Like a bat out of hell, Judge Brett Cullum will be gone when the morning comes.
Though it's cold and lonely in the deep dark night, I can see paradise by the dashboard lights.
I have a really embarrassing admission to make, but I need to come clean. I'm a HUGE fan of Meat Loaf, and have been for most of my life. In high school, Bat Out of Hell was our official party album, and every one of my friends owned a copy. The album came out in 1977, but more than a decade and a half later my friends and I wore it out like it was new in stores last week. I own every full-length CD put out by the Loaf in the United States and Europe. I've seen him in concert many times, and I still listen to Bat Out of Hell as if it came out last week. How can I explain my fascination with a man who is the absolute antithesis of what's cool today? Skinny blonde teenage girls with mousy voices rule the airwaves, and image has become more important than talent across the board. But Meat Loaf perfectly captured my feelings as a teenager, and anytime I want to feel seventeen again I pop him in the CD player (take that Britney!). He was literally larger than life and had an impossibly dramatic Wagnerian voice. He sings about love and wanting, but mixed with cars and motorcycles. Bat Out of Hell is an operatic opus about your first kiss and your first heartbreak. So screw the people who poke fun at me for liking him. Meat Loaf is cool!
Meat Loaf VH-1 Storytellers is the DVD release of his special on the VH-1 series that was popular for a short time right around the millennium. Storytellers didn't survive as a series because most musicians are better at playing music than talking about it. Put them in front of a small intimate audience and ask them to explain themselves, and the magic dissipates quickly. Yet Meat Loaf is as much an actor as he is a musician (over forty movie roles to date), so he took to the format like a fish to water. This, after all, is the man who made a big-breasted cancer survivor lovable in Fight Club.
This DVD includes the full 1999 special without any edits, so you get almost two hours of him singing and talking about where his songs came from, and what they mean to him. It's like inviting Meat Loaf to dinner, and getting him to tell you everything he thinks about your favorite songs.
Included in the performance:
• All Revved Up and No Place To Go
This format is an interesting way to see him perform, because usually he's in a big stadium complete with pyrotechnics and inflatables. Here we see him in a locker room set with his band all around him. It has the aura of a high school reunion, with Meat as the high school quarterback reliving his glory days on the field. The audience reinforces this feeling, since most of them are middle aged, and you can see faces glowing with the memories of what it was like being a teenager. It's a great performance with some great stories between each song.
The DVD one-ups both its VHS and CD release by delivering the concert in a robust 5.1 stereo surround mix. VH-1 did a good job making sure the balances were right, with the instruments clear but never dwarfing the vocals. The image is clean, but about on par with a high-definition broadcast of an old television special. The audio may rock your world, but the picture is just average. Extras are sparse and include some text copies of the lyrics and "DVD ROM playability." Don't let the packaging fool you when it says "Commentary by Meat Loaf"—they are referring to his talking between the songs. It's still a great deal considering the price point is less than a greatest hits CD package. Fans should find this a great addition to their collection.
Meat Loaf seems to be doing pretty well lately. He has many movie projects lined up, and he's approaching his late fifties. He's had an amazing career, and its nice to see a release like this preserve what he does best. He's the world's unlikeliest rock star! A thick waisted Dallas boy with a funny nickname and a soaring operatic voice who favors Jim Steinman power ballads. And yet everything he does seems so honestly passionate you can't help but love him. I will hold my head up high as a proud Meat Loaf fan, and anytime you pass me on the freeway and hear "Paradise By the Dashboard Lights" cranking out my windows, just smile and wave.
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