Saturday, March 24, 2012
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: MEATLOAF - HELL IN A HANDBASKET
Has anyone ever come up with the concept of the One Album Wonder? Maybe, but I can't recall it. So wahoo, I get to coin the term (I think) and make up the rules. So here goes: A One Album Wonder should be by someone who records one great big hit album, something that was a bona fide smash, so huge that seemingly everyone had it, but then never comes close to matching that success. I don't care if they had a follow-up that charted well; that's bound to happen, no matter how crappy the album was, because if you sold five million copies, you know that at least one million would have bought the follow-up, hoping for more of the same. That's okay by my rules, I'm looking for that band with only one album they are remembered for. Perhaps some examples would best explain my criteria: Peter Frampton is the most obvious one. He had a long career before and after Frampton Comes Alive, in The Herd first, then Humble Pie, plus a few solo albums, but really, all he will ever be remembered for is that big double-live disc. The horrid I'm In You killed his career immediately after.
How about Boston? Nothing following lived up to that debut, featuring More Than A Feeling. Christopher Cross makes the list, Ride Like The Wind and Sailing off his self-titled debut becoming huge hits, the album gaining five Grammy Awards, and then ..mostly crickets. Feel free to make your own lists of One Album Wonders, but be warned I'm rushing to the copywrite office first thing Monday.
Here's another: Meatloaf. Sure, he's continued his career from the 70's until today, but he'll always be that Bat Out Of Hell guy. Oh, and doesn't he know it? Even though Mr. Marvin Aday has had an enviable sales record since, with multi-platinum releases and epic concert tours, he's always really been trading in on that initial success. It's no surprise his biggest hit since the first Bat took flight in 1977 has been Bat Out Of Hell 2: Back Into Hell, from 1993. Remember that? Perhaps hazily. Yet it was a number one album around the world. Even Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose, from 2006, went platinum in this country. Its follow-up, Hang Cool Teddy Bear? Not a trace of that one around.
It seems the key to Meat's success is to remind us of his One Album Wonder status. That means he has to stick the word Bat Or Hell in the title somewhere, but he can't go back to that well too often. Which leads us to a new ploy for this album, with a more subtle reference here, calling it Hell In A Handbasket. Sounds an awful lot like ..you-know-what. Oh, and there are skulls all over the album graphics. I'm not really sure why, as the album is largely a bunch of love ballads, done up in typical bombastic Meat Loaf music.
Don't be fooled by any of this, even if you are a huge Bat Out Of Hell fan. There's no storyline or theatrical concept going on. It's a collection of substandard old-style rock songs, which for the most part sound like nostalgia for a time when music sucked. The production is to blame as much as the poor writing. The guitars sound like they are being played by old bar-band veterans who never upgraded and are still using the same pedals. The backing vocals are a homage to the work of Patti Smyth and Scandal (speaking of one hit wonders). To blame is someone named Paul Crook, who seems to have spent a lifetime studying the studio mastery of Journey, and still getting it wrong. For those who loved corporate rock, we salute you.
Meat sounds exactly the same, so it can't be him that's wrong here, unless he's completely calling the shots. Certainly bad choices abound, including the ridiculous inclusion of Chuck D, on a song that couldn't be less suited to rap. Oh, I'm wrong, because they do the same trick later, only this time it's the unholy trinity of Lil Jon, Mark McGrath and Trace Atkins. Hell, indeed. It's called Stand In the Storm, and wow, they used thunderstorm sound effects. As for covers, Tom Cochrane might wish he hadn't written a number called Mad Mad World, because the title caught their attention. It's no worse than anything else here. But surely someone must be held accountable for the inexplicable and inexcusable murder of California Dreamin'. The poor thing barely had a pulse as it is, having been beaten senseless by The Beach Boys and dozens of others over the years. This is the worst ever. It also has nothing to do with hell, bats, or skulls, so I'm really not sure why it was sacrificed. Hell, Meat could've done Ride Like The Wind, which would have, given my theories and inventions, totally just.