Part Twenty-Three of the Def Leppard Review Series
Quick explanations first:
“Hey, what’s with this Rarities 2? You didn’t review Rarities 1!” This is true! Def Leppard Rarities 1 is in the first volume CD Collection box set. For this review series, I opted to go with The Early Years box set to cover a lot of those albums and rarities. Between that set and the Hysteria super deluxe box set that I reviewed in great detail back in 2017, I have written about all the rarities up to this point. Though packaged together in one sleeve in this box set, we will tackle the Rarities series one disc at a time.
We open with the earliest tracks: two demos with Steve Clark on guitar. “Tonight” is brilliant, with the thick opening layered harmonies intact right from the demo stage (would not surprise me if they used the demo intro for the final track). The quieter acoustic arrangement of the opening is very different from the more standard album cut. It kicks in hard during the chorus, which is a cool aspect of this arrangement. The chorus really slams on this version.
Steve’s final Def Leppard appearance was also the final guitar solo he ever recorded (and likely played). It’s the demo for “When Love and Hate Collide”, the overly soft ballad from 1995’s Vault. What a solo, too! He was on to something, with its big Hysteria-esque hooks. The demo overall is much rougher (programmed drums) but also harder edged. Joe’s more screamy, the last vestiges of the old style still hanging on.
The Acoustic Hippies From Hell — yes, that is how Def Leppard & Hothouse Flowers billed themselves on the B-side of the “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” single — are next with the original track “From the Inside”. This is the original version from the single, slightly different from the one on Retro-Active. Please welcome Vivian Campbell on the second guitar solo slot! With tin whistle, mandolin and grand piano it’s a very different kind of song for the guys in Leppard. Lyrically it’s even darker than their previous work like “White Lightning” or “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down”. This time the subject matter is addition, but with a twist of the perspective. The lyrics are the drug speaking to the user.
You may recall the Acoustic Hippies From Hell cut three songs together, including covers of “Little Wing” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. We used to wonder why they weren’t included here on this CD. Those further two B-sides were held back for a covers disc in the next box set. We’ll get to them when we get to that set!
Def Leppard’s first acoustic song was “Two Steps Behind” from the “Make Love Like A Man” single. Here is the original track from that B-side, unadorned with strings or electric guitars like the ones on Retro-Active. If you recall, Michael Kamen dubbed some strings over this one for the Last Action Hero soundtrack, and “Two Steps Behind” became an A-side hit in its own right.
Joe Elliot’s screamin’ hot 1987 demo of “She’s Too Tough” is up next. Why a 1987 song? Because its first release was on the B-side of “Heaven Is” in 1993. (That single also had live versions of “Women” and “Let’s Get Rocked”. “Elected” is on a live covers disc later on in this series, and “Let’s Get Rocked” will be discussed shortly.) “She’s Too Tough” was covered by Helix on their Wild in the Streets album in 1987. While Brian Vollmer does an admirable job of the lead vocal, Leppard’s recording is hands down the better of the two, even though it is just a demo.
Another demo: Phil Collen’s impeccably arranged “Miss You in a Heartbeat” is all but complete except for the vocals. Phil did the lead on his own demo versions, and not a bad job of it. Paul Rodgers used “Miss You in a Heartbeat” for his 1991 album with Kenney Jones called The Law. It’s cool hearing Phil do his own lesser-known version. “Miss You in a Heartbeat”, once a B-side like “Two Steps Behind”, was eventually released as its own single too. That’s where Phil’s demo was original taken from, though it is mislabelled as “Acoustic, Acoustic Version”. Nope – just Phil’s demo, same as this one here.
Two awesome acoustic versions from the “Tonight” CD single are next in a row. The acoustic version of “Tonight” itself could surpass the album version. It just had vibe. Loads of vibe. Fabulous guitar solo. Then Collen’s “S.M.C.” (named for Steven Maynard Clark) features just he and Vivian on acoustic guitar. It’s a very brief, often forgotten instrumental in a neo-classical style. This is its first re-issue since the original single. Play it for your friends and ask them to guess who it is. (They won’t be able to.)
This CD closes on the four tracks from the rare EP In the Clubs…In Your Face, recording in Bonn Germany. Four solid hits: “Hysteria”, “Photograph”, “Sugar”, and the aforementioned live version of “Let’s Get Rocked”. The club crowd is obviously pumped! “Hysteria” sounds awesome; “Photograph” is as strong as ever. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Let’s Get Rocked” are sort of two of a kind live, a little clunkier but the crowd sure loves ’em. The new song is a happily received as the old.
This disc makes for a solid listen. Hits in alternate, lesser heard versions are sure to be pleasers. The tunes that aren’t hits are all solid themselves. Although it’s a little disappointing when you scan the track listing and realize such-and-such a B-side is missing, the folks in Leppard know what they are doing. They’ve re-organized this material to sit next to like material later in the series, and it’ll all be coming up in due time…and perhaps in a more enjoyable track listing too. We’ll just have to hear how it goes disc by disc! Rarities 2 is a lot of fun and a great (almost) hour on its own.
- 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
24. Rarities 3