Written by: Dave Cantrell
The relatively short stint I spent in the ‘music industry’ happened to coincide with a very critical moment of rock music’s evolution. Because of some incidental connections (ie friends made at a now-legendary record store called Rather Ripped on the northside of the UC Berkeley campus where I spent a couple years engaged in weak academia before running out of electives) I found myself during the years 1977-1979 at a one-stop in Oakland, a way station that just happened to provide the crucial link between the ill-fitting suburban version of me and the whatever-the-fuck me I am now. As it happened, alluded to above, it was in retrospect an almost revolutionary moment in the world of rock’n’roll however one defines it. Whereas there was the upsurge of bands like Aerosmith, Styx, and Kansas taking over the mantle from the old guard – essentially the new behemoths supplanting the old behemoths – there was, simultaneously, the counter current of punk then post-punk and new wave, asserting itself in the manner akin to the quirky cool kids in high school outshining the prominent jocks and popular girls with their quirky aloofness (think Christian Slater and Parker Posey leaving the Cruises and Phoebes in the dust). This being America, however, the Bostons and AC/DCs still far outsold the B-52’s and Siouxsie and Magazine and the like (combined) but for those of us plugged in to that more electrifying current it was simply a case of relevance vs. irrelevance and we were pretty sure which side of that coin we stood on. Which, damn it, made it all the more confusing and mystifying when an artist like Meat Loaf (in the person of Jim Steinman but you all know that) came along and seemed to blast that entire dialectic clean out of the water.
Incorporating the flawless, flaming élan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show into your purer strains of flat-out, bar band rock’n’roll along with a helping of the easy rocking accessibility of pre-saccharine Bob Seger and a not insignificant touch of Brill Building brilliance built into its abundance of hooks, the thing was a monster hit pretty much by the time the sun set on its release date (October 21st, 1977). Everyone I knew owned a copy – the jazz guy, the Residents guy, the young woman into Sinatra – which not only helps explain why it remains among the top five – top fucking FIVE – best-selling albums of all time but, more to our purposes here, points to the universal acceptance-bordering-on-fanaticism with which Bat Out of Hell was received. The record pretty much single-handedly renewed that faith born in our teenage years of rock’n’roll salvation, a belief we knew was false as a fake preacher speaking in tongues but one that, for this one collective moment, we let ourselves believe in again anyway. And now, forty-six years later – and not a minute too soon if your asking us – that opportunity to suspend cynicism and dismay and lose ourselves in the unmitigated power and glory has rearisen thanks to the generous effort of The Neverland Express (Meat Loaf’s official backing band) joining forces with American Idol 13 winner Caleb Johnson on new album Paradise Found: Bat Out of Hell Reignited, released January 27th via Deko Entertainment + Crooked Media.
Having already released the reinvigorated versions of “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and “All Revved Up With No Place to Go“, both of which not only completely established Johnson’s legitimacy as the heir apparent vocalist for this material but suggest with some vigor that virtually no one else could have assumed that role, we arrive at the world preview of arguably the album’s piece de resistance, the title track. An absolute crusher of a redux that, to put it succinctly, is produced to the hilt (sorry for the excess of italics but this new take screams for them) by longtime Meat Loaf producer and guitarist Paul Crook. With Johnson singing the absolute hell out of it, the 10+ minute outing, like its forebear, never falters, spiraling ever upward without stint, raising the stakes as it raises its ruckus, the whole thing embodying the Steinman spirit as if channeling it from the very cosmos, that one illuminated by the dashboard lights. Steinman had this gift of being the perfect mix of both Everyman-straightforward and effortlessly sublime – in short, a fucking artist full stop – and Johnson nails that to the rafters and beyond. What’s interesting to us, hearing this all these years later, is the rhythmic grace that Steinman brought to his lyrics. Any songwriter that brings to the party a line like “…if I’m gonna be damned then I’m gonna be damned dancing through the night with you” is to be viewed, by our lights, as anything but a lightweight. In the end, it strikes us as the secret ingredient that ensured Bat Out of Hell‘s success across that strata of tastes mentioned above. To have it resurrected with such love and care speaks with great respect to the legacy that attached itself to this album from the very moment it hit the racks. Due to a host of reasons, that shit ain’t really possible anymore. Lament that all you want, but take some solace in what once was and lose yourself in the beautifully agitated beauty that is Paradise Found: Bat Out of Hell Reignited. It, as they say, fucking rocks.[Pre-order and everything else here]
See them live? Check it:
CELEBRATING MEAT LOAF – LIVE
January 27 – Atlantic City, NJ: Borgata Casino & Resort *RECORD RELEASE SHOW*
March 31 – Westbury, NY: The Space at Westbury Theater
April 1 – Norwalk, CT: Wall Street Theatre
May 20 – Oxford, UK: New Theatre
May 21 – Birmingham, UK: Symphony Hall
May 23 – Glasgow, UK: Royal Concert Hall
May 25 – Gateshead, UK: Sage One
May 26 – Manchester, UK: The Bridgewater Hall
May 27 – London, UK: Indigo at The O2