Meat Loaf

Dead Ringer

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Although it took Meat Loaf and composer Jim Steinman another 12 years to come up with the marketing gimmick of positioning an album as a deliberate follow-up to the multi-platinum Bat Out of Hell, Dead Ringer was the real "Bat Out of Hell II." Once again, Steinman wrote extended, operatic songs with hyperbolic lyrics ("I'll Kill You If You Don't Come Back" was one title) and organized a backup band anchored by E Street Band members Max Weinberg (drums) and Roy Bittan (keyboards), while Meat Loaf sang with a passion all the more compelling for its hint of the ridiculous. In the U.S., with four years separating Bat and Dead Ringer, nobody cared much. But in the U.K., where Bat was still going strong, Dead Ringer topped the charts, and the title track, featuring a perfectly cast Cher as duet singer, went Top Ten. In retrospect, the missing ingredient in the album is Todd Rundgren's pop sensibility as producer; he was the one who knew how long the compositions could go for maximum dramatic impact without becoming exhausting. It was Rundgren who made Bat Out of Hell a fiery listening experience -- producing himself, Meat Loaf often sounded only warmed over.

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