Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf & Friends

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This odd but memorable compilation mixes Meat Loaf's early hits with a variety of tracks by artists connected to the artist in some way: Ellen Foley sang back up on Bat out of Hell, Jim Steinman penned all the classic Meat Loaf hits, and Bonnie Tyler was produced by Jim Steinman during the mid-1980s. The Meat Loaf tracks included here speak for themselves: songs like "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and "You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)" are miniature rock operas that wrap pop hooks and power chords in a towering Spectorian "wall of sound" production, then top it off all with the artist's thunderous vocals. Jim Steinman also chimes in with a pair of tracks; "Bad for Good" and "Left in the Dark" show that Steinman may have lacked Meat Loaf's magnificent pipes, but he could work himself up into a similarly operatic frenzy. He also provided the songs and production for Bonnie Tyler's early-1980s comeback. Three Tyler songs from that era appear on Meat Loaf & Friends, and they pursue a female variant on the Meat Loaf sound that tempers the hard rock bombast with electronic touches: the best is "Total Eclipse of the Heart," which pumps heartbreak drama into stratospheric level with choral vocals and icy, funereal keyboards. The remaining tracks come from Ellen Foley's 1979 solo album, Night Out. Although these songs weren't written or produced by Steinman (Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson did the honors), they are grandiose enough to fit in with Steinman's epics: "We Belong to the Night" is a hopelessly romantic ode to nocturnal dwellers built on a swelling, string-laden chorus, and "Night Out" features Ellen Foley wailing out a soulful, love-starved vocal that rivals Meat Loaf at his most intense. Although it may appear to be a casually tossed-together compilation on the surface, this album actually makes for a consistent and coherent listen because all of its tracks represent rock & roll at its most grandiose. Songs like these are an acquired taste, but anyone who appreciates rock at its most bombastic will get a kick out of Meat Loaf & Friends.

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