Meat Loaf earned his somewhat eccentric name as a performer in the Rocky Horror Show, the theatrical torture, although he had previously spent several years as a rock singer in Detroit, even recording a single or two for Motown. Bat Out of Hell reflects such diversity, but can’t resolve it. Meat Loaf has an outstanding voice, but his phrasing is way too stage-struck to make the album’s pretensions to comic-book street life real. He needs a little less West Side Story and a little more Bruce Springsteen.
Jim Steinman, who wrote and arranged the entire album, needs a lot less of both. Some of the songs here, particularly “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth,” are swell, but they are entirely mannered and derivative. Steinman is wordy, and his attempts to recapture adolescence are only remembrances; he can’t bring out the transcendently personal elements that make a song like “Night Moves,” an obvious influence here. The arrangements aren’t bad, although they play into the hammiest of Meat Loaf’s postures, and the playing is excellent, led by pianist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg of Springsteen’s E Street Band and producer Todd Rundgren’s guitars. But the principals have some growing to do.