The first time I can remember falling in love with a piece of music was when I heard “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” on the radio. For the last twenty years, because of that, Meat Loaf has been a staple of my listening. His career has had plenty of ups and downs, and albums of wildly varying quality. These are the ones I hold dearest, the ones that show how Meat Loaf never stopped making great music (both with and without the incomperable Jim Steinman).
1. Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell
For many, many years this was my favorite album of all time. It has slipped to #2, but that doesn’t diminish in any way the monolith this album is. It is the very height of overblown pomposity, and is all the better for it. Everything about the album is larger than life, which is why only Meat Loaf could have sung these songs. He and Jim Steinman are a magical partnership, and they were never better than on this collection of songs.
2. Bat Out Of Hell
This is the album everyone remembers, but it’s not as good as its sequel. The title track and “For Crying Out Loud” are brilliant, but the first five minutes of “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” is cinge-worthy. The call and response duet is irreplaceable gold, but the slight ding the album takes is enough to put it in the second spot on this list. It’s still brilliant, just not perfect.
3. Couldn’t Have Said It Better
A late-career effort with no songs from Steinman, this is the most surprising album Meat Loaf ever made. He recruited songwriters who tried to copy the best elements of Steinman’s sound, and they did it far better than I would have thought possible. The title track is one of Meat Loaf’s career highlights, made all the better by Patti Russo. There is a horrid pseudo-rap song near the end, but aside from that the album is nearly flawless.
4. Bad Attitude
Meat’s career between the two Bat albums is mostly best left ignored. “Bad Attitude” is the exception, a fantastic album that saw a group of talented songwriters give Meat songs that could stand toe-to-toe with the two Steinman originals presented here. “Surf’s Up” is a powerhouse track, and the non-Steinman songs aren’t far behind. It’s as well-balanced an album as Meat could have hoped to make at the time, and puts to shame the other albums he made during that period.
5. Welcome To The Neighborhood
After the second Bat album had run its course, Meat and Steinman split once again, which made this a questionable album. There were still two Steinman songs present here, but the bulk of the album cam efrom others once again. “I’d Lie For You (And That’s The Truth)” could have fooled anyone into thinking it came from Steinman, and got things off to a rousing start. The album drags with too many ballads at the end, but it showed that Meat had learned how to make a proper album without Steinman leading the way.
There are moments on some of Meat’s other albums that are great, but these are the albums that stand up as whole pieces of work. Later on, when he would sing lines like “I can barely fit my dick in my pants”, I lost faith in someone who was so important to me. There is talk of another Meat/Steinman collaboration being worked on as I write this, which I can only hope will give me one last thrill from two people who have meant so much to my love of music. Even if it doesn’t, at least I have these albums to remind me.