Thursday, May 26, 2011

The #76 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era--"Bat Out of Hell" by Meat Loaf

We are featuring one album per day as The Top 100 Albums of All-Time in the Rock Era* are presented.  Bat Out of Hell was the second album from Meat Loaf.

The album only peaked at #14 at the time it was released.  What this tells is is that people listening to music at the time this album was out preferred 13 albums more than this one.  You might ask "How does it belong in the Top 100 Albums of All-Time* if it can't even reach the Top 10 at the time it was released?"  Good question.  It did spend 82 weeks on the chart but what gets it here is consistent album sales.  The album does not have one of the strongest Track Ratings* (8.72) either, meaning that the album isn't as consistent as most of the Top 100 albums, it doesn't have quite the quality.  But in the 34 years that have passed since it was released, Bat Out of Hell has continued to sell, and has now reached 14 million.  We don't know if 3 million people bought the LP, replaced it with a cassette, then bought a CD (which would count as three separate sales, as could be the case with any of these albums) or why the album continued to sell, so one the one hand we can't put too much emphasis on sales, but on the other hand it is an important statistic in the formula.

The album was the creation of Jim Steinman, who has become an accomplished songwriter.  Steinman wrote an performed the musical Neverland in 1977, which was a science fiction update of Peter Pan theme.  Steinman and Meat Loaf wanted to include three of the songs from that musical in a new album--"Bat Out of Hell", "Heaven Can Wait" and a track that was later titled "All Revved Up with No Place To Go".

With Meat Loaf singing, Steinman playing piano and occasionally Ellen Foley joining the pair for the song "Paradise By the Dashboard Light".  They spent 2 and a half years being rejected by record company after record company.  Clive Davis, one of the most respected record executives in the business told Steinman this:

Do you know how to write a song? Do you know anything about writing? If you're going to write for records, it goes like this: A, B, C, B, C, C. I don't know what you're doing. You're doing A, D, F, G, B, D, C. You don't know how to write a song... Have you ever listened to pop music? Have you ever heard any rock-and-roll music... You should go downstairs when you leave here... and buy some rock-and-roll records.

As good an exec as Davis is, he failed to realize one important point--rock and roll music was never about being a formula; from the beginning, it appealed to people because it was different.  So any attempt to fit new material to a formula would make the music bland.  Artists like Steinman are who have always been accepted into rock & roll music because they gave us a different sound and new things to listen to.  With a track record such as his, Davis knew what sounded good and what the public would like.  In this case, however, he did not give credit to the public for its time-proven ability to like something different. 

Todd Rundgren proved to be the turning point for the album.  He loved it and was most interested in producing it and that was a big feather in Meat Loaf's cap.  Two members of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg, played on the album and it was one of their fellow members in the band, Steve Van Zandt, who finally found a record company that would agree to accept the project.  It was Cleveland International Records, a division of Epic. 

Rundgren mixed the album but the sound of "Paradise" was such that Meat Loaf did not want to include it on the album.  Jimmy Iovine came in and remixed some of the tracks on the album.  Several people came in before John Jansen finally came in and came up with the mix that is on the album.  Phil Rizzuto's baseball play-by-play that was inserted into the middle of the song was recorded in 1976 at The Hit Factory in New York City.   

Bat Out of Hell:
(All songs written by Jim Steinman.)
Side one
1.  "Bat Out of Hell" --9:56
2.  "You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)" --5:04
3.  "Heaven Can Wait" --4:38
4.  "All Revved Up with No Place to Go" --4:19

Side two
5.  "Two out of Three Ain't Bad" --5:23
6.  "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" (duet with Ellen Foley) --8:28
7.  "For Crying out Loud" --8:45

Meat Loaf played percussion on "You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth".  Rundgren played guitar, percussion, keyboards and sang backing vocals.  Kasim Sulton was on bass guitar and backing vocals, Roy Bittan played piano and keyboards, Cheryl Hardwick and Steve Margoshes were on piano, Steinman contributed percussion and the intro on "You Took the Words.."  in addition to keyboards and Roger Powell was on synthesizer.  Edgar Winter played saxophone, Max Weinberg and John Wilcox played drums, Marcia McClain also contributed to the dialogue on "You Took the Words...", Ellen Foley contributed backing vocals in addition to her part on "Paradise", Rory Dodd lent backing vocals and members of the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra played on the album.
The album was recorded as Bearstock Studios in Woodstock, New York in 1975 and 1976.  Todd Rundgren produced it, a real feather in the cap of Meat Loaf.  It was released October 21, 1977 on Cleveland International Records, a division of Epic.

It lands at #76 All-Time--Bat out of Hell.

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