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Meat Loaf – Hell In A Handbasket (Review)

Meat Loaf, Hell In A Handbasket

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

MEAT Loaf angrily describes his latest album as “the most personal record I’ve ever made”. “It’s really the first record I’ve ever put out about how I feel about life and how I feel about what’s going on at the moment.”

He’s not the first artist to vent frustration at the current state of play and he won’t be the last to be caught doing it in a slightly over-bearing fashion. But he may be one of the few that can be criticised for not writing his own material, thereby placing a question mark over the true depth of his feelings.

It’s all very well getting angry and reactionary but it means more if the words come from within.

That said, if the songs were strong, then maybe he’d get more of a pass. But while the bombast and big showmanship remains present and correct, albeit in less operatic and more rock form, there’s very few that really genuinely catch fire.

Hell In A Handbasket marks one of Meat Loaf’s first records without regular collaborator Jim Steinman and perhaps that’s what’s missing. Or perhaps we simply don’t want to be reminded of the world’s ills when we’re trying to seek refuge from them in music and/or film.

To be fair, Meat Loaf does his best to compensate for this potential pitfall by employing starry (and surprise) support. Public Enemy’s Chuck D crops up to deliver an original (and angry) rap on the cover version of Tom Cochran’s Mad Mad World, part of a wider track named Blue Sky/Mad Mad World/The Good God Is A Woman And She Don’t Like Ugly.

While another rapper, Lil Jon, waxes lyrical over Stand in the Storm. And long-time duet partner Patti Russo features on two songs: Our Love And Our Souls and a version of The Mammas and The Pappas classic California Dreamin’.

But even then, you kind of wonder why Meat Loaf feels the need to vent contemporary frustrations in cover version form. If he really has something to say, why not go for broke with your own original material all the way?

Of the original material, album opener The All of Me offers one of the few moments where the album genuinely works and recalls the singer at his best… impassioned, angry and declaring: “This is my anger, this is my shame, these are my insecurities, that I can’t take sane.” The swirling pianos and occasional guitar riffs provide a rousing backdrop.

Live Or Die, with its blues-rock guitar and fiddle is OK too, albeit sounding more like a Kid Rock record, while Stand In The Storm combines epic riffs with a gospel-style backing and some empowering lyrics about doing the right thing and standing up for what you believe in (even if the Lil John rap threatens to upset the momentum).

But even on the album’s best moments, there’s a vaguely patronising feel to some of the more obvious sentiments. And that detracts from the overall power of the piece.

At other times, the songs simply aren’t strong enough to warrant anything other than indifference.

Download picks: The All of Me, Live or Die, Stand In The Storm

Track listing:

  1. The 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 feat Chuck D
  5. California Dreamin’ feat Patti Russo
  6. Party of One
  7. Another Day
  8. 40 Days
  9. Our Love And Our Souls feat Patti Russo
  10. Stand In The Storm feat Trace Atkins, Lil Jon and Mark McGrath
  11. Blue Sky
  12. Fall From Grace