The Monster is Loose is both the title track and subtitle to MeatLoaf's superb new album, Bat out of Hell III. I've hardly stopped listening to the tracks since I bought it yesterday. This is classic MeatLoaf - heavy rock, powerful ballads and completely over the top in every sense. Its the distinctiveness of his music that has always drawn me to MeatLoaf. These aren't puerile love songs - these are mini-opera's of the agony of love, sex, violence and death. Bat out of Hell III is certainly darker than the previous two Bat albums and I absolutely love it.
My favourite track is Seize the Night, which includes a chorus partly sung in Latin by a boy soprano, some rather salty lyrics and massively over the top orchestrations. Then there are the more personal tracks like Cry Over Me, What About Love and It's All Coming Back to Me Now, plus the loud and heavy rock of The Monster is Loose and In the Land of the Pig, The Butcher is King. Whatever he sings MeatLoaf always invests everything into it and draws me into these songs. Yeah, they're completely over-done and histrionic but that's the great part of the appeal to me of his music. Everything is over-stated, loud and emotional to a point where it is impossible not to be sucked in and swept away with it.
MeatLoaf is about the only musical choice I've made that hasn't been influenced by my parents. Most of the music I like now is what I heard my dad playing on the old record player back home. Its the music that I grew up with. However, there was never any MeatLoaf played in the house! Bat out of Hell was where it all started and in the early 90s I remember I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) was played on the radio all the time and got me hooked. I think the first Bat out of Hell album was the first MeatLoaf album I got and since then I've purchased almost all the others plus a couple of DVD's.
Although most of MeatLoaf's albums have been collaborations with Jim Steinman, one of my personal favourites is Welcome to the Neighbourhood released in 1995, which was notable for its absence of any Steinman written tracks. This was a much more reflective and sombre album than what would be expected from MeatLoaf. The album seemed very much about loss, betrayal and unrequited love. My particular favourites are Original Sin, Left in the Dark, Martha and Where Angels Sing. Another thing that strikes me about MeatLoaf's music is that the lyrics are often memorable and easily quotable. They have meaning and often I find the words to be personally affecting. This is why Welcome to the Neighbourhood sticks with me because I understand something of what its like to know the pain of unrequited love.
Of a completely different style, I got a bargain CD compilation of Nina Simone last week. Now this is a choice that was definitely influenced by my dad who always seemed to be playing her songs. I'd not really been that keen when I was a kid and to be honest until I read an article about Simone's career and music earlier this year, I'd pretty much forgotten about her music. This CD was something of a tentative toe in the water. The only track that I instantly recognised was My Baby Just Cares for Me which was used in the film Shallow Grave. What struck me almost immediately is the variations of styles and influences in Simone's music; blues, jazz and classical amongst others. Some of the songs are angry declarations such as Mississippi Goddam and Don't Smoke in Bed, while tracks like He Needs Me, show a much more fragile side to Simone. I was impressed especially by the main section of the album of live performances. The last few tracks from the latter years of Simone's career just didn't seem right. They felt too polished and lacked the vitality, rawness and energy of her earlier work. However it has got me interested in discovering more of Simone's work,