What does one even hope to articulate when reviewing anything released by the mighty Jim Steinman? Truly an entity all unto himself, he's made a living out of writing larger-than-life music that features no sacred bounds or standard codes of decency when following the conventional rock n' roll path. Admittedly, no one is prouder of this than Steinman himself, and he relishes in creating not mere songs, but rather extravagant musical statements that are Technicolor mini-movies set to a driving beat. As a music fan, it's really impossible to fall in the middle of the road when it comes to viewing his compositions… either you love them for all they are or you hate them for all they are. Are his songs just the right amount of excess or just plain excessive? Whatever your perspective, Steinman's music stands alone; it's extreme theatrical rock that takes Springsteen's Born To Run album, amps it up on steroids, then straps it to a rocket ship and let's it fly through space at a million miles an hour. Steinman knows this, and continues to craft his work with a wink and a smile, certain of his place in the annals of rock history. He seems determined to write music that always creates a big bang, but never a whimper.
In 1989 Steinman fired those proverbial cannons with his all-female group Pandora's Box, a quartet of more-than-capable singers including Ellen Foley from Bat Out Of Hell fame. Their first (and only) release Original Sin found Steinman not only writing and producing all of the material, but also providing keyboards and spoken word passages on the album. The song titles alone give the listener a peek into what sort of outlandishness awaits them. If "Requiem Metal," "Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)," and "The Future Ain't What It Used To Be" don't warrant a second take then you'll surely chuckle at "I've Been Dreaming Up A Storm Lately," "Pray Lewd," and "Safe Sex." Musically, Original Sin is a continuation of the glossy, vocal drenched pop that Steinman brought to life for Bonnie Tyler's Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire album in the mid-80s. The drums always sound more programmed than real, the presentation is sometimes laughable (see the male ode "Twentieth Century Fox," a "reimagining" of the Doors song, complete with Alfred Newman fanfare and Hendrix sample), and there are enough overdubs to make even Def Leppard's "Hysteria" blush. Many of the studio musicians featured on Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire reprise their roles for this album, including legendary pianist Roy Bittan and the always eccentric Todd Rundgren. The nature of the production leaves much of Original Sin sounding badly dated, but it's unfair to say that the actual song quality is poor. In fact, five of the album's fourteen tracks are wonderfully written pieces of music that simply lose their natural luster in the multiple layers of candy-coated shine. It's no coincidence that these five tunes were later resurrected by Meat Loaf, who re-recorded all but one of them for his Bat Out Of Hell sequels (the other, title track "Original Sin," was included on his Welcome To The Neighborhood album).
Steinman intended to have Pandora's Box tour in support of the album but sales were relatively poor so nothing materialized and the group was shelved. He would find massive success again in 1993, re-teaming with Meat Loaf for the Bat Out Of Hell II project. And while it's safe to say that Pandora's Box will never be tied closely to Steinman's legacy, the album is recommended for fans of his first solo record Bad For Good and those who enjoyed Bonnie Tyler's albums Faster Than The Speed Of Night and Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire. This record is meant as pure escapism, so if you're looking for something deep and insightful, don't even bother pushing play.
Strongest Tracks: Original Sin, Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere), It's All Coming Back To Me Now, It Just Won't Quit, The Future Ain't What It Used To Be
1. The Invocation
2. Original Sin (The Natives Are Restless Tonight)
3. Twentieth Century Fox
4. Safe Sex
5. Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)
6. Requiem Metal
7. I've Been Dreaming Up A Storm Lately
8. It's All Coming Back To Me Now
9. The Opening Of The Box
10. The Want Ad
11. My Little Red Book
12. It Just Won't Quit
13. Pray Lewd
14. The Future Ain't What It Used To Be