As a rule, the weaker a high-profile performer's output, the more guest collaborators are wheeled out to boost its faltering power.
On Hang Cool Teddy Bear, alongside the usual female vocalist foils, Meat Loaf is joined by Brian May, Steve Vai, Justin Hawkins, Jack Black, and most bizarrely, Hugh Laurie. The latter, an accomplished pianist, is drafted in to play the Roy Bittan role on the Springsteen-esque street-opera "If I Can't Have You". It's not the only borrowed mode here – "Song Of Madness" has the lumbering portentousness of Zep's "Kashmir", while the Jack Black duet "Like A Rose" recalls the rock-rap style Rick Rubin devised for The Beastie Boys – but at least it has the drive to carry the form off with aplomb.
The same can't be said for the guitar showcase "Love Is Not Real", which loses direction halfway through its seven-plus minutes thanks to the combined efforts of Vai, May and Hawkins. The concept supposedly linking the 13 tracks concerns a wounded soldier's visions, not of his past life, but of possible future lives. In practice, this is simply a pretext for the usual string of overwrought romantic melodramas in standard overblown Meat Loaf style, which new producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance) doesn't tamper with.
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