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BMG Music presents
Meat Loaf: Storytellers (1999)

"Why do you always say that?"
- Meat Loaf

Review By: Chris Knox   
Published: April 24, 2000

Stars: Meat Loaf
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes, sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:40m:00s
Release Date: December 14, 1999
UPC: 639857808998
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I haven't had many run-ins with celebrities in my days. In fact it's a short list I can count on three fingers. One of them, Brian Dennehy, I met briefly while working in a Harris Teeter grocery store on Sea Island, Georgia. He asked me, "Where's that . . cooking spray sh--?" Another was Cal Ripkin Jr. while at that same store sometime later. He wouldn't sign any autographs because he was prohibited by contract, but he did give all the bag boys twenty bucks each. I was not among them, as I was stocking shelves.

The last of the bunch was someone I am sure you have guessed by now, Meat Loaf. My ex and I were near a nude beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico and we ran into him and some chick (perhaps his wife) while walking along that beach. None of us were actually nude, before you go getting that picture in your head.

He was a nice enough guy and actually commented on the weather and such. He stopped walking long enough for a quick but courteous chat, none of which contained discussion of his music career. Although I wasn't a huge fan of his (my ex actually had to tell me who he was as they approached) I was impressed with his down-to-earth demeanor.

Since he doesn't write me very often—well, never—I guess we sort of lost touch with one another and I kind of forgot about him. His record career usually comes out of nowhere for me and I hear about the singer once in a blue moon. So when I spotted the cover of his VH-1 Storytellers DVD the memories came flooding back and it was all I could do to keep from breaking down right then and there. All right, it was caricatural.

At first glance Storytellers might appear to be the next thing out of an unplugged session, but this is simply not the case. The music is pretty much played the way it's remembered and the venue is intimate enough so that you feel you are more at home with the artist banging out tunes from his albums.

What you get are ten of his most popular songs spaced apart with stories, commentaries, and anecdotes from the man himself, with a little time left over for cutting up and role playing with the audience. At one point halfway through a song the camera racks focus beyond the singer to a member of the audience that is singing along and, in my opinion, enjoying himself just a little too much. I laughed out loud at him, but didn't feel bad about it as I am sure I was supposed to, otherwise why would the camera man spot him like that. Later Meatloaf picked on him a little, but it was all in the spirit of fun and it made me feel more a part of all the good camaraderie.

The session opens with a hard-hitting All Revved Up And No Place To Go, and then he changes gears to tell a story that leads into the ever-popular Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad. It's at this moment that I realize that something is amiss.

The guy is trying too hard to sound good, and the songs get a little mangled. At several times I felt that he was going out of his way to squeeze every ounce out of those lyrics and notes, but the talent that I know still lurks inside him is somehow castrated. This is a pity as you can tell that the guy still has it, but I think he no longer believes it, so he begins to sing his songs with that same powerful voice only the style is more Michael Bolton, which doesn't really work. It reminded me of a Kenny G concert where he insisted on ending every song with a note that lasted thirty minutes. It's a little cool the first time, but it grates on your nerves after the second time, and third time... twenty-third time.

The setup is a locker room of all things, which he explains early on. It works well and doesn't detract from the intimacy; it just plain fits. The mood is relaxed and festive at the same time, and feels informal in a sense that I wasn't underdressed in my sweats and a T-shirt. I wish most of the Unplugged sessions that I have seen over the years were setup like this. You can't help but like this guy.

Despite that I thought he pushed too hard on some of the vocals, "Meat Loaf: Storytellers" is a great release. You get a better shot through the looking glass of his career and how he got from there to here and all in a down to earth way that for me mimics his demeanor perfectly from that day on the beach, and even though he never writes, I felt like I was back with an old friend.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The DVD is comprised from a video recording and as such shows the telltale signs of artifacts and pixelation and weak definition. The lighting was not complimented at all by this recording and as a result grain is introduced throughout. Underneath the defects are very black blacks, which are however marred, as are some very nice colors, which appear smeared. In other words close, but no cigar. Skin tones aren't bad considering all the aforementioned image problems, but they aren't perfect either. This is all from an elitist's approach and I may be cutting deeper than needs be considering the content. This shouldn't stop you from making the purchase. I rate the image as average for this type of material.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This is what matters on this disc and suffice it to say you are going to get a little more than your moneys worth here. This DVD contains a stereo track that sounds really great, and a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is excellent. All six channels are well fed, bringing out the ambience of the medium soundstage. You are right there in the front row and a couple of times right on stage with the band. The envelope is a little shallow, which comes across as very accurate. The sound stage isn't wide but fits with what you see rather well, and the surrounds fill in the gaps with the crowd. The instruments are heard in all the right places, sometimes like a whisper of silk, beckoning and subtle. The audio is truly effective and bang on.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 11 cues and remote access
1 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Song Lyrics
  2. Web links
  3. 53 minutes of extra footage not seen before (deleted from television show)
Extras Review: The disc contains few extras, but the inclusion of song lyrics is very nice. All music DVDs should have them. The 53 minutes of deleted footage is shown within the content of the program and not separately, which is nice as well. Web access via DVD-ROM is okay, but the song access is much better.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

This disc is a must have for all Meatloaf fans and a nice addition to any DVD concert library. The sound is excellent despite my misgivings that he may be slowly losing his confidence in regards to his singing ability. You still got it, man, just don't try so hard.


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