Meat Loaf: Hell In A Handbasket

Meat Loaf - Hell In A Handbasket promo photo
Meat Loaf – Hell In A Handbasket promo photo

Let me start off by saying, I am well aware that Meat Loaf is an extremely polarizing artist who has seen many ups and downs throughout his 40 year career span. Let me also say that I am what many would consider a “superfan” of this artist’s music, but I am also the kind of fan who will now bow at the altar saying everything is perfection in the Land of Loaf when I see and hear things going awry.

On Friday, September 30, 2011, Meat Loaf released his most recent studio album called Hell In A Handbasket on the Sony Music label Legacy Records as a limited release in Australia and New Zealand to help coincide with his upcoming Guilty Pleasures Tour in that part of the world.  The album is 13 songs that all fit into an intricate puzzle laying out the case that the world has truly gone to hell in a handbasket.

Track List for Australia/New Zealand:

  1. All of Me – Dave Berg (5:17)
  2. Fall from Grace – Gregory Becker/Bobby Huff/Bleu McAuley (3:46)
  3. The Giving Tree” – Evan Watson (4:54)
  4. Mad Mad World/The Good God Is a Woman and She Don’t Like Ugly [Special appearance by Chuck D] -Tom
  5. Cochrane/Paul Crook/Carlton Ridenhour (4:05)
  6. Party of One – Dave Kushner/Franky Perez (3:59)
  7. Live or Die – Gregory Becker/Tommy Henriksen/John Paul White (4:27)
  8. California Dreamin – [Duet with Patti Russo] – John Phillips/Michelle Phillips (4:05)
  9. Another Day – Wade Bowen/Sean McConnell (5:03)
  10. 40 Days – Bill Luther/Justin Weaver (5:23)
  11. Our Love and Our Souls [Duet with Patti Russo] – Sean McConnell (4:00)
  12. Stand in the Storm [Special guest appearances from Lil Jon, John Rich and Mark McGrath] – Barry Dean/J. Smith/Troy Verges (4:37)
  13. Blue Sky – Sean McConnell (2:57)

The songs on this album will take you on a musical journey from the guttural realms of rap and hip hop, to traditional southern rock, and even spiral the listener into the world of modern country music. There are guitars, pianos, and even fiddles on this album. This is musically one of Meat Loaf’s most easily accessible albums ever.

Track List for Europe/North America Release:

  1. All of Me – Dave Berg (5:17)
  2. The Giving Tree” – Evan Watson (4:54)
  3. Live or Die – Gregory Becker/Tommy Henriksen/John Paul White (4:27)
  4. Blue Sky/Mad Mad World/The Good God Is a Woman and She Don’t Like Ugly –  [Special appearance by Chuck D] -Tom
    Cochrane/Paul Crook/Carlton Ridenhour/Sean McConnell (4:58)
  5. California Dreamin – [Duet with Patti Russo] – John Phillips/Michelle Phillips (4:05)
  6. Party of One – Dave Kushner/Franky Perez (3:59)
  7. Another Day – Wade Bowen/Sean McConnell (5:03)
  8. 40 Days – Bill Luther/Justin Weaver (5:23)
  9. Our Love and Our Souls [Duet with Patti Russo] – Sean McConnell (4:00)
  10. Stand in the Storm [Special guest appearances from Lil Jon, Trace Adkins, and Mark McGrath]
  11. Blue Sky – Sean McConnell (2:57)
  12. Fall from Grace – Gregory Becker/Bobby Huff/Bleu McAuley (3:46)
Meat Loaf: Hell In A Handbasket on Amazon.com
Meat Loaf: Hell In A Handbasket on Amazon.com

To give you some history on the legendary musical career of Meat Loaf…  He started off as part of the Motown group Stoney and Meat Loaf, but that was short lived and often forgotten, so let’s start the story with…  Once upon a time, Jim Steinman took Meat Loaf on a sweeping adventure through arena rock on the original Bat Out Of Hell album, then he ventured him through a magical fairyland adventure of sex and rock and roll on the second Bat Out Of Hell II:  Back Into Hell album, and who knows what happened on the last installment of that trilogy – Bat Out Of Hell 3:  The Monster Is Loose. The albums Meat Loaf released in the 80’s were mostly corporate hands trying to cash in on the name that is Meat Loaf. Welcome To The Neighborhood painted pictures of over the top relationships and Couldn’t Have Said It Better took the listener on a musical adventure of countermelodies and destruction of romantic relationships. That brings us to Hang Cool Teddy Bear.  In this album,  Meat Loaf and music producer Rob Cavello envisioned as an epic story of a dying soldier and hallucinations and well…honestly, I am not sure what the vision was because I did not see it. What I did see was Meat Loaf exploring a new sound in his music, which was exciting. I think that Hang Cool Teddy Bear was weighed down with sub par songs that were included to “further the story” over possible songs that would have been better choices, but did fit the difficult to impossible to find storyline of the album.

That being said, Meat Loaf announced Hell In A Handbasket short on the heels of the adventurous Hang Cool Teddy Bear. I was looking forward to more of the Hang Cool sound and the world is blessed that the new sound is there! The world is further blessed that the new Hang Cool sound has been tamed back a bit and reigned in, so the listener does not feel like their auditory canals have been raped after listening.

Paul Crook, who is the lead guitar player and musical director for Meat Loaf’s live touring band, The Neverland Express, took on the producer and engineer duties for this album. It was really refreshing to hear Meat Loaf’s actual band contributing to the album versus a slew of studio musicians. Meat Loaf has the most amazing band and they deserve to be showcased in this forum.

Stand out tracks from Hell In A Handbasket are as follows:

  • Fall From Grace: The guitars, piano, and drums were captured amazingly well. This song really gives you the feeling of being at a live Meat Loaf show right in your home or car. The wall of sound background vocals are back in a big way and the change of pacing in the chorus is brilliant.
  • Mad, Mad World/The Good God Is A Woman And She Don’t Like Ugly: Good classic southern rock track that has a surprisingly amazing and fitting rap interlude by another music legend, Chuck D of Public Enemy. There has been much criticism of Meat Loaf including the rap genre on this album, but as with all good storytelling, sometimes you must have the right “voice” to get the message across. The album, Hell In A Handbasket, really needs to push the listener into uncomfortable areas to adequately convey the message. Kudos for bringing Chuck D into the mix for the song!
  • Party Of One: From the Dick Dale inspired riff, the listener is swept into a very real look into the life of Meat Loaf. This song really tells a pretty strong tale if you listen and holds no punches, as Meat Loaf sings about the frustrations about the way his past unfolded – “I used to keep a lot of people around who kept their hands over my eyes, ears, and mouth. Just like the money and the buzz they were gone in the morning.” I will let the listener fill in the blanks, but all I can say is I believe certain pairs of shoes were not only put away but tossed out in the rubbish with this track, and judging from the quality of the album – I say for the best.
  • Another Day: This is the song that stopped me cold in my tracks. As someone who suffers from depression himself, this song was really needed. From the gentle piano to the emphasis Meat Loaf puts in his articulation of every word he sings on this song – simple perfection. Simply put, in these days of bullying being taken to such extremes that people are killing themselves and from the insight of knowing how suicidal thoughts simply take control of your life, this song needs to be sung. I know how my depression affects my friends and family and hearing it vocalized was very powerful. This song will be my “it gets better” anthem.

Brilliant album from a magnificent legend. Roll on February when the world will finally be able to hear this masterpiece.

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