Part Six of the Def Leppard Review Series
DEF LEPPARD – The Early Years 79-81 (2019 EMI)
The fine folks in Def Leppard have been doing an outstanding job of getting their rarities and fan-wishes on the store shelves. We wanted the Def Leppard EP reissued, and they did it. A few times in fact, including a cool 3″ CD included in a recent box set. We wanted all the early B-sides available on CD, and here they are. We begged for decent remastered CD editions of High N’ Dry and On Through the Night, and the band delivered. More than once.
Now there is a wealth of Def Leppard riches out there for you to buy in your format of choice. The Early Years 79-81 is the way to go for a complete set of the music from those years. We’ve gone over it all disc by disc so let’s talk about the box itself.
The 10″ x 10″ box format is awkward to store, but Leppard seem committed to the size, with their London to Vegas set having the same dimensions. They’ve at least maximised the space, with a generous hardcover book included inside. This book has the liner notes and essays you expect, broken down disc by disc. A generous set of unreleased photos keep the eyes from being bored while your ears indulge themselves. The CDs are stored separately in a cardboard folder, and they don’t seem to move around in there. Each one has its own cardboard mini-sleeve. The packaging works.
The sequencing is perhaps the only complaint. The set is not a chronological anthology of the early years. In terms of sequencing it’s best looked at as a On Through the Night / High N’ Dry deluxe edition. Two albums, remastered in their original track listing (not the 1984 track listing for High N’ Dry) with a bonus live CD, a bonus disc of B-sides and rarities, and a bonus disc of BBC sessions from the period. Which really doesn’t matter so much, except when trying to review a chronological Def Leppard series and figuring out what order to do it in! The sequencing matters little because the discs are so complete. All those singles, B-sides, edit versions, unreleased versions, and live recordings are what fans have been demanding ever since the idea of “deluxe reissues” were conceived. This is it!
Oh sure, there are a few things left in the vaults. We know of a couple more early tracks called “Heat Street” and “See the Lights”. These are unlikely to ever see official release, but one must leave some scraps for the bootleggers. If the band ever changes their minds, that’ll be cool, but the best stuff is right here.
Consider that these three complaints about The Early Years 79-81 (box dimensions, sequencing, missing bootlegs) are so minor, we can disregard them in our final score. This box accomplished what it set out to do, and when listened to in completion, offers up a real clear picture of the band’s ability and determination. They had a bright future ahead, and a chapter was about to close while a new one opened. With the band scheduled to re-convene with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange in early 1982, life would never be the same again.
- The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night
- The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
- The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
- The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
- The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings
Great review sir! 5/5 is fantastic. And you are correct about awkward shape for storing.
Nice looking set. I like that retro worn back cover shot. It’s amazing the talent they had back then. Willis/Clark were fantastic on this set.
I hate those cardboard sleeves; that’s my problem with most box sets nowadays. Yeah, I can put them in thin CD cases, but for that box set especially, I don’t want to separate the discs from that box because I might forget about the CDs and misplace them somewhere else. I would really love to see the band return to their ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ sound. Sure, Pete and Steve are not there anymore, but they have Vivian now, who is a tremendous player. Phil is good too, just when he doesn’t overdo the fast playing stuff.
Just finished watching Cobra Kai S4 (it’s a no spoiler comment) and they had some early Def Lep music in there like Switch 625 in it and I was like hell yeah. It’s about time these kind of songs started to get some licensing love.
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Switch 625? Holy crap. Yeah I saw S4 was out, I saw Johnny on my Twitter talking about a Laruso rematch? Sounds pretty epic.
Can’t believe they used that track — obviously a real fan is on that show’s crew. And it’s not one of the ones that they re-recorded for licensing purposes, is it? I was just watching Family Guy had they had the re-recorded Pour Some Sugar.
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It sounded like the normal released track to me.
Two word challenge! “Summary: AWESOME!!”