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Meat Loaf’s Meltdown Bested by Dylan Tribute

Meat Loaf
Meat Loaf poses before the release of his 12th studio album, "Hell in a Handbasket." The record has guest appearances from Chuck D and Lil Jon. Source: LD Communications via Bloomberg

Meat Loaf is angry, and he doesn’t care who knows it.

The singer, born Marvin Lee Aday, isn’t mellowing gracefully on his latest CD, “Hell in a Handbasket.” At 64, he’s telling the world in interviews that this is “the most honest album I’ve ever made.”

That sounds right, with “All of Me” listing his woes.

“I caught a glimpse of myself today -- wasn’t a pretty picture, I must say,” he opens. Soon the guitars are roaring, drums crashing and he’s declaring “This is my anger, this is my shame, these are my insecurities, that I can’t explain.”

The kid who got picked on in school and the singer who was laughed at for his large size gets the last laugh, with a record that yet again reprises much of “Bat Out of Hell,” which has sold more than 43 million copies.

This record works well enough without the lyrical spark of Jim Steinman. Still, its sturm und drang attack quickly grows wearying. As the bats flutter around Meat Loaf’s heavy-metal belfry, you wish he’d turn it down just a little. Rating: **.

This week is the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s debut album -- a collection now mainly of interest for revealing his roots. There’s the Woody Guthrie folk fixation, covers of traditional songs such as “In My Time of Dyin’” and only a couple of originals. Dylan’s great work was to start with the next LP, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.”

Those wishing to mark 50 years of Dylan might do worse than pick up the four-CD tribute “Chimes of Freedom.” The artists range from Miley Cyrus, 19, to Pete Seeger, 92, who performs “Forever Young” with a children’s chorus. Rating: ***.

Paul Weller has much of the Meat Loaf madness and Dylanesque longing for eternal youth on his latest, the appallingly spelled “Sonik Kicks.”

The silver-haired rocker dons a gangster’s double-breasted suit for the cover. Rather than acting his age (he’s 53), Weller plays down his role as a rock elder statesman. He comes across as an enfant terrible, who simply does what he feels like.

This results in indulgences such as “Study in Blue,” where he veers off into freeform jazz. That song is a duet with his new wife, Hannah -- almost 30 years his junior -- who has just given birth to twins named John Paul and Bowie. Really.

This CD isn’t always an easy listen and hasn’t the consistency of his past two releases, “22 Dreams” and “Wake Up the Nation.” Still, it’s a fine piece of work. Rating: ****.

Emeli Sande’s “Our Version of Events” is an excellent debut by a former medical student from Glasgow, Scotland, who has evolved into a songwriter and R&B/soul singer.

The single “Heaven” is a standout, and there’s also a version of “Read All About It,” which she wrote with rapper Professor Green and was a hit under his own name.

Breathless posts and blogs have drawn comparisons between Sande and Aretha Franklin. While that’s going too far, this is a confident start and she deserves to become a star. Rating: ****.

What the Stars Mean:
*****      Exceptional
****       Excellent
***        Good
**         Average
*          Poor
(No stars) Worthless

The Meat Loaf and the early Dylan recordings are on Sony, priced about $9. The Dylan tribute is on Amnesty International for $20. The Weller and Sande CDs are both in import to the U.S., with release dates of March 27 for Weller on Yep Roc, and June 5 for Sande on Virgin. Download fees vary across services.

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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