Part Twenty-Nine of the Def Leppard Review Series
DEF LEPPARD – Best Of (2004 Mercury UK)
Nine years after Vault, why not another “best of” collection? And why not make it a double? And a “limited edition” too?
The approach was all but perfect for Def Leppard’s double Best Of. Except when you look at it in hindsight. You always need some bait, and this time the bait was an unreleased new track. Suggested by Phil for a forthcoming covers album, Leppard recorded “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks, and quite well in fact. The problem was it was going to be re-released in two years on 2006’s Yeah!. So we spent all that money on one new track that we were going to end up re-buying in two years. Hard to justify.
Fortunately, “Waterloo Sunset” is an excellent version. It defies expectation in fact. Phil and Vivian sound absolutely stellar on guitar, with warm tones. It’s soft, laid back, and Joe Elliott nails the lead vocal in his own style. It does sound like Def Leppard, but it does not sound like them bastardizing the Kinks in any way. It sounds just fine, like a Waterloo sunset!
The compilation kind of plays as if disc one was the “greatest hit” and disc two is the “bonus disc”. The first disc is almost an exact repeat of the UK version of Vault., with only slight differences. It opens with the “video version” of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, and then rolls through a what’s-what of Leppard hits. Every song, in order, from the UK Vault, until you get to track 10. Originally “Foolin'”, track 10 was swapped for “Action”. Then for track 11, they inserted the recent ballad “Long, Long Way To Go”, a good selection. “Make Love Like A Man” is also wedged in here, which let’s face it, most of us can do without. The Vault tracklisting then resumes, with “Armageddon It” through to the end, but minus “Miss You In A Heartbeat”. “Foolin'” eventually appears on CD Two, but “Miss You In A Heartbeat” does not. In the end, CD One is two songs longer, and overall a better listen than the original UK Vault.
CD Two is the one that hardcore fans will enjoy more. “Rock! Rock!”, what an opening number. “Promises” is the only inclusion from Euphoria, and justifiably so. Then you get “Slang” for a double dose of fun, and then the melancholy “Foolin'”. An unfortunate inclusion is the morose “Now” from the X album, but it’s worth sitting through to get to “Rock Brigade” from the debut. That’s an odd transition, by the way. From Lep’s latest with programming and loops and bleeps and bloops, to their early hard riffing stuff. Very weird. Sounds like two different bands presented that way.
Every single track after the dull “Now” is a killer. “Women” wasn’t on Vault. Strange, right? Rectified here. Then onto “Let It Go”, the killer “Too Late For Love”, and “High ‘N’ Dry”. A trifecta of perfect right there. The disc takes a turn to the modern side again on “Work It Out”, but at least this track isn’t a waste of space. It might not fit with the early Lep songs so well, but it has integrity and wickedly choppy guitars. When it fades, we go into “Billy’s Got A Gun” which ups the Pyromania factor a notch. “Hit and Run” and the ever-loved “Wasted” bring more of that old-school vibe, but sandwiched between them is the ballad “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)”. A great ballad and highlight of the disc, but in an odd setting to be sure.
Following “Wasted”, the disc closer is “Die Hard the Hunter”, another strange choice. Would “Billy’s Got A Gun” not made for a better closer? Or even “Wasted”? Probably. Good song, but in the wrong position for sure. It’s just not the kind that closes an album. It’s more the kind that closes a side (which it did on Pyromania).
Sonically, the second disc is the most uneven since it combines tracks from both the first album and the most recent. It’s also a much more fun listen just because it includes a couple deeper cuts and some lesser heard gems. I mean…”Wasted”, right? Just wish it was the closer.
On the plus side, Best Of Def Leppard has a nice booklet with track commentary from the band members. There’s an essay and a few photos. It also comes in a nice cardboard slipcase with an embossed Def Leppard logo in shiny black. The cover art, with that slate background, is simple, cool and effective. There’s even a picture of Steve Clark inside (but no Pete Willis).
So what about that covers album? In the liner notes, Joe says it’s recorded, but it took them until 2006 to release it. In the meantime, the US would put out their own 2 CD compilation album, with a slightly different running order, a few different deep cuts, a Badfinger cover instead of the Kinks, and a better closing track. How does the US compilation stack up against the UK? Check in next time.
- 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
- The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
- Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
- Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
- In The Round In Your Face DVD
- “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
- Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
- Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
- Video Archive
- “Slang” CD single
- I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
- Rarities 2
- Rarities 3
- Rarities 4
- Cybernauts – Live
- Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
30. Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection (US)