Meat Loaf - 'Hang Cool Teddy Bear'

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Meat Loaf - 'Hang Cool Teddy Bear'

New album from the rotund rocker.

Meat Loaf is obviously one of those guys who was born to entertain and though he’s made a name for himself as a rock star, he’s been in a lot of TV and movies too. It’s his theatrical background that has helped make his music so entertaining and unique. Over the past few years he has shown definite signs of wear both vocally and physically. His appearance is that of a man his own age rather than the usual rock star look of a man half his age. Though his peak years as a live performer are way behind him he’s obviously still keen to record new music (either that or he’s tied down to a contract with so many albums required.) Fans have often been worried that a new Meat Loaf album without Jim Steinman is always going to be lacklustre. Well, that hasn’t always been the case. Post ‘Bat Out Of Hell II’ and 1995s ‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood’ remains an excellent album, certainly one of his best and though there are some songs on it that were penned by Steinman, the reclusive songwriting genius had nothing to do with the actual recording of the album.
Skip to some years later and 2003s ‘Couldn’t Have Said It Better’ was average at best with only a handful of decent rock songs. 2006s ‘Bat Out Of Hell III’ was, in hindsight, disappointing as it failed to achieve the longevity of its two predecessors and it sorely lacked Steinman’s dramatic touch. In sum, his solo career as a whole has been topsy-turvy. I approached ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’ with caution despite some early good reviews. In truth, the album is by far his best since ‘Welcome…’ and perhaps his strongest album outside of the unbeatable ‘Bat 1 & II’ cannon.
The masterful production hands of Rob Cavallo have made this album sound modern, vibrant and fresh, and given Meat Loaf’s career (another) new lease of life when it was getting stale and predictable. Sure, the album misses Steinman’s lyrics about adolescent lust, love and anger, which no-one can sing better than Meat Loaf, and the quirky voice-overs, role plays and sound effects that Steinman is great at doing are missing too, but the point is Meat Loaf is obviously keen to step away from that and try something new. He has succeeded in a big way.
However, one major failing is that the album lacks a memorable ballad either something along the lines of the delicate ‘Read ‘Em And Weep’ or something epic like ‘I’d Lie For You (And That’s The Truth.’) Also, the second half of the album is slightly anti-climactic after an awesome start. Maybe a song like the brilliant ‘Living On The Outside’ would have fitted better towards the end. But that’s just a minor qualm. ‘Los Angeloser’ is the album’s catchiest song and ‘Place On Earth’ is a groovy way to begin the 13 tracks. Guests include Hugh Laurie (yes, the actor from House et al), Justin Hawkins, Brian May, Patti Russo and Jack Black. His voice has aged but it’s deeper and perhaps more meaningful. Overall, ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’ is a total surprise and something the big Texan should be proud of. More please!
Neil Daniels

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