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CD REVIEW: MEAT LOAF – Braver Than We Are

| 16 September 2016 | 1 Reply

CD REVIEW: MEAT LOAF – Braver Than We Are
Caroline/429 Records
16 September, 2016
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar


It’s hard to know where to start with Meat Loaf’s thirteenth studio album Braver Than We Are.

Some will inevitably compare it (unfavourably) to 1977’s Bat Out Of Hell – still the high water mark for not only his own career, but for musical theatre-inspired epic rock in general. Some will be confused by the shadow of musical theatre looming large over the record. And some will be unable to overcome their own prejudices that they built via YouTube watching Meat’s disastrous AFL Grand Final train wreck of 2011.

The fact of the matter is that Meat Loaf’s voice isn’t what it was. But few and far between are the 69-in-two-weeks singers who can boast otherwise. To write Braver Than We Are off for his vocal failings is lazy journalism discussing only one part of a complex story, and here the songs are the winners.

Originally this album was to include a couple of arch-collaborator Jim Steinman’s songs, but evolved into a full-blown collaboration, Steinman following the recording process remotely due to ill-health, and imparting rewrites and production tips daily to Meat and guitarist/producer Paul Crook. The result bears all the sonic hallmarks of their best work together.

Both have publicly declared this their finest work together – though that is a stretch requiring some very rose coloured glasses. It is, however, far better than some reviewers have opined already, and certainly beats their half-baked Bat Out Of Hell sequels hands down.

With some songs dating back to early Steinman musicals The Dream Engine and Neverland, the marriage of rock and theatre doesn’t always work. Meat hams it up too much on Who Needs The Young and Godz is some kind of confused cabaret parody… or something. Half-speaking at times, Meat sounds like he’s holding himself back for dramatic impact, but whilst that may work on stage as an actor, it is far less successful in a rock n’ roll song.

That said, this is my own real beef with Braver Than We Are.

The epic eleven-plus minutes of Going All The Way is a fantastic song, gloriously melodic, Wagnerian in might and majesty, and featuring not only Ellen Foley (who duetted on Paradise By The Dashboard Light way back in ’77), but also Karla DeVito (who assumed Foley’s role in the song’s video clip and live on tour.) They are a joy to hear.

Speaking In Tongues and Loving You Is A Dirty Job – both featuring Stacy Michelle’s vocals to cover for Meat’s shortfalls – get the balance right, and Train Of Love is as close to a straight-ahead rocker as you’ll find here, complete with a banging slide guitar solo courtesy of Blackfoot/Lynyrd Skynyrd mainstay Ricky Medlocke.

Forty years chasing the ghost of Bat Out Of Hell: that way madness surely lies, as proven by the lacklustre sequels to that work. With Braver Than We Are Meat and Steinman have made as good a record as they have in them, with many memorable songs, rock solid performances, and a damn country mile better than most records currently in the charts. That alone is a triumph for these iconic old blokes, no matter how it sells, or how many reviewers bag them from the safety of their keyboard.

Read our interview with Meat Loaf HERE

Category: CD Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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