He has taken us on a marvelous journey that has included many music milestones along the way. Now the 60+ year old rocker has come at us from a slightly different angle and proves that he can deliver the goods even when he leaves the Hells of his past and steps up to the plate with a whole different approach.
This time around he uses a short story written by Killian Kerwin as the plot for this concept work that revolves around a soldier who is dying and his visions of the different avenues his life could have taken in the future. Meat Loaf enlists a bevy of songwriters and musicians to bring this tale to life. It almost reads like a twisted party list as you realize that the likes of Jack Black, Steve Vai, Jon Bon Jovi, Hugh Laurie, Brian May, Justin Hawkins and Rick Brantley (credited at T. Driggers) all contribute to the making of this disc in one way or another.
One of the things that I have always liked about a Meat Loaf album is the lyrical wit that is shown. On this disc the tongue is firmly planted in cheek on many of the songs and make for a really fun album of good rock and roll. This disc will hit you as a stripped down version of Meat who seems to want to get back to a more straight forward heavy metal approach. He doesn't abandon the bombastic over the top style we have grown accustom to completely but you can sure tell that Jim Steinman didn't get near the studio on this one. This is not a bad thing necessarily though as a new Meat comes through that is a much more fun loving metalhead than before. There is still the dramatic flair here and there as in the opening song "Peace On Earth" but you can also hear that this is going to be a rollicking good time when the song goes into a old style rocker with a very cool orchestral backing followed by a searing guitar solo. Meat seems to have come to terms with who he is musically and decided to have as good of a time as possible recording this disc.
Rick Brantley provides the vehicle for Meat to let loose with one of his most high energy moments on the disc with his terrific song "Living On The Outside". Meat cranks it up and lets out all the stops as he turns this one into a pure Loaf style rocker. It is one of the highlights of the disc for sure. Meat picked some real talent to come up with the songs on here and they work very well together.
Even James Michaels who is one of key writers for the Nikki Sixx masterpiece The Heroin Diaries contributes a winner with the old style romp called "Los Angeloser". Meat always had a fondness for lots of backing vocals and a choral sound to many of his songs. This sing-a-long piece is the first single off the album and has a charm that makes it instantly appealing. It is also a complete departure from the bombastic Meat Loaf style and with a keen sense of humor lyrically it should bring a whole different crowd into the Meatloaf fold.
This disc has been a real pleasure to listen to. There are so many good moments that it far outweighs the couple of ordinary songs on here. "If I Can't Have You" written by American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi and featuring Hugh Laurie on piano is one of the songs that will remind you of the past Meatloaf catalogue with it's dramatic feel. "Love Is Not Real" boast guitar solos by both Brian May and Steve Vai. Enough said there. Jack Black helps Meat with the Beastie Boys like sounding "Like A Rose". This is the heaviest song on the disc and one of the most vicious that I have ever heard from Meat. Jon Bon Jovi writes a very Springsteen sounding tune that helps Meat Loaf end the album in style with the song "Elvis In Vegas". It is another highlight from a disc that has many of them.
Hang Cool Teddy Bear is an album that will appeal to the vast Meat Loaf fan base and should also help to expand it. There is a lot of really cool music on here and the production of the album is on a par with anything that he has done before. The wealth of talent that helped with this CD was not wasted as each person who appears has left their own unique stamp on this disc but it is the main man, Meat Loaf, who pulls it all together in a way that only he can do. This one is a winner no matter how you look at it.
I purchased the two CD set which has a bonus disc of live material. Most of the songs were taken from his European tour and taken from many different locations. It also shies away from most of his hits with only a few that received any radio air play. I really liked this idea much better than just a rehash of old hits. There are still a few Bat tunes to appease the faithful but with a studio album that goes in a very different direction, it is refreshing to hear that he follows suit with the live disc too. Not to mention, that there is a great version of The Doors "Roadhouse Blues" and a terrific take on The Beatles "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" featuring Patti Russo.
While I don't like Meat Loaf when my wife makes it for dinner, the kind that you find on this album is a tasty treat for sure. It has all the Meat you want with just enough other spices thrown in to make it unique. It will be a disc that you will find yourself listening to time and time again.
1. Peace On Earth
2. Living On the Outside
3. Los Angeloser
4. If I Can't Have You
5. Love Is Not Real/Next Time You Stab Me In The Back
6. Like A Rose
7. Song Of Madness
8. Did You Ever Love Somebody
9. California Isn't Big Enough(Hey There Girl)
10. Running Away From Me
11. Lets Be In Love
12. If It Rains
13. Elvis In Vegas
Disc 2 (Live)
1. I Want You So Hard
2. Break It
3. Blind As A Bat
4. Amnesty IsGranted
5. Rock And Roll Dreams
6. Anything For Love
7. 2 Out Of 3 Ain't Bad
8. Bat Out Of Hell
9. Roadhouse Blues
10. Why Don't We Do It In The Road