At 64, Meat Loaf still has that huge, over-the-top voice, and he uses it to very good effect on Hell in a Handbasket, his 11th release in a career that has been going since 1977. This CD, he explains on his Amazon artist page, is “really the first record that I’ve ever put out about how I feel about life and how I feel about what’s going on at the moment.”
As always, this CD features some great collaborations with artists from various genres. A highlight is the medley “Blue Sky / Mad Mad World / The Good God is a Woman and She Don’t Like Ugly” which starts out dreamy, then covers Tom Cochran’s “Mad Mad World” and ends with an amazing rap by Public Enemy’s Chuck D to create something completely unique and profoundly moving.
Another standout song is “Stand in the Storm,” which features Meat Loaf’s Celebrity Apprentice teammates Mark McGrath, Trace Adkins, and Little Jon. The song manages to meld the country singer, the alternative rock star, and the rapper with Meat’s powerful voice to deliver a very strong song with a searing lyric: “Somebody’s gotta stand in the storm//In the lightning when it pours/Be strong enough to lean on/Show you what a backbone’s for.”
There’s a cover here of “California Dreamin’” performed with Meat Loaf’s longtime vocal partner Patti Russo which takes that bouncy Mamas and Papas hit and turns it into something sadder and darker, more of a longing for lost innocence and faded dreams. Meat Loaf says he believes the song was written to be “a metaphor for people being afraid to face up to the fear of following their dreams. This about the sadness, the flip side to the west coast utopia of sun, sand, girls and surf.”
The other songs here cover a wide range of genres but all deliver a very personal take on the world today. From the country blues of “Live or Die” to the New Wave of “Party of One” to the R ‘n B sound of “Our Love and Our Souls,” they all deal with learning to face hard facts, dealing with a tough world and learning to survive.
The most autobiographical song is probably “The Giving Tree,” which is all about giving and giving and knowing that you’re not going to get the same amount back that you put in. Meat says he has never made music just for the money, and in this song he acknowledges that he may just go right back where he started, with nothing.
“40 Days” is a song about Biblical prophecy, fitting the “Hell in a Handbasket” theme: “It’s gonna rain/Wash it all away,”
“Another Day” salutes those who realize the problems and try to make them better, without seeking fame or praise for themselves.
The CD ends with “Fall from Grace,” with the recognition that we all fail to live up to our own expectations. I don’t think it is the strongest song on the CD, but it’s not a bad song, either.
This is the sort of material that just would not work without a powerful voice to build upon, and Meat Loaf still has that voice. With a little help from his friends, Meat has proved that he still can make a great, entertaining CD and it’s worth the ride even if the world is going to Hell in a Handbasket.