b-sides

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Rarities 4 (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Twenty-Five of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Rarities 4 (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 7) (2019)

These box sets are not easy monsters to review.  It makes more sense to discuss the bonus tracks in context with the related studio albums.  Regardless, Rarities 4 deserves a little extra attention.  This is the disc that I had a little bit of personal involvement with.

Back in the years 2000-2001, before Def Leppard had an official standalone live album or box sets, the released 11 tracks worth of live material on their own website, for free.  Unreleased and sourced from the Slang and Euphoria tours, these tracks were not just valuable but essential additions to your Def Leppard collections.  Like many things that exist online only, they eventually disappeared.  If you had them, you had them.  If you didn’t, you wouldn’t.

The full 11 tracks were:  “Two Steps Behind”, “Women”, “Demolition Man”, “When Love and Hate Collide”, “Action”, “Animal”, “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak/Switch 625”, “Miss You In A Heartbeat”, “Rock! Rock! (‘Til You Drop)”, “Goodbye” and “Paper Sun”.

A few years ago, I was contacted about my Def Leppard live tracks.  I was asked if I could provide the files, for use in a future box set.  I said “Hell yeah!”  Having a thank-you inside this set is one of my proudest moments.  They didn’t use them all, but instead they even dug up some addition live tracks that had never been released before.  For the record, the tracks from the original download collection that remain physically unreleased are:  “Two Steps Behind” (San Antonio 2000), “Women” (Salem 2000), “Action” (London 1999), “Animal” (Nashville), and “Rock! Rock! (‘Til You Drop)” (Cardiff 2000).  Instead for this they focused on special songs that were a little harder to find live versions of.

It’s really cool for something that once only existed as a file on your hard drive, to now sit as an officially pressed black vinyl record.  Hearing the tracks in a way never before.

The live tracks are organized in batches.  The first grouping comes from Montreal on the Slang tour in 1996.  First is the epic medley of “Bringing On the Heartbreak” and the rare “Switch 625”.  These are awesome versions.  They have a raw, unpolished sound yet the band still nail all the vocals and guitar thrills.  “Switch 625” is always a welcome track for its heaviness.  This version is extra chunky.  “Ladies and gentlemen, the best drummer in the world, Mr. Rick Allen!”

Then another rarity:  the ballad “Miss You In A Heartbeat” acoustic with “Phillippe” Collen on lead vocals, but not before some shenanigans to the tune of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”:

“Mama take this gin from me,
I can’t drink it anymore,
Where’s the sink, I gotta pee,
Looks like I’m checking into Betty Ford…”

It’s a delight to finally be able to share this version I’ve had for years with the world!

“Miss You In A Heartbeat” is always best in its fully electric version, but acoustically with Phil on vocals, it’s something special.  Truly it sounds great live, stripped and with Phil’s rasp.

Def Leppard must have found the original tapes for this Montreal gig, because I didn’t supply them with “Work It Out” or “Deliver Me”, two rarely heard bangers from Slang.  “Work It Out” was a single, a stuttery 90s construction that explored new territory for the British band.  They had come a long way from their New Wave of British Heavy Metal roots and were still writing new kinds of songs.  “Work It Out” has interesting guitars happening live, very different from the usual, but still Def Leppard.  “Deliver Me” is dark, heavy and maybe not idea for a Def Leppard concert, hence its rarity.  It’s cool to hear Leppard apply their vocal talents live to a song like this.  There are hooks but not happy bouncy ones.  This is more serious rocking.

This wraps up the live material from Montreal.  The CD detours into some interesting studio B-sides before we return to live songs later on.

“When Saturday Comes” doesn’t feature every member of Def Leppard – just Joe, Phil and Sav, and written by Joe.  This song and the instrumental “Jimmy’s Theme” are from the CD singles for “All I Want Is Everything” and a film called When Saturday Comes.  As such, they’re a little different.  Even it’s from the Slang era, “When Saturday Comes” has the bright anthemic singalong quality of a movie theme song.  “When Saturday comes, nothin’ else matters to me!”  Sounds like the good-time Leppard we remember regardless of the year.

“Jimmy’s Theme” on the other hand is a laid-back instrumental with a slightly bluesy feel.

Other B-sides from the “All I Want Is Everything” singles show up on a later box set, so fear not if you’re worried they left some out.  Moving on to the Euphoria era, there’s a sudden sonic shift as the band returned to a polished production sound.  “Burnout” (from one of the “Goodbye” CD singles) immediately sounds like the Leppard of Adrenalize.  Whether that’s your preference or not, it’s a heavy tune that probably could have served a useful purpose in toughening up the Euphoria album.  Some great guitar trickery on this one, and the return of the Leppard hook machine.  “Immortal” (also from the “Goodbye” single) is more upbeat, but does have a certain B-side quality.  Not bad, but something about it says “B-side”.

The singles for “Promises” had a couple cool B-sides as well.  “Worlds Collide” has to be one of the heaviest Leppard songs to date.  A solid pounder with a psychedelic bent, “Worlds Collide” proves Leppard hadn’t lost it.  Even in the Euphoria era, which felt like a grasp at past glories, there’s cool stuff like this that rocks without repeating history.

Finally there is “I Am Your Child”, the original Japanese bonus track from Euphoria.  It would have been nice to have it restored to the end of that album, because it really does make a fine coda.  “I Am Your Child” is a truly great Leppard tune with a variety of light and dark parts, and a super chorus.

Missing B-side from the “Promises” single is the “Album Snippets” featuring a three minute medley of some of the album tracks.  Not really necessary even for completists, but if you want it out you’ll have to buy the original single.  The cover tune “Who Do You Love” from the “Goodbye” single will turn up on a future box set.

Back to my live tracks to close the set:  “Demolition Man” from Denver in 1999 is so fast it sounds like they can barely keep up!  A real rarity that doesn’t get live action anymore.  Definitely a valuable inclusion, and a great listen due to the sheer energy of it.

Three tracks from Tokyo in 1999 end this disc.  “When Love and Hate Collide” has been heard a number of times in this box set, but this is the first fully electric live version in The CD Collection Volume 2.  Joe’s voice has a touch of rasp which gives it a little more edge.  Pretty great live version, justifying its inclusion over some of the other tracks.  Finally it’s two rare Euphoria tracks:  the epic “Paper Sun” and apt disc closer “Goodbye”.  “Paper Sun” just lays waste to the land, as one of the tracks that really has serious weight.  “Goodbye”, being a stock ballad, doesn’t have as much impact, but a live rarity it remains.

This brings us to the end of the The CD Collection Volume 2, the biggest most epic release I’ve ever had my name in.  To have that honour is so cool, something I will always treasure.  I don’t think Leppard needed my help with the Montreal tracks after all, but Denver and Tokyo sound like mine.  I hope one day they find reason to release the rest of the 11 download-only live songs.  Perhaps they’ll find the full tapes for Cardiff, Salem, San Antonio, London and Nashville.  Perhaps not.  Leppard are far from done issuing rarities.

The CD Collection Volume 2 is absolutely a valuable purchase for any Leppard fan looking to add the B-sides and EPs to their collections.  It’s not 100% complete, but it does cover most of the bases.  You’ll still want to track down a deluxe edition of Slang, and perhaps some CD singles if you have to have things like all the edit versions.  You may have noticed that things like cover versions haven’t popped up too much; you’ll understand why when we get to The CD Collection Volume 3.

4/5 stars

Next though, Joe Elliott and Phil Collen blow off some steam in their Bowie cover band / Mick Ronson tribute, The Cybernauts.  We’ll take a close look at two discs:  Cybernauts Live and The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts before the Leppard story continues!

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3

Next:

26. Cybernauts – Live

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Rarities 3 (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Twenty-Four of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Rarities 3 (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 6) (2019)

The rarities continue with the CD Collection Volume 2 and the Slang era.  The Slang album cycle produced a number of rarities, including a bonus CD included in its first run.  When this first run of CDs sold out, so did the bonus disc, a six-song set called Acoustic In Singapore.  The whole tracklist is included in Rarities 3, in the right running order.  These songs were recorded at the Hard Rock Cafe in Singapore on the autumn 1995 promo tour for Vault.

“Give it up for Def Leppard!” says the man.  Opening with a bouncy “Armageddon It”, the band were really getting the hang of this acoustic thing.  Comparing one acoustic version to another is a somewhat pointless affair so we’ll just say “it’s great”!  With only acoustic instruments, Leppard are able to reproduce the upbeat party atmosphere of the immaculate original.  Of course they do the same with the vocals, weaving an impressive live facsimile of the layered album.

“Two Steps Behind” is up again, a song we keep hearing over and over since its original 1992 B-side release.  Good on Leppard for turning a throwaway into a perennial.  The Hard Rock Cafe audience positively explodes to sing along the chorus.  An interesting stripped version of “From the Inside” without the whistle and piano then stirs the cafe into silence.  It’s not the kind of song you whoop and holler through.  Phil’s solo is a blur of notes, but Vivian’s is more nuanced and chord-based.

A light “Animal” brings the mood back party.  Take note of Rick Allen’s subtle creative cymbal use on this classic.  Phil’s solo is another blaze of fast flying fingerwork – impressive but also perhaps a little abrasive.  The new ballad “When Love and Hate Collide” is then rolled out, similar to the version recorded at the Wapantake club for the Video Archive release.  The build up to the chorus pretty nice.

“Pour Some Sugar On Me” closes the acoustic set, a song that adapts well to the format.  The party resumes and concludes on a suitably bombastic note.  Amusingly, it seems to take the audience a second to realize what song they’re hearing.  With that, the Acoustic In Singapore CD is out of the way and we’re off to other rarities.

The “Piano & Strings” version of “When Love and Hate Collide” is the song’s second appearance on this disc.  It’s a pretty cool version, with little of the rock instrumentation left.  Like the title says, it’s piano and strings (and minimal guitar), with the vocals of Def Leppard.  This very rare mix comes from the “Slang” single with the “souvenir pack” – an envelope with a set of postcards.

A pretty awesome acoustic song called “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame” was on the same souvenir pack single.  It’s not sad or ballady, just an upbeat and basic acoustic song.  Guitars and vocals, no percussion.  The only critique would be that the song is just too short!

The “Original Version” of the Slang song “Truth?” is next, as we go into tracks from the “Work It Out” CD singles.  The songs for the Slang album went through a lot of experimentation before they took their final form.  Some like “Truth?” are vastly different and it’s a matter of preference which you prefer.  The original’s structure has elements that carried onto the album, but it’s a consistently heavy slam, and far less exotic.  The final version is probably the greater artistic achievement, but the original is the headbanger.

“Move With Me Slowly” also came from the “Work It Out” singles, and the Japanese release of Slang itself.  It’s long been a fan favourite, the kind of song that people say “should have been on the album”!  It’s a buttery, bluesy and soulful song with not a hint of Leppard going in over their heads.  The backing vocals are awesome, and the tune really swings when they start the engine.  Had it been on Slang internationally, it might have satisfied the fans who wanted less experimental songs on the album.

Of note (and this is where things get hairy), as good as this CD Collection is for getting rarities together, if there’s one weakness it’s that there’s a lot more Slang material out there, including a “1st Draft” of “Move With Me Slowly”.  This version is only available on the digital iTunes release of the 2014 Slang Deluxe Edition.  There are undoubtedly reasons for this, but be aware.  The “1st Draft” is very similar to the final version, but with Phil Collen (the songwriter) taking some of the lead vocals.  Pretty cool — and worth the download — but sadly outside the purview of this review.

A lot of the Slang album can be characterised as songs brought in by individuals, and then radically changed by the band process.  The last song on Rarities 3 is one of those:  “Work It Out” as originally demoed by Vivian Campbell.  Again this is taken from the “Work It Out” single B-sides.  Viv had compared the bouncy pop demo to a Crowded House song, and you can hear that kind of quirkiness.  That’s the word — quirky.  The song is more or less the same — same lyrics, same melody — but radically different.  And since it’s Viv’s demo, that’s him on lead vocals as well.  A mini-treasure.

Rarities 3, clocking in at a comfortable 45 minutes, is a solid listen with only one drawback of too much love and hate colliding, fer cripes sake.  I suppose such things are inevitable; a no-win scenario.

4.5/5 stars

One more disc of rarities to go, before we detour with Joe Elliott on a cybernautic adventure.  The next disc is the most special to me, as it’s the one that includes some of my own personal contributions to a box set that has my name in the thank-yous.  It includes more of the Slang demos, but be aware of the list below, all exclusive to the Slang deluxe:

  • “Turn to Dust” (Phil verse vocal) 4:03
  • “Raise Your Love” (version of “Slang” 3:01
  • “All I Want Is Everything” (1st draft) 5:19
  • “Work It Out” (1st draft) 5:19
  • “Breathe a Sigh” (Feb ’96 rough mix) 4:08
  • “Deliver Me” (Feb ’96 rough mix) 3:17
  • “Black Train” (version of “Gift of Flesh”) 4:06
  • “Blood Runs Cold” (Feb ’96 rough mix) 4:12
  • “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” (1st draft) 4:36
  • “Pearl of Euphoria” (Feb ’96 rough mix) 5:49
  • “All on Your Touch” (2012 revisit) 3:58
  • “Anger” (“Deliver Me” 1st draft) 3:15
  • “Move On Up” (Vivian demo) 3:31
  • “Gift of Flesh” (Phil vocal) 4:03
  • “All I Want Is Everything” (1st draft) 5:03 – iTunes only 
  • “Move with Me Slowly” (1st draft) 6:22 – iTunes only

The above tracks aside, Rarities 4 (and eventually the third box set) will get us caught up to complete all the rarities up to Euphoria.

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2

Next:

25. Rarities 4

…and the Cybernauts!

 

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Rarities 2 (CD Collection Volume 2)

Part Twenty-Three of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Rarities 2 (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 5) (2019)

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 Phil’s wife) 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.

5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria

Next:

24. Rarities 3

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Retro-Active (1993)

Part Fifteen of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Retro-Active (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 2) (Originally 1993, 2019 remaster)

Like Hysteria before it, Adrenalize produced a wealth of riches in B-sides.  Between the two albums, they had enough B-side studio material to turn into an album compilation.  Tellingly, the final album called Retro-Active featured very different cover art, and a toned-down logo.  It was intended to be the ending of an era, and the start of a new one.  Guitarist Steve Clark was gone, replaced by veteran Vivian Campbell.  The grunge era was two years deep, and Leppard were about to change sonically.  In their minds they needed to “clear the decks” of old material so they could focus on the new.

What’s interesting about Retro-Active is that it is not simply a compilation of rare material.  Everything has been reworked to some degree — everything.  There are even two “new” songs, unfinished tracks with Steve Clark that were finally completed for this album.  We will take this album track by track and go over the changes made to the original B-sides.  (The printing on this 2019 CD reissue is so small, I had to pull out my original 1993 CD to read the notes.)

1. “Desert Song”.  A track begun during the Hysteria sessions but left unfinished without lyrics or vocals.  Joe finished the words in 1993, while Phil laid down guitar overdubs and Rick Allen re-recorded the drums.  Steve Clark is featured on the second guitar solo.  What’s surprising about “Desert Song” is how modern it sounds even though it was originally written in 1987.  A slow, heavy groove is melded with middle-eastern vibes for a dark winner.

2. “Fractured Love”.  Another from the Hysteria sessions.  You can tell the intro is of more recent vintage compared to the body of the song.  Joe’s vocals suddenly revert to the old screamin’ Elliott and it’s absolutely brilliant.  Drums were re-recorded in ’93, along with the new intro by Joe and Phil Collen.  Both these songs sound ahead of their times and well suited to the darker moods prevalent in the early 90s.  “Fractured” is choppy, intense and reminiscent of the old band while still sounding like a 90s song.  Steve Clark on lead guitar!

3. “Action”.  This Sweet cover originated on the 1992 “Make Love Like a Man” CD single.  Vivian Campbell had joined the band by this time and the track features some of his guitar work.  Like most of the tracks on Retro-Active, the drums were re-recorded by Rick Allen in 1993.  “Action” became a Leppard staple over the years, and as a rare fast/heavy rock singalong, you can hear why.  In fact, it was later released as a single, from this album!

4. “Two Steps Behind” (Acoustic Version).  As we’ll see, “Two Steps Behind” exists in a number of different versions.  The demo was electric.  The first version released appeared on “Make Love Like a Man” as a purely acoustic song with no drums.  The second release had strings added by Michael Kamen for the Last Action Hero soundtrack, and that version was released as its own single.  The version on Retro-Active is the popular Kamen single mix.  This was Leppard’s very first acoustic song and it opened new doors for the traditionally hard rocking band.

5. “She’s Too Tough”.  Helix recorded this Leppard outtake themselves for 1987’s Wild in the Streets.  From their version, you could hear the song deserved wider renown.  Def Leppard released their finished version on the single for “Tonight” in 1993.  The drums were re-recorded for Retro-Active but there were no other changes made.  This blitz of a rocker features the screamin’ Joe voice and all the adrenaline you can handle (and was missing from Adrenalize).

6. “Miss You In a Heartbeat” (Acoustic Version).  This is actually a piano version of a song that exists in many forms.  It was first recorded by Paul Rodgers and Kenney Jones as The Law in 1991.  For that band, it was a low-charting single.  It faired better for Leppard themselves, who released it as a single A-side themselves in 1993.  This quieter version features a stunning acoustic guitar solo by Phil Collen.  There are many, many versions of this song, as you will see as we proceed through this series.  (And this album!)

7. “Only After Dark”.  The Mick Ronson cover was first released on the “Let’s Get Rocked” single.  Both Vivian and Phil added guitar overdubs for the Retro-Active version.  The additional guitar depth is noticeable.  Leppard are so good as these kinds of glam rock songs.

8. “Ride Into the Sun”.  From the very first EP, and then re-recorded on the “Hysteria” single.  Could this be the fastest Def Leppard tune?  It’s certainly among them.  Also ranks highly among the heaviest, and best, of Def Leppard!  Rick re-recorded the drums, and for some reason Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople added a honky-tonk piano intro.  The “studio talk” at the end of the song has also been trimmed off.  Sonically, this could be the best sounding version of “Ride Into the Sun”, though the preferred will always be the “Hysteria” B-side.

9. “From the Inside”.  Originally released as part of a three-song session with Hothouse Flowers on “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad“.  Billing themselves as “Acoustic Hippies from Hell”, Leppard were really leaning into their acoustic side!  The song originated as a TV broadcast on a program called Friday at the Dome with Joe Elliott and Liam Ó Maonlaí.  The only modification made to this version is that the count-in at the start has been deleted.  Leppard fans may be surprised by the tin whistle but it’s not too much of a stretch.  The bleak song is about the dark side of addiction.

10. “Ring of Fire”.  Dipping back into the Hysteria B-side collection, “Ring of Fire” has a new intro.  The drums were re-cut and backing vocals thickened up.  It’s one of two Mutt Lange co-writes on the album and stands as one of Leppard’s harder rockers from the era.  An excellent track, “so stick around and settle down, enjoy the mystery.”

11. “I Wanna Be Your Hero”.  From the “Animal” EP, this is the second Lange co-write on Retro-Active.  With new drums added, here it stands as one of the highlights among many highlights.  The track should always have been on Hysteria.  Combining ballad and rocker into one meaty package, “I Wanna Be Your Hero” is a stone cold Leppard classic.

12. “Miss You In a Heartbeat” (Electric Version).  Nothing was overdubbed or re-recorded for this track, but the opening fades out of “I Wanna Be Your Hero”, meaning it is still different from its original B-side release on “Make Love Like a Man”.  Another stone cold Leppard classic.  A majestic electric ballad with layers of Phil’s sweetest guitars and backing vocals.  A masterpiece.

13. “Two Steps Behind” (Electric Version).  Previously unreleased.  Joe’s original backing track was fully Leppardized with all the band members including Vivian.  This gives you an idea of how the song was originally envisioned before it took its better known acoustic guise.  The acoustic version is more original, but this one does boast a big huge Leppard chorus.

14. Unlisted bonus track!  “Miss You In a Heartbeat” (Acoustic, Acoustic Version).  This third version of the ballad is the softest.  It is the piano-based version, but without the backing band.  Just Joe, the piano, and Phil on an acoustic guitar solo.  A nice surprise.

There are more demo versions of these songs on the B-sides of singles, that we will get to when we arrive at the appropriate disc in the CD Collection Volume 2.

As it turns out, Retro-Active was not entirely the clearing of the vaults we thought it was.  There was still one more song with Steve Clark unfinished.  One more compilation to release.  The future was on the horizon, but the past had to be dealt with first.  Which doesn’t diminish Retro-Active in any way.  Where there is repeat of tracks, it is justified by the versions being completely different in tone and direction.  It plays like a “new Def Leppard studio album” to the layman, but a compilation of the deepest cuts to the faithful.  Cuts that have been freshened up and don’t repeat the exact B-sides in their collections.  A win/win.

4/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert

Next:

16. Visualize DVD

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Priest, Live & Rare (1998 Japanese import)

JUDAS PRIEST – Priest, Live & Rare (1998 Sony Japan)

Fun fact:  in 1998, there were three Judas Priest live albums released.  First was the official ’98 Live Meltdown, featuring then-current singer Tim “Ripper” Owens.  There was also Concert Classics, an unauthorised CD from the British Steel tour that the band swiftly took legal action to remove from store shelves.  Finally, a CD called Priest, Live & Rare released by their old label Sony in Japan, featuring a smorgasbord of live B-sides.

Judas Priest’s B-sides don’t garner a lot of attention, but are worth looking in to.  Fortunately, a large assortment of them are collected on this compilation.  Covering a period from 1978 to 1986, Priest released a number of live B-sides (and one remix) that are included here.  Only two (“Starbreaker”, and a version of “Breaking the Law”) were released on CD in the 2004 Metalogy box set.  Because Priest were conscious of giving value to fans, the live B-sides are not the same familiar versions from live albums.

From the “Evening Star” single in 1978 comes “Beyond the Realms of Death”, Judas Priest’s “Stairway to Heaven”, or so some said.  It’s a rather weak comparison, but “Beyond the Realms of Death” does hold special status.  Glen’s solo, though imperfect, drips with the tension that comes from the live performance.  From the same gig, but lifted from the “Take on the World” single comes “White Heat, Red Hot” and “Starbreaker”.  You can hear the life in the songs, from Les Binks’ organic drum work to Rob’s impassioned performance.  The man is in top voice especially on “White Heat, Red Hot”.  Les Binks has an extended energized drum solo on “Starbreaker”.  These are fantastic live versions that need to be in a diehard’s collection.

The next single visited is 1981’s “Hot Rockin'”, with two live B-sides:  “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight” from that year in Holland.  The drum stool has changed hands from Les Binks to Dave Holland, and it is like the band has had a heart transplant.  The difference is notable given that on this CD, Binks went out on a drum solo.  It’s like a pacemaker has been installed and the pulse of the beast has been tamed.  But that’s 80s Priest for you, and with that said, these are two excellent versions of some serious Priest hits.  Refreshing to hear, after the same familiar ones over and over again.

Priest’s set at the 1983 US Festival has not been released on CD yet, but here are some for you.  (The Festival on DVD is not an issue — the deluxe Screaming for Vengeance contains the whole thing.)  Here you get “Green Manalishi”, “Breaking the Law” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”.  “Green Manalishi” is a fantastic version (at least for one with Dave Holland on drums!) and Rob is peak Halford.  These three tracks are sourced from a live 1983 Japanese “Green Manalishi” EP that costs some fair funds on its own.  (This is the version of “Breaking the Law” that you can also find on the Metalogy box set.)

“Private Propety” (originally from 1986’s Turbo) is a rare live take from St. Louis. It was originally released on the “Parental Guidance” 12″ single.  Therefore it’s not the same one from Priest Live, nor the Turbo 30th anniversary set.  This one predates the release of the others and has a nice untampered quality.  Finally, also from the “Parental Guidance” single, is the only disappointing B-side in this collection.  It’s the “Hi-Octane” extended remix of “Turbo Lover”!  Extended remixes were a popular thing in the 80s.  Every mainstream artist did them; for example Def Leppard, Kiss and Aerosmith.  “Turbo Lover” is one of the poorer such examples.  Were any dance clubs likely to play Judas Priest?  No, but the Priest did try.

Unweildy ham-fisted “Turbo Lover” aside, Priest, Live & Rare is a highly recommended collection to get 10 rare Priest B-sides in one fell swoop.  Definitely cheaper than tracking down all those singles.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Royal Blood – Royal Blood (2014 Japanese version)

ROYAL BLOOD – Royal Blood (2014 Warner Music Japan, three bonus tracks)

Bass and drum duos are all the rage, but it’s all about the songs.  You can do a lot with just those two instruments as it turns out.  Royal Blood’s palette of sound is also of the bass and drum duo persuasion, and they have the songs too.  Their 32 minute (43 minute on the Japanese with bonus tracks) debut album has enough good tunes that you won’t notice there are only two guys playing.  The tunes are all short, tight and to the point.

Mike Kerr (bass, vocals) and Ben Thacker (drums) have been praised by luminaries such as Jimmy Page for this fine debut album.  When someone like Jimmy Page excitedly declares he’s a fan, I don’t care who you are — you gotta check them out.  Royal Blood composed a series of tightly arranged riffy songs, with some serious heft.    Riffs such as the one on “Come on Over” sound nothing at all like bass.  Kerr squeals high notes out of his bass like it’s nothing, all while pouring it all into his singing simultaneously. The dude possesses the pipes necessary to infect his songs full of angst.

Check out the tense “Figure it Out”, their best single so far. Thacker keeps himself busy on the drums, working with the song not against it. Everything these guy do serves the song. “Figure it Out” had to be one of the best rock singles of 2014, expertly crafted for maximum rigidity and plutonium hooks. Every song delivers sturdy riffs, understated vocal melodies, and plenty of taut rock action.

The songs are on such a level that only a few stand out above the others. “Figure it Out” is the obvious one, but a few others impress as highlights. “Little Monster” (also a single) isn’t forgettable, and “Ten Tonne Skeleton” immediately reminded me of Them Crooked Vultures. “Loose Change” shakes things up by going slightly funky with some electronic drum effects. These guys don’t waste their time farting around. They slam you with the riffage, bang bang bang, and they’re done. Of course with a band of this configuration, the songs are composed with plenty of space between the instruments, and that adds to the heft of it all.

When the CD ends after “Better Strangers” we are treated to three Japanese bonus tracks. “Hole” is from the first Royal Blood EP Out of the Black. Its slow Soundgarden-Nirvana grunge is notably less crisp sounding than the album at large, but holy cow — this is heavy shit! Right out of 1992. “You Want Me” was lifted from the single for “Come on Over”. This is upbeat hard rocking fun. The final track “Love and Leave it Alone” is from the “Figure it Out” single, and it may be one of the best songs here. It’s interesting that the bonus tracks offer more variety than the album itself, which is a good enough reason to own them. Each of these tracks is different and deliciously good.

Get some Royal Blood in ya.

4/5 stars

#379: Aaron’s Black Crowes B-sides

THE BEST FUCKING COLLABORATION WEEK EVER

This series is “twice as hard”!  Aaron at the KMA and myself are both taking a look at an old CD-R of Black Crowes B-sides, that he made for me umpteen years ago.  Enjoy!

Aaron:  Black Crowes B-Sides

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#379: Aaron’s Black Crowes B-sides

Aaron has been a generous doner of Black Crowes music to Chez LeBrain for a long time now.  Witness, Record Store Tales Parts 260 and 262, in which he provided copies of the Crowes’ Sho’ Nuff box set, and the CD single for “Kicking My Heart Around”.  One of the most thoughtful items he ever gave me was a custom Crowes B-side CD, culled from his own library of tunes.  The Crowes have a lot of singles and rare tracks, and my collection is still to this day woefully incomplete.  The disc he made me covers a ton of songs that aren’t on albums.

There were quite a few tracks on this CD that I didn’t know the origin of.  I found out that the first three tracks are from the “By Your Side” CD single, which I still don’t own physically.  The opener, an acoustic version of “Horsehead” with a distorted lead vocal, is killer.  It sounds live in the studio, which to me is proof that you don’t have to spend weeks and months and years in the studio to make music.  “Horsehead” don’t need no frills.  “Grows A Rose” and “Peace Anyway” are from the same CD single, but sound more like the By Your Side album.  These are streamlined blues/rock tracks, but man “Grows A Rose” sure does smoke!  “Peace Anyway” is a soulful Crowes also-ran that could have been on the album as well.

“It Must Be Over” is from the “Kicking My Heart Around” single that Aaron gave me.  It’s a midtempo track much in the vein of the By Your Side album but not quite as catchy.  It’s a fine B-side though.  “You Don’t Have to Go” is really strong, but it could use more of that organ from Eddie Harsch.

Back to the olden days, “Don’t Wake Me” is an ass-kicker with plenty of that juicy slide guitar. This track was later reissued on the remastered Shake Your Money Maker album; I don’t know where it was originally from.  For fans of that old Crowes sound before they really started to experiment, this is for you.  The acoustic version of “She Talks to Angels” is available on the same remaster.  It sounds like an old Stones ballad and it’s flawless in this incarnation.

“99 lbs” and the slow version of “Sting Me” are also available today on the Crowes remasters.  I can’t believe how much “99 lbs.” kick ass for a B-side.  I know it’s a blues cover, but that’s about all I know about this amazing steady rocking tune.  Steady until the end that is, where it speeds up to a breakneck pace.  “Sting Me” is one of those tracks that caused a huge battle between the brothers.  One of them liked the slow version as heard on my Aaron Mix, and one preferred the fast album version.  This resulted in one of those physical confrontations that involved a mike stand being used as a projectile.  (I prefer the fast.)

As a B-side from Three Snakes and One Charm, “Just Say You’re Sorry” is surprisingly catchy and straitghforward.  I love Rich’s watery sounding guitar tone.  “Mellow Down Easy” is from the same period, this being a Willie Dixon classic.  I don’t think the Crowes really did anything for it.  Either way, it’s on the remastered Three Snakes, although “Just Say You’re Sorry” is not.

“Rainy Day Woman #12 & #35” is a bit of a gimmicky joke cover as far as I’m concerned.  It comes from a pot compilation of some kind.  “Pimper’s Paradise”, a Bob Marley cover, is a more successful experiment.

Aaron closed his CD with four live tracks in a row:  all four are from Air studios in London, circa 1994.  The four tracks sample the first three Crowes albums quite splendidly.  “Remedy” in particular strikes me as awesome.  The vocal is completely different from the album version which was only two years old.  You can’t say the Crowes are content to leave things be.

Man, you just gotta give Aaron a 5/5 for making this CD.  What a guy!

Monday: QUIET RIOT – Metal Health
Tuesday: DANKO JONES – Born A Lion

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Power House (1977 Japanese import)

PH FRONT CD

DEEP PURPLE – Power House (1977  Warner Bros, Japanese import)

I have always loved listening to the Power House album, featuring the classic Deep Purple Mk II era. After Purple broke up in ’76, the market was inundated with compilations and live albums. This one, and others like Last Concert in Japan, and When We Rock We Rock… were snapped up by fans who wanted more Purple. All of these albums have been rendered redundant by superior, current Deep Purple remasters.  If you’re the kind of fan who collects all of those 70’s posthumous Hendrix albums, then you’ll dig Power House, a brief but enjoyable romp through less familiar Purple. You’ll even get the original liner notes by Simon Robinson.

Power House consisted of 6 then-unreleased tracks. Here’s your complete track list:

1. “Painted Horse”.  This is an outtake from the Who Do We Think We Are sessions in July 1972.  This is the track that Blackmore “didn’t like”.  He hated what Gillan did with the vocal, and demanded it be changed.  Gillan refused, and the result was a great, unique Deep Purple rocker that remained unreleased until after the band was defunct.

2. “Hush”
3. “Wring That Neck”
4. “Child In Time”
From the Concerto for Group and Orchestra program in September 1969.  The original hit LP release of the Concerto had just the three movements of that piece.  Deep Purple played a standard three song set before the Concerto, and here it was released on Power House.  These three versions remain among my favourite performances of these songs.  “Child In Time” had yet to be recorded on album, and Jon Lord’s melodies are experimental and in development.  Very cool.  It’s “Hush” that really smokes, a definitive version of this cover.  Gillan made it his own right there.

Today the Concerto is available remixed on two discs, with the full piece, the Deep Purple set, and the Royal Philharmonic’s rendition of Malcolm Arnold’s “Symphony No. 6”, which was also performed that night.

5. “Black Night”.  Another nearly definitive version in my books!  This is a B-side, recorded at the Made in Japan dates in August 1972.  This is widely available today on various extended versions of the Japan shows, the Singles A’s and B’s, 24 Carat Purple, and many others.

6. “Cry Free”.  Outtake from the Deep Purple In Rock sessions in January 1970.  It is incredible how fertile the band were in the early 1970’s.  As if In Rock wasn’t amazing enough, this kind of song doesn’t even make the album?  Amazing that Deep Purple’s outtakes were so impressive.  That they could throw this away speaks volumes of their confidence at the time.

Regardless of Power House being superseded in recent years by better packages, I still enjoy this album, in this sequence.

4/5 stars