I haven’t harped as much about how much this album is repeating Bat out of Hell as I did with Bad for Good, but it’s definitely the case–if anything even more so. “Peel Out” opens the album with a song about driving fast to replicate the motorcycle crash opening, “I’m Gonna Love Her for Both of Us” has more than a little Phil Spector influence and a singalong chorus just like “You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night),” “More Than You Deserve” is a softer piano-and-strings ballad like “Heaven Can Wait,” “I’ll Kill You If You Don’t Come Back” is a louder and less piano-driven rocker like “All Revved up with No Place to Go,” and “Read ’em and Weep” is a vaguely country-by-way-of-the-Eagles sad ballad like “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.” The reason I’ve harped on it less here is that it doesn’t feel like a disservice to the songs as much as the songs feel like they’re written for that express purpose.
In that sense, there may not be a bigger offender than “Read ’em and Weep,” which feels so much like a second stab at “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” that it’s almost funny. The instrumentation is similar. The lyrics are similar. The themes are similar. The subdued, vibrato-heavy delivery from Meat Loaf is similar. The structure is similar. Hell, even the run time only differs by two seconds.
Where “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” is telling the tale of a man in a breaking relationship who is trying to cope with its loss by defiance, “Read ’em and Weep” is a more straightforward song from something of the opposite perspective. The protagonist is trying to find the right way to end a relationship that he knows isn’t working but can’t find it, concluding with the hope, “Oh it’s there in my eyes/Oh can’t you see me tonight/Come on and look at me and read ’em and weep.” It’s still not as simple as a normal pop song, as his desire to cause some level of pain via breakup is expressed (“I thought I’d leave you with a letter or a fiery speech/Like when an actor makes an exit at the end of a play” and “Well, I could tell you ‘goodbye’ or maybe ‘see you around’/With just a touch of a sarcastic ‘thanks’”) even as he finds himself unable to go through with it (“I’ve been whispering softly, trying to a cry up to a scream”), seemingly unsure how to make his own sadness boil up into the anger he feels he needs to leave her. It’s an excellent lyric that goes just a bit deeper than the usual breakup song and has some absolutely brilliant phrasing.
As “Read ’em and Weep” opens, we hear an echoing mix of piano and un-distorted guitar playing a short hook that bears a passing similarity to “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.” Some twanging lead guitars join in and give us a country tinge. Meat Loaf’s vocal joins in, attempting a softer delivery than his norm. At the prechorus, Steve Buslowe’s bass and Lberty Devitto’s soft-rock percussion join in with some louder, more distorted guitars to build the sound up for the chorus in which everything else becomes essentially a rhythm piece below the twangier-still lead guitar and Meat Loaf’s vocal. After twice through this pattern we get some choral backing vocals but otherwise a pretty similar sound to the chorus with Meat Loaf shouting above. It’s a bit conventional of a sound following the decade of country soft rock, but it’s not bad.
However, and I hate to keep having to say this, Meat Loaf’s vocals are awful. He’s straining to hit half of the notes in the chorus and seems to think that if he just adds a ton of vibrato we won’t be able to notice. The trademark playing with notes to give them more emotion is even largely absent in this song, leaving bare how weak his voice sounds at this point. There are moments throughout this album that he sounds like his old self, but “Read ’em and Weep” really doesn’t have any of them. When I imagine Steinman walking out of this album, I imagine him giving the record executives the tapes of Meat Loaf trying to sing this song and just walking out.
“Read ’em and Weep” isn’t one of Steinman’s greatest songs, but it has a lot of the elements to be one. However, I’m not a fan of the country guitars on this recording and Meat Loaf’s voice, at least to me, sounds terrible. This song is another entry in my list of Steinman songs that I feel like never got a definitive recording, and it’s at least good enough to have deserved one.
- Karla DeVito. Liberty DeVitto. I assume that’s just a coincidence!
- There are only four lines, really, in each verse of the song. The part I’m calling the prechorus could be considered part of the verses but I’m calling a prechorus in part because the lyrics are repeating.
- I never have listened to much of Meat Loaf’s ’80s output, but I have to admit that listening back through this album is making me more curious about how long it took to get his voice back.
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