It's been a long time since the musical career of Meat Loaf has drawn much interest; many of those who relived teenage fantasies to the strains of late '70s hit "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" are now into middle age and more likely to be thinking about "Lipitor in the Walgreens Line" than they are a new release from the husky singer. No one expects Loaf to recapture the golden days that began with 1977's Bat Out of Hell but when you've sold 45 million albums you can surely sell a few more every once in awhile, in particular to fans who just realized you were still around after seeing your highly-publicized tantrum on Celebrity Apprentice. It seems that even back in his heyday there were plenty of folks who loved to belittle Meat Loaf and I would suspect that most of these people would greet the news of a new release with a yawn or automatically expect the record to be bad. It is not. Neither is it a chartbuster. It's almost an expected hallmark of a Meat Loaf album that there's going to be filler and tracks like "All of Me" and "The Giving Tree," although they find Loaf in strong voice, lack excitement. The two cuts get Hell in a Handbasket off to a lackluster start but things turn around quickly with "Live or Die," a great southern-tinged rocker that would fit right in with any of the badass stuff Molly Hatchet has done. Another pretty good cut is a medley called "Blue Sky/Mad Mad World/The Good God is a Woman and She Don't Like Ugly" that features a rap from Chuck D but then the energy flow gets quashed with an ill-advised cover of the Mamas & the Papas chestnut "California Dreamin'," an odd, old choice considering the previous song tries to show how cool you are by including a nod to hip-hop. In another attempt to be a bit more contemporary, Loaf enlists Trace Adkins, Lil Jon and Mark McGrath for the would-be anthem "Stand in the Storm;" the song rages but never quite makes landfall. Throw in a few slower, emotional numbers and the psychobilly-infused rocker "Party of One" and you have the whole of Hell in a Handbasket. It may not be headed for the top of the charts but it's also far from going the direction the album title indicates.
Meat Loaf - Hell in a Handbasket