything he does.

It’s hard to do something unexpected when everyone is expecting it, but there were a few surprises on Hell in a Handbasket.

The first song, “All of Me” sets the tone for the album which Meat Loaf says is the first album he has made that really expresses the way he feels personally. It’s the kind of power ballad you would expect from a Meat Loaf album. “The Giving Tree” is a lesson in dynamics for any aspiring musician. Starting with a single tambourine, it swells from almost spoken lyrics to a feverish anthem with church choir like backup vocals. Then everything drops out and you have hand claps and church choir vocals until it ends with a single tambourine.

Pushing into the realm of the unexpected we have, “Live or Die”. On the surface with its acoustic guitar, fiddle and organ it sounds like a country song.  Peel all that away and you actually have a pretty heavy rock song. The acoustic guitar solo in the middle works amazingly well too.

Meat crosses deep into the unexpected with the medley “Blue Sky/Mad Mad World/The Good God Is A Woman And She Don’t Like Ugly,”   which includes rapping by Chuck D. Then he follows that up with another cover, “Calfornia Dreamin’”. No surprise that it’s a duet with Patti Russo. He makes it his own, but I have listened to it half a dozen times and I am still not sure if I like it or not. 

Still unexpected is the song “Party of One”. I would say it crosses into the realm of early punk or psychobilly. It’s a song about the upside of being alone.

Finally the most unexpected oddity on Hell in a Handbasket is “Stand in the Storm”. Where else can you hear Meat singing with Trace Adkins, Mark McGrath and Lil Jon?  Only someone like Meat Loaf could get such a diverse group of musicians together on an album. Let alone one song.

Meat Loaf made the mistake of writing Bat out of Hell at the beginning of his career. How do you possibly ever top your swan song? Hell in a Handbasket isn’t going to stand up to Bat out of Hell, but it is a good album. It is full of emotion, big vocals and great arrangements. Meat Loaf continues to have no qualms with cross contaminating genres. No matter what ingredients he mixes together it all ends up tasting like Meat Loaf. I am sure Guy Fieri would say,  “Mmm, that’s money!”

4/5 Stars
Key Tracks: The Giving Tree, Live or Die, Party of One
Kirk Bullough

1. All Of Me  
2. The Giving Tree
3. Live Or Die
4. Blue Sky / Mad Mad World / The Good God Is A Woman And She Don't Like Ugly
5. California Dreamin'
6. Party Of One
7. Another Day
8. 40 Days
9. Our Love And Our Souls
10. Stand In The Storm
11. Blue Sky
12. Fall From Grace


Artist:  Meat Loaf
Title:  Hell In A Handbasket
Genre:  Rock
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Label:  Sony Legacy
Website:  http://www.meatloaf.net

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