First let me say I am a huge Jim Steinman fan. I think that the music he creates is some of the best of the rock era. We all know and love the classic Bat out of hell and its timeless songs 2 Out Of 3 Ain't Bad and You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth as well as the title track. Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse Of The Heart and Holding Out for A Hero. Well let me say that all of the tracks on this album are up there with those named above.
Pandora's Box is a girl group formed by Steinman to record these songs while he was waiting for Meatloaf to get round to recording Bat Out of Hell II. Some of the songs will be familiar as Meatloaf covered some on Bat II and III. The most familiar voice on the album will most likely be Ellen Foley who appeared on the original Bat Out of Hell as the featured female vocalist.
The most well known song is undoubtedly It's All Coming Back To Me Now, which became a huge hit for Celine Dion. Now admittedly Celine did a good job on the song as did Meatloaf, but the best and original version is undoubtedly here on Original Sin.
There is no point in me giving a track by track run down. Suffice to say if you know kim Steinmans work then you know what to expect. Be prepared to be bombarded by the genius of Steinman.
It is 2007, someone said you have to listen to this and passed me the CD. I said ok Meatloaf stuff (and i love Meatloaf stuff!!) they said, just listen to the CD...
This is the most amazing CD buy it NOW and listen.
The tracks seem familiar and we have heard lots elsewhere, but there is something different, special and unique about the tracks here.
THIS IS AS AMAZING AS THE TRANS SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA STUFF.
Back in the late seventies, a young stayleyvegas was out with his friends during the long, hot, school holidays. One day, one of his friends turned up with his new birthday present. This was the must have item of the times and stayleyvegas and the unfortunate others were green with envy as the present was shown off to the group by a beaming mate. It was a ghetto blaster! We had only heard about these and it was huge!! It was full of switches and knobs and huge speakers and Wow, its got a graphic equalizer on even though to this day I am not sure any of us know what the graphic equalizer actually did. But boy did it look good.
Listen to this my friend said. You are not going to believe the sound. Little did I know he meant the cassette he had in it and not the quality of the unit.
So we all crowded closer and the fortunate owner went to press the play button seemingly in slow motion and we waited with bated breath and suddenly, haunting music erupted from the speakers. And in that split second from peace to music my life changed forever.
It had nothing to do with the quality of the speakers or the ghetto blaster itself, that was now a side issue, but the sound emanating from these speakers started me on a path of musical delight that brings a tingle to my spine nearly 30 years later. It was the opening bars to Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf and to this day I am a Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman fan.
So whats this little story got to do with Original Sin by Pandoras Box which was released ten years later? Well thats easy. Like Bat Out Of Hell (BOOH), Original Sin was (mostly) written and produced by Jim Steinman the master lyricist but believe it or not it wasnt until 2006 that I discovered this as numerous songs on the album have since been re-recorded and gone on to sell in vast numbers. The release of Bat Out of Hell 3 in October 2006 put Original Sin back in the headlines as two songs from the album made it onto BOOH 3 and when it became clear that a Steinman album had evaded my grasp and attention I just had to get it without reading any reviews of it beforehand. I didnt care what the critics thought I just had to get it. So I did.
Any Steinman fan will know that all his work is littered with humour & irony and both the album title and group name chosen were no different. According to legend, Pandora opened a container which released all the evils of mankind greed, envy, slander, vanity, pining and leaving only hope once the container was closed. I wonder if this was a message from Jim Steinman to Meat Loaf, given their public disagreements on the basis that undoubtedly the songs on this album would almost certainly have been the backbone of BOOH2 or 3. There is no doubt in my mind that Meat Loaf would have been envious to miss out on these great songs and pining to have them on one of the follow up BOOH albums.
Similarly, with the album title, is Steinman saying that Meat Loaf has made the original sin in missing out on this bag of goodies? You can never be totally sure with Steinman but hardened fans will know that there is nearly always a message under the surface. Indeed some of the lyrics for the song Original Sin point towards some message back to Meat Loaf All I wanted was a piece of the night, All I wanted was an equal share. Does this relate to their falling out over Jim Steinman being recognized as equal partner on BOOH? I do feel that there is an underlying message between Steinman/Meat Loaf within this great album.
Pandoras Box was a quartet of female singers that had largely worked with Steinman before, specifically brought together to record this one album. Ellen Foley who featured in BOOH (Paradise By The Dashboard Light), Gina Taylor, Holly Sherwood who sang on Bonnie Tylers hit album Faster Than The Speed Of Light and Elaine Caswell who has done back up vocals for Meat Loaf, Cher, Bonnie Tyler, Celine Dion & Jennifer Rush amongst others. These four were therefore no lightweights in the singing department and each brought their own strong, unique voices to the album. They were backed up by Rory Dodd (better known as the man who sang the "turn around" part of Bonnie Tyler's hit, Total Eclipse Of The Heart (written by Jim Steinman)) as well as Todd Rundgren (who produced Bat Out Of Hell), although their voices are barely discernible.
The album itself features 14 songs of which two are cover versions (track 3; Twentieth Century Fox originally released by The Doors and track 11; My Little Red Book written by Burt Bacharach). Unfortunately, both appear mis-placed on the album and add nothing to it for me as they come nowhere near being Steinman type songs and the way they have been done would not appear out of place on an 80s B side single.
This album is based around a grand, operatic rock offering, interspersed with pure music, such as Requiem Metal which is a 52 second musical masterpiece. A story with no words. Similarly, Pray Lewd (seemingly a play on words of pre-lude) is just a mind blowing piano solo incorporating music from Original Sin, Its All Coming Back to Me and It Just Wont Quit and surely would have made an excellent opening number as it does give a prelude to whats to come. It is typical Steinman showmanship. The Opening of The Box follows a similar musical theme with a slow build up and ending in a huge crescendo, presumably as the box is opened. It works well though and I think there is only Steinman who can get away with these kind of musical interludes as they add to the overall story.
The Want Ad also appears a strange selection on the album as it features Ellen Foley taking throughout it about strange responses she received from a Want Ad. However, it seems to work perfectly. Similarly, Ive Been Dreaming Up A Storm Lately is a monologue by Steinman himself which is superb writing, powerful and prophetic and seems to deserve its place on the album because it is typical Jim Steinman.
The individual singers all put in masterful performances and Gina Taylor singing Safe Sex stands out for her sheer power alone. Unfortunately, the songs covered by other artists later on are the ones that stick in my mind and in the main come out on top over the original version. The 1996 Celine Dion version of Its All Coming Back To Me grabs hold of me more than the Elaine Caswell version on this album and in turn the Meat Loaf version (with Marion Raven in a duet) surpasses it further on BOOH 3. Similarly, the Meat Loaf version of It Just Wont Quit on BOOH 2 is slightly quicker and a lot more passionate that Elaine Caswells.
The album is littered with wonderful, thought provoking lyrics and music although all the songs sound very similar, almost ballad like. Some of them need an injection of energy and whilst it is far from lacking in passion it does need a boost at times. Some of the songs however, demand a slow, power ballad and The Future Aint What It Used To Be with its wonderful, cappella ending & Its All Coming Back to Me with its slow build up grace the album and are 10:33 and 8:23 minute epics respectively.
Its been said that this album spoke to everyone in the Universe but nobody heard it. I dont know who said this but it sums the album up perfectly. It was a commercial disaster although Steinman says today that its one of the best albums he was ever involved in and he is very proud of it. It has become something of a cult album that Steinman fans generally love.
Its a minor masterpiece produced on a grand scale but it is not a Pandoras Box album, they are merely the tools to project Jim Steinman into the limelight and to all intents and purposes its a Jim Steinman album, promoting Jim Steinman.
As songs go, this album is full of fantastic music and lyrics (excluding the cover versions). Steinmans ability to write what we feel is prevalent throughout the album and the operatic, rock epic that you come to expect from Steinman is in abundance. It is pompous, over the top and in your face and thats meant to be a compliment.
Despite waxing lyrical about this album I still feel it falls down in places. The inclusion of two irrelevant cover versions takes something away and whilst all the singers on the album are unique and have powerful voices that seem to suit each song, when put together on the album it feels dis-jointed. As though you are flitting from one album to another. It sounds more like a compilation album rather than what is essentially a Greatest Hits album. However, on the one song where they all sing, Original Sin, you are blown away, especially at the final chorus when they all sing together.
Whilst this is a great listen, I do feel that it would have been better if performed by one artist as that one person could have told the story throughout the album with a consistent delivery. This album would surely have been a worldwide hit if performed by Meat Loaf as the songs are made for him as has been proved in his inclusion of numerous of them in BOOH 2 & 3. Both Steinman & Meat Loaf have enjoyed individual success without each other but have got nowhere near the success they enjoyed as a partnership and this album could have catapulted them into the stratosphere. You just wonder if it was Steinman's stubbornness that resulted in Meat Loaf not having first crack at these songs.
Unfortunately, I feel this album will be remembered for all the great material it supplied to other artists in years to come and thats unfair. It is better than that and deserves greater acclaim. This will be a timeless album that will still sound great in 50 years time, just as BOOH still sounds great today.
I would give this album 7/10 due largely to the great songs and music on it and the hits the album has spurned for other artists proving this album did not fail because of the songs on it. The inclusion of two cover versions marks it down for me as they add nothing and take some magic away. However, Dooyoo doesnt allow this so I will give it 4 stars.
Can be picked up for under £3 on Amazon marketplace.
***Track Listings*** (description in brackets are who did a later cover version of the song which may be more familiar)
Track 1 The Invocation - (later featured in Jim Steinmans musical Neverland)
Track 2 Original Sin - (Taylor Dayne 1994, Meat Loaf: Welcome To The Neighbourhood 1995)
Track 3 Twentieth Century Fox
Track 4 Safe Sex
Track 5 Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere) (Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell II 1993)
Track 6 Requiem Metal - (Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell II 93 as backing music for Wasted Youth)
Track 7 Ive Been Dreaming Up A Storm Lately (later featured in Steinmans musical Dance of The Vampires)
Track 8 Its All Coming Back To Me Now (Celine Dion 1996, Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell III 2006)
Track 9 The Opening of The Box (later featured in Steinmanss musical Dance of The Vampires)
Track 10 The Want Ad - (later featured in Jim Steinmans musical Neverland)
Track 11 My Little Red Book
Track 12 It Just Wont Quit - (Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell II 1993)
Track 13 Pray Lewd
Track 14 The Future Aint What It Used To Be (Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell III 2006)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Invocation
2 Original Sin (The Natives Are Restless Tonight)
3 Twentieth Century Fox
4 Safe Sex
5 Good Girls Go to Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)
6 Requiem Metal
7 I've Been Dreaming up a Storm Lately
8 It's All Coming Back to Me Now
9 The Opening of the Box
10 The Want Ad
11 My Little Red Book
12 It Just Won't Quit
13 Pray Lewd
14 The Future Ain't What It Used to Be