Meat Loaf's sequel album heads for an appropriate destination


September 24, 1993|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic


Meat Loaf (MCA 10699) It's not unusual to find an artist who has had only one big hit spend the rest of his or her career repeating it, but few have ever taken that approach to the extreme that Meat Loaf does in "Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell." Envisioned as a sequel to Loaf's 1978 smash, "Bat Out of Hell," it not only reunites the oversized singer with overblown producer Jim Steinman, but re- creates the overwrought sound of the original. Trouble is, Steinman's rock-symphonic approach -- which, even at its best, sounds like Andrew Lloyd Webber doing a bad imitation of Bruce Springsteen -- sounds even more ludicrous today than it did 15 years ago. And, after listening to Loaf flog the lyric "I'll do anything for love/But I won't do that" for a dozen minutes on end, it's all too easy to understand why this album was subtitled "Back Into Hell."


$En Vogue (EastWest 92296)

Even though vocal harmonies are at the heart of En Vogue's musical identity, the key to the quartet's success has always had as much to do with strong beats as with soulful singing. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that rhythm, not harmony, is what drives "Runaway Love." After all, it isn't the silken vocal mix that makes the title tune so alluring but the lazy, bass-heavy groove beneath it. Likewise, "Whatta Man" -- the other new number on this EP -- owes its appeal not to the divas' divine vocal blend, but to the way their well-harmonized chorus rides the songs' Stax-derived groove. And though the vocals on the other songs FTC are, for the most part, identical to the versions found on "Funky Divas," there's enough rhythmic invention in these remixes -- particularly the dancehall take on "Desire" -- to lift them comfortably above the originals.


&De La Soul (Tommy Boy 1063)

When De La Soul first floated into view with "3 Feet High and Rising," the trio's anything-goes aesthetic dramatically expanded the musical horizons of hip-hop. But that success left the group facing impossibly inflated expectations for its second album -- expectations De La Soul never met. And even though the group opens its third album, "Buhloone Mindstate," with the chant "It might blow up but it won't go pop," the fact is that De La Soul is unlikely to do either. This "Buhloone" won't "blow up" -- that is, sell big -- because De La Soul's ragged rhymes and laid-back wit is too quirky and self-indulgent to interest mainstream rap fans, much less the pop audience. And, though there's enough aural invention in these tracks to keep old fans listening, it's unlikely that De La Soul will convert many others to their current mindstate.

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