Meat Loaf- Hell In A Handbasket

Two years after peaking at number 4 in UK charts with Hang Cool Teddy Bear, the big man is back with what he calls ‘his most honest record’, Hell In A Handbasket. The album may come as a shock to those whose knowledge of Meat Loaf spans only as far as Bat out Of Hell. More seasoned fans, however, will recognise that it’s not a world away from Hang Cool Teddy Bear or indeed 2006’s Bat Out Of Hell III, pushing the boundaries of his more traditional power ballads, while adding a touch of heavy metal and, dare we say it, even hip-hop.

The theme of honesty is ripe from the first track 'All of Me', in which Meat sets the tone for the album: ‘this is my anger/this is my shame/these are my insecurities that I can’t explain.’ The honesty is as raw as the lack of the arguably necessary autotune; while it would be admirable for a man half his age to belt out the kind of operatic ballads for which he is known, at 64, there is no getting away from the perils of an ageing rock voice.

That said, Meat keeps to his promise of delivering passion-driven eulogies to long lost lovers, and 'Another Day' truly pulls at the heartstrings, with nothing more than a simple, yet evocative piano melody and poignant lyrics. Amongst a sea of heavier guitar-driven anthems, 'Another Day' triumphs as the best and most understated track.

Of course, no Meat Loaf album post-1995 would be complete without some attempt to shock, and 'Stand In The Storm' does just that, diverting from country-infused rock into a rather unwelcome rap from fellow Celebrity Apprentice contestant Lil Jon - who provides little more in the rapping stakes than he did for Usher’s 'Yeah! (Think ‘oooooo-kaaay!’) Throw in a moody cover of 'California Dreaming', which frustratingly builds but never reaches a satisfactory crescendo, and you’ve got yourself the whole Meat Loaf package.

What Hell In A Handbasket lacks in collaborations from Bat Out Of Hell composer Jim Steinman, it makes up for with contributions from the long-standing partner and ever outstanding Patti Russo, with whom Meat duets on 'Our Love and Our Souls'.

Fans of more classic Meat Loaf may like to see him channel his anger in a not so country/hip-hop-esque fashion in future, but Hell In A Handbasket, despite these flaws, is a vast improvement on Hang Cool Teddy Bear. The question remains as to whether or not an eclectic mix of Chuck D and The Mamas and The Papas will light up the charts - only time will tell.

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