When it was announced that Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf were once again teaming up to make music my interest was naturally peaked. Bat Out of Hell, as well as their sophomore project Dead Ringer and the long awaited follow up Bat Out of Hell II are some of my favorite albums ever and I often times view them as two of the most complete works of rock ever constructed. Meat Loaf’s production outside this collaboration has not left any lasting impression on me apart from the odd tune here and there, 2003’s Couldn’t Have Said it Better has become a perennial top ten listen.
Going All the Way is the first single from the upcoming album Braver than We Are a project in development since 2013. The upcoming album will contain tracks written by Steinman, new and ones that have been previously recorded by other artists. For a Meat Loaf/Steinman trifecta fan this indeed sounds promising.
But if the lead off single Going All the Way is any indication most of us who fall into that particular fandom will be sorely disappointed. Meat has enlisted some old friends; Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito, who both performed on Paradise By the Dashboard Lights and they are unfortunately the saving grace. For gone is the bombastic grandness that captured the heartstrings of the teenagers of the nineties when I Could Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) would start playing at the high school dance, well at least in my neck of the woods. Instead we are quickly thrown into the song like a child thrown into a cold lake on the first day of summer, and a similar shock ensues. The strength of a Steinman tune is the intro, it sets the mood and tone more than most songs do. It’s the way he constructs it, like a piece of a musical number, the audience gets to feel what the performer is feeling and we are usually in step with Meat Loaf as he serenades the world. This experienced is completely lost and as a listener you are left confused and bewildered about how to feel.
Meat Loaf himself can give no comfort or guidance in the matter either. Whether it is his hectic touring schedule, his recent health scare or just plain old age, but his voice isn’t what it has been in the past. I once read in Time magazine that they very nearly, not quite, but nearly compared him to the old opera singer Jussi Bjorling and Steinman’s epic tunes would not be complete without his voice. When that voice has seemingly lost its potency, well then the entire illusion falls.
Last, but by no means least the compositions itself just doesn’t make it all the way. Steinman’s ability to write a great tune has already been discussed, but his lyrics have always been the heart of the affair. Part nostalgic throwback to a simpler time with outdoor movie theaters, the smell of motor oil, lost loves and reckless youths and part general rebellion, all melded into a baroque anthem. This is not it though. Going all the way is a jumbled mix of nonsensic words and the result is such a mess that one has to step back and say; huh? If this is one of Steinman’s older, rejected songs recycled, then it should have been left on the editing room floor, much like Prince’ later production should have been.
So, is my love affair with Loaf/Steinman over? Only the release of Braver Than We Are in September can answer that question, but this single does not make it look promising and in saying that, this is not a fitting end for Meat Loaf or Jim Steinman.
Andrew Tobias is a songwriter, music collector and writer who generally believes that Two out of three ain’t bad.