Part Six of the Def Leppard Review Series
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