Meat Loaf's 1977 album "Bat Out Of Hell" has long become a classic rock record that is as cool as it was almost 30 years ago when it was first released. But it was not always like that. The road to getting this record done and published was a long and arduous one and in their "Classic Albums" line of DVD releases, Eagle Rock Entertainment gives the people involved in the production the chance to remember how it all came together while also giving fans the chance to hear – often for the first time – the events that led to the creation of Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell."
Featuring extensive interviews with Meat Loaf, composer Jim Steinman, producer Todd Rundgren and vocalists Ellen Foley – who sang on the record – and Karla De Vito – who sang live – this 60-minute documentary is not only a trip down memory lane, it also sheds new light on a remarkable production. This happens in part through the comments of the people involved, of course, but also through excerpts played, oftentimes in isolation.
Jim Steinman opens the documentary by playing the "Bat Out Of Hell" theme on the piano and talking about how he was a theater composer when he first met Meat Loaf, an incredibly gifted singer and performer. Quickly the two realized that they would complement each other exceedingly well and the idea to do a record – as opposed to a theater production – was born. But getting it off the ground wasn't easy. Steinman's music was not something you could put on a demo tape easily. It just didn't translate well, so they needed to perform the music live in front of record producers in their offices, which was – and still is – unheard of. Nonetheless, many producers simply did not see the potential in the music, not having the vision to see beyond what's there immediately, and it took a genius like Todd Rundgren to realize the gem and polish it to perfection. An accomplished musician and record producer, Rundgren turned Steinway's fairly Broadway-style compositions and turned them into driving rock songs. One track at a time, each song of the album was polished to perfection until everyone was convinced that this was the best it would ever get.
Much of this information is relayed in the documentary while both Rundgren and Meat Loaf often remix the music to give viewers the chance to hear individual passages, such as isolated guitar parts, isolated vocals, vocal arrangements etc. It is very exciting to hear and experience because it doesn't happen very often that you get to hear the individual tracks of a classic record this way. It also makes you realize what kind of virtuosity was at work here, starting with Steinman's compositions and going over Rundgren's guitar work all the way to Meat Loaf's vocals.
The DVD itself offers up a picture in full frame that is without major problems. Since this is a standard documentary without a lot of tricks or effects or such, the material is unchallenging and nicely reproduced. It contains a few minutes of concert footage but it comes from a high quality source also, making for a great showing. The audio on the disc comes as a Dolby Stereo track that is just that – stereo. It serves the purpose very well also.
This "Classic Album" documentary of "Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell" is great to see for fans of the record who want to learn a bit more about its production and the people involved. It makes you want to go back and listen to the record again, no doubt, giving you a renewed perspective on the material. Too bad only that the actual record is not included on the DVD but for $11.98 you can't have it all. As it is, it is a great factotum for fans of this classic album. Get it!