Why this cover of a classic by Meat Loaf is preposterous but chillingly honest

Meat Loaf
Meat Meat Meat Meat Meat Loaf
(Image: © Martin Hausler)

Meat Loaf isn’t the singer he used to be. The operatic howl that so dominated Bat Out Of Hell has weakened over the years, and new album Braver Than We Are finds man mountain Meat in drastically diminished form, relying on a decaying voice that wheezes forlornly where it once bellowed and soared.

This hasn’t stopped the album garnering decent reviews (our own described it as offering “strength through absurdity,” while songwriter Jim Steinman describes Meat as “heroic in his ravaged voice”), but the asthmatic vocal does serve as a chilling reminder that god-given talents are just as likely to crumble as they are to continue.

Customers at Target stores in the US and Tesco in the UK have an extra reason to be excited by Meat’s new album, as they’re able to purchase a special edition CD that features an extra three tracks: an orchestral version of the classic I’d Do Anything For Love featuring Irish quiff queen Imelda May, Prize Fight Lover, and a stirring version of Buffalo Springfield’s 1967 hit For What It’s Worth.

Braver Than We Are producer Paul Cook suggested that Meat tackle For What It’s Worth, and roped in the song’s writer Stephen Stills to provide the harmonies. The results? Meat sounds punch drunk, delivering a clumsy, staccato vocal that’s half-spoken and half-sung. By any normal standard it’s preposterous, but through the frailty and apparent failure you can hear Meat trying to perform, his muscle memory attempting to climb those bombastic peaks, trying to recall the Meat Loaf of old.

It’s genuinely moving. Like Jimi Hendrix at The Isle Of Wight singing the opening, “There must be some kind of way out of here” line from All Along The Watchtower with such desperation that you knew he was is real trouble, this is an artist clinging on to what they love, and clinging on for dear life.

Jim Steinman says the album, “stands with the top ten recordings of all time,” and he’s wrong. He says it’s, “one of the greatest works of art I’ve ever been involved with,” and he’s doing himself a disservice. But For What It’s Worth might just be the most human, most vulnerable moment of Meat’s long career, as the decimated singer stumbles through a favourite song. You can almost glimpse Paradise By The Dashboard Light through the wreckage.

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