Over a career spanning five decades, Michael Lee Aday (a household name under his childhood nickname-turned-stage name, Meat Loaf) released 12 studio albums; records of varying quality for a variety of reasons.
The thing is, over the course of those five decades, Meat Loaf - or more precisely, the record companies that released his music - released more ‘best of’ compilation albums than studio albums, mostly regurgitating the same list of singles and songs. Of course, out of those studio albums his best known is still the first, Bat Out Of Hell, a record composed almost entirely of singles, which essentially means that on a single disc compilation, half the album was always going to be from that one record.
Those songs, and one or two others, are the songs that everyone remembers Meat Loaf for - and since the received wisdom is that Meat Loaf was crap without songwriter/producer Jim Steinman (not true, but it’s been repeated so many times that it’s hard to refute), then a huge portion of his back catalogue gets ignored even by his fans.
Having said that, overlooked doesn’t necessarily mean underrated, and there are plenty of Meat Loaf songs that don’t get the same kind of airplay as Dead Ringer For Love or I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) that are just as good, if not better…
12. Bat Out Of Hell (1977) - Heaven Can Wait
Because Bat Out Of Hell was almost all singles, and because those singles are part of the popular culture lexicon and are on every greatest hits package his labels ever put out, most people haven’t actually listened to the record itself. That’s a shame, because they’ve missed a treat, sitting quietly in the middle of side one: a four-and-a-half minute love song called Heaven Can Wait.
On a beast of a debut album full of lurid, full-throated swagger, Heaven Can Wait exists as an anomaly for two reasons. It was one of the only two songs on the record that wasn’t a single, and it’s a ballad without the power, just piano, strings and Meat Loaf’s plaintive, tremulous voice.
It’s the best vocal on the album, despite the lack of bombast, the first evidence that Aday didn’t have to blow a blood vessel to perfectly inhabit whatever character was sitting within the song waiting for him.
More than that, it’s sweet: there’s no blood, sweat and tears, no thunder and lightning, just a declaration of love that’s all the more touching for being so understated.