By Warren and Brianna Kurtz
MEAT LOAF's latest release, “Braver Than We Are,” is his 13th studio album and fifth with his creative partner Jim Steinman, the duo who vaulted to fame on Steve Popovich’s Cleveland International label album debut “Bat Out of Hell,” in 1977. Goldmine talked to the legendary star about the newest album, his female vocal collaborators, family and memories of Peaches Records & Tapes.
GM: The first time I saw you live in September 1978, when I wrote the Cleveland concert review the night of the platinum album presentation for “Bat Out of Hell,” both you and Karla DeVito sweated through the drama of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” on stage. You played every song from the album, including my favorite flip side “For Crying Out Loud,” which I am reminded a bit of when listening to the beautiful, gospel sounding, “Speaking in Tongues” on the new album.
ML: On “Speaking in Tongues,” for the first time ever, I am doing harmony with myself, inspired by the sound of The Everly Brothers. Our pianist Justin Avery is on background vocals, too. This is Jim’s latest song and he said it was “a profound reflection on life itself.
GM: What a great album the new “Braver Than We Are” is, ranking right up there with your other collaborations with Jim like 1981’s “Dead Ringer,” which included another favorite flip side “Peel Out,” and 2006’s “The Monster is Loose” with the song “Bad for Good” featuring Brian May of Queen on guitar.
ML: Jim wrote the new album as a script and said that “Braver Than We Are” overall is a musical, calling me inspiringly heroic. He feels the album is visionary, operatic and theatrical. When it was done, I listened to the album seven times in a row, just being amazed. That is more than twice what I have done with my other albums.
GM: “Loving You Is a Dirty Job (But Somebody’s Got to Do It)” is a great relationship duet, and another classic title.
ML: When Jim and I were discussing songs to choose, we picked “Job,” one that my friend Bonnie Tyler had done as a duet with Todd Rundgren, who produced “Bat.” Speaking of jobs, you know it has been close to 50 years of me doing music with no day job.
GM: My favorite job was spending Saturday nights in the summer of 1978, next to Steve Popovich, who would visit from his Cleveland International home office, giving him the weekly sales count of “Bat Out of Hell” at Peaches Records & Tapes.
ML: Peaches! At the Atlanta Peaches store, they had me come over when they were trying to set a “Guinness Book of World Records” entry for the largest meat loaf. It took up the whole parking lot.
GM: We didn’t have that in Cleveland, but with Steve Popovich nearby, he did bring in cassettes of potential Cleveland International artists for me to listen to often, of which “We Belong to the Night” by Ellen Foley was my favorite. A long recording at 5:18, but that is less than half the length of what you bring to the first single from the new album, which we know in part due to “Dance of the Vampires.”
ML: Yes, “Going All the Way” is over 11 minutes and isn’t exactly the same as Jim’s “Dance of the Vampires” musical song. Both of the “Paradise” singers, Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito are on it. It includes what I think is Jim’s most brilliant stanza, “There are secrets I never can tell. There are shadows of darkness in heaven. There are so many suburbs of hell, and their hours are 24/7.” Speaking of hell, Jim is going to bring “Bat Out of Hell – The Musical” to England in February.
GM: When you are in Europe for your tour we think dance fans will love the new song “More,” with its strong Euro-beat.
ML: Jim rewrote the lyrics on this one and it features two female vocalists, too: Cian Coey and Stacey Michelle. It is interesting for me to be on a dance record or even a rock record, as I am not a rock singer like my friend Robin Zander from Cheap Trick. I am a heldentenor, with a powerful, dramatic voice used in Wagnerian operas. My voice has changed over the years, even from “Bat” to “Bat 2.”
GM: Your range and drama is what makes you unique and what fans enjoy. The widest range may be the contrast of the opening and closing numbers on “Braver Than We Are.” We have been waiting for that opening cabaret-style number since reading about it in your 1999 autobiography “To Hell and Back” and the closing number is certainly a rocker.
ML: Jim wrote the opener “Who Needs the Young” when he was 19, almost 50 years ago and says it is the first song he ever wrote. As the album begins, for the lead character I wanted to show how angry the guy is. “Train of Love” certainly ends the album powerfully. The way that Rickey Medlocke from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot plays guitar makes it sound like a train.
GM: In our September 2015 issue of Goldmine, your musical daughter, Pearl, whose song “Nobody” we love, said, “’Bat Out of Hell’ is the most constant running soundtrack of my life.”
ML: You should hear Pearl’s 5-year-old son Revel play drums! He is now in a band called Shark with his Anthrax father (Scott Ian) and a guy from Metallica. My youngest daughter Amanda, the actress, is on the road with us, helping out our crew with the stage show aspect.