Album review of Meat Loaf's 'Hell in a Handbasket'

No one can ever accuse Meat Loaf of having a lack of melodrama, even without the bombastic songwriting of former collaborator Jim Steinman.
Author:
Publish date:

By Patrick Prince

Meat Loaf
"Hell in a Handbasket"
Sony Legacy
***

No one can ever accuse Meat Loaf of having a lack of melodrama, even without the bombastic songwriting of former collaborator Jim Steinman.

On “Hell in a Handbasket,” Meat (or Mr. Loaf, if you prefer) enlists the help of country artists and a select few from the hip-hop community to obtain his goals. And the main goal is to entertain the listener — which he always does. The vocalist still retains a kind of magic after all these years. It may not be the captivating spells of “Bat Out of Hell” but it has a respectable charm nonetheless.

Meat Loaf Hell In A Handbasket

There are moments of turning princes into toads, however. Take the cover version of “California Dreamin,’” for instance. Sadly, it comes off more like karaoke next to The Mamas & The Papas original. Patti Russo’s classy backing vocals attempt to salvage the song halfway through, but to no avail. The track is completely unnecessary, even for B-side fodder. Then the album ends with another dud: “Fall From Grace,” a song that tries to follow the path that U2 and Coldplay have embarked on, the airy heights of adult contemporary. In a word, yuck.

The truth is, Meat Loaf is best with a bite. The singer pleases most when he rocks out. “Stand in the Storm” is a durable rocker and enlists artists from Mark McGrath (Sugar Ray) to rapper L’il Jon. And there’s a legitimate rock ’n’ roll single here. But the best is “Party Of One,” an exceptional hard rocker with a Deep Purple-ish monster riff that proves that there’s still quality meat in that old Meat Loaf.