Jim Steinman described the track “The Storm” as the prologue to his solo album, so we will begin there, even though it was not originally released on the album proper.
“The Storm” is really a classical piece that sounds more like a film score than anything else. Steinman had scored the film A Small Circle of Friends (Rob Cohen, USA 1980) a year before, and that experience seems to have influenced him to write this type of track that doesn’t so much cohere as its own statement as serve as a sampler of ideas that he would more fully flesh out elsewhere (and a Steinman fan can find embryonic versions of many of his memorable later melodies in that score). Later on, we would find similar concepts in “Pray Lewd” on the Pandora’s Box album and “Back into Hell” on Bat out of Hell II: Back Into Hell.
If anything, “The Storm” feels even more like a collection of dramatic scenes than a typical film score. It opens with a call-and-response between impossibly loud horns and strings that he would repurpose a number of times over the years (in my mind, it is most memorable as the opening of “Totale Finsternis” on Der Tanz der Vampire). The call-and-response breaks down into a very ominous but still booming horn and strings section that feels to me like a camera panning over something dangerous. For me, this sounds like it is all proclaiming the arrival of some conquering force. It’s dramatic and loud even by Steinman standards, which means it’s otherworldly on both counts by any reasonable standard. It has always sounded to me like it’s somehow rushed, but it definitely has an atmosphere.
A string-led section punctuated with horns then takes over and the foreboding atmosphere gives way to one of adventure. It feels like a chase that really never lets up through the rest of the track. It’s very un-melodic and rather sounds like a series of Hollywood action sequence tropes.
Finally, a string-led sequence that sounds like the rise of some ancient evil seems to continue in the same vein.
It has a great atmosphere, but “The Storm” really feels like three minute-plus pieces of orchestral film score and two of them just don’t stand out at all. Recording with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra was reportedly an extraordinarily expensive endeavor with triple-digit musicians involved, and it was for a piece that wouldn’t even be included in the album proper.
Why was this expensive track that one must assume was a labor of love for Steinman on a separate EP? I suspect the answer lies in the popular video for “Bat out of Hell.” Where the album recording of the song clocks in at 9:52, the video version comes in at 8:10 (which is, of course, still extraordinarily long for a radio single). The first minute and a half of the song, which is entirely an instrumental opening, is excised. If you play “The Storm” followed by the album proper’s opening track, “Bad for Good,” the first sting and then the smaller rhythmic stings that follow really feel like they are pulling us out of that moment into a more modern rock world, perhaps following as the sea-bound monster escapes and states his purpose in Steinman’s voice. That makes me think Steinman might have written it all as one thirteen-minute epic and then shunted off the intro as its own thing before the record company could do it later.
In a way, “The Storm” encapsulates what’s great, what’s fascinating, and what’s frustrating about Bad for Good–it has the booming, uncompromisingly huge attitude of its predecessor, but it’s quietly far more traditional and secretly a compromise for commerce. It’s not a bad piece of music by any means, but, especially given its placement on the CD release before “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through,” I typically skipped it. It felt like a detour away from what made Steinman special, which meant it was lucky that he had something as good as “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” to make up for it at the end.
- I don’t want to write a review of it because I honestly don’t want to watch the film, but I finally actually listened to the A Small Circle of Friends score at this point.
- Songs I definitely heard in A Small Circle of Friends: “Making Love (Out of Nothing at All),” “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through,” “Loving You’s a Dirty Job (But Somebody’s Got to Do It),” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” “Making Love (Out of Nothing at All)” was definitely the main motif throughout, and the fastest versions of it struck me for starting to sound similar to (though not the same as) the piano in the intro to “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That.)”
- The opening lyrics of “Bad for Good” further cement a connection to an instrumental song called “The Storm”: “The sea is whipping the sky/The sky is whipping the sea/You can hide away forever from the storm/But you’ll never hide away from me.”