CD Collection Volume 3

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Yeah! Live (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Thirty-Nine of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Yeah! Live (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 6) (2021)

On the very last disc of the third volume of Def Leppard’s CD Collection box set series, we finally take some previously missing B-sides off the table and into your collection.  This is the shortest of the discs in this set, with only eight tracks.  However the rarity firepower is high.  They call it Yeah! Live, making it the third album in the ret-conned Yeah! covers series.

1. It’s almost inexcusable that “Elected” hasn’t popped on these box sets yet, being a 1987 live version with Steve Clark, released in 1992 on the “Heaven Is” CD single.  Its most logical release point was the fine 2006 deluxe edition of Hysteria, chronologically speaking, but it was not included on the otherwise comprehensive 7 disc 2017 Hysteria box set either.  For a while it seemed this B-side had slipped through the cracks, but here it is opening Yeah! Live.  It is the second time an Alice Cooper song has appeared in this box set, though this is obviously the earliest recording of them all.  Screamin’ Joe is in prime-time form and Steve Clark has been missed on this box set.

2. “Action”.  Completing the Target bonus tracks from the Yeah! release, its “Action” live.  Recorded somewhere on the 2005 tour, here it is, and it’s a stunningly good version.  Leppard at their heaviest, covering Sweet.  No problem.  Thanks for checking this box in the collection.

3. “No Matter What”.  The last of the Best Buy bonus tracks from the Yeah! album.  Same as above, recorded live somewhere unspecified on the 2005 tour.  The Leppard studio original was included on the main Yeah! track listing, but this is its first and only live release to date.  Nice solid pop rock, and a good version to boot.

4. “Rock On”.  Recorded live in 2006.  Not a bad version in fact, of a song that’s pretty “meh” usually.  They take it to a really Zeppelin-y “Levy Breaks” kind of place at the end.  It does not say “previously unreleased” on this track, but it also does not state where it was released before.  You can get different live versions on the Leppard releases The Lost SessionsAnd There Will Be A Next Time…, and Mirrorball Live.

5. “Travelling Band” with Brian May, live in 1983.  I’ll quote myself from my review of Pyromania Live from the deluxe edition of that album:  “The long friendship between Leppard and Queen began right here.  A cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Travelling Band’ is the earliest recording of Joe and May together, but certainly not the last!  This is not only a piece of history, but it’s a brilliant track!  Joe’s screaming voice is strangely well suited to an overblown CCR cover.  But hearing the guitar trio solo together, each with their own style, is the real icing on the cake.  May is so creamy!”

6. “Now I’m Here” with Brian May, live in 1992.  From the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, and previously released on the Adrenalize deluxe and the 1993 “Tonight” CD single.  A brilliant version of one of Queen’s hard rockers, and the Brian May solo is as thrilling as you’d expect.  One of the highlight performances at the Freddie Mercury concert.

7. “20th Century Boy” with Brian May, live in 2006 from the VH1 Rock Honors show.  Previously unreleased!  Automatically superior to Leppard’s studio version due to the wall of guitars caused by the presence of Dr. Brian May.  Awesome solo work.

8. “All The Young Dudes” with Ian Hunter, from Hunter’s rare Once Bitten Twice Shy album.  First ever release on a Def Leppard collection.  Joe’s favourite song and really thick sounding.  Too thick, perhaps.  Ian Hunter takes all the lead vocals with Leppard joining him on the backings.  Really cool to end this box set with Ian Hunter, and nice to finally get this song.  Scratch it off your wishlists.

Pretty good, if a bit weird, collection of all the live covers not included on previous discs in this series, and some unreleased stuff too.  It’s a bit odd to get stuff like “Elected” and “Travelling Band” that are better suited to earlier discs, but here they are and that’s what’s important.  That brings Vol 3 of the CD Collection to an end, and it’s nice to have closure for some of the single B-sides.

3.5/5 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
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Recored Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II

Next:

40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings
42. Viva Hysteria

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Yeah! II (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Thirty-Eight of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Yeah! II (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 5) (2021)

This disc, exclusive to the box set, isn’t really a sequel to Yeah! as the title implies.  This CD instead collects all the Yeah! bonus tracks (aside from the live ones – they’ll be coming next week) and a few other covers from single B-sides.  19 tracks total, this is the collector’s dream disc for knocking a few rarities off the list.  There are also B-sides here going back to Adrenalize, so well overdue to appear in this series of box sets.  If you were wondering, “Hey, how come ‘Little Wing’ hasn’t popped up in this set yet even though it goes all the way back to 1992?”, now you know.

There is a lot of information here to digest, so buckle up!

1. “Only After Dark”, the original B-side mix (as opposed to Retro-Active remix) leads us off.  This Mick Ronson cover was the first Adrenalize B-side, from “Let’s Get Rocked” in 1992.  The remix added guitar overdubs by Vivian Campbell, but this one is all Phil Collen.  Great tune, and perfect for Leppard to cover.  Upbeat, cool riff, great playing by Phil and vocal performance by Joe Elliott.

2. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.  This and the next track are by The Acoustic Hippies From Hell, which was Def Leppard plus three Hothouse Flowers:  Fiachna Ó Braonáin, Liam Ó Maonlaí, and  Peter O’Toole.  Tin whistle, piano and mandolin are interesting accents for Def Leppard, but this is a brilliant cover, essentially live in the studio.  These Acoustic Hippies tracks originated from the 1992 “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” single.  Notably, this group also recorded the Leppard original “From The Inside”, so the sound is similar.  Brilliant if surprising.  Especially considering this song is so difficult to cover without wrecking completely.

3. “Little Wing”.  Also by the Acoustic Hippies From Hell, and also from the ’92 “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” single.  Quieter, darker, and slightly trippy.  The tin whistle here is really something and is the only solo instrument.

4. “Ziggy Stardust”.  This track is from the 1996 UK “Slang” single, and it is another acoustic performance.  It would not be a stretch to say it is one of Leppard’s finest covers.  I daresay nobody covers David Bowie better than superfan Joe Elliott.  An shimmery acoustic stunner.

5. “Under My Wheels”.  Very rare track from the 1999 “Goodbye” single.  Not the first time Leppard have covered Alice Cooper, but we won’t get to the first time until next time!  Very confusing, I know.  Good, if stock, cover.  Lots of bands have tackled “Under My Wheels” over the years, but the unexpected sax solo is a treat!

6. “Who Do You Love?”.  Also from the “Goodbye” single.  This Ian Hunter cover is a bit forgettable unfortunately.  It replicates the thump of the original but lacks the same sass (and harmonica).

7. “Rebel Rebel”.  Back to Bowie and another great version.  Another rarity, originating with the 2002 single for “Now”.  Electric Bowie this time, and performed near-perfect.

8. “Led Boots” from the 1996 “All I Want Is Everything” single, and not performed by Def Leppard.  It was recorded by Vivian Campbell as a solo artist for a Jeff Beck tribute album called Jeffology.  This one is way out in left field compared to the others, being a funky zig-zag of a song.  That’s Jay Schellen from Hurricane playing those funky drums, and John Alderette from Racer X on bass.  Very much in the vein of early, jammy Journey and a side of Vivian you never get to hear.

9. “‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers”.  Phil Collen’s solo Beck cover featuring the same rhythm section as Viv’s, with Billy Sherwood on Rhodes.  From the same 1996 CD single as well.  This song cries; it just weeps.  Again, a side of the guitarist that you never get to hear.  You’ve never heard Phil play so slow!  (Don’t worry, he burns it up later.)  Full of feel and one of the guitarist’s most memorable performances.

10. “Search and Destroy”.  Finally, onto the bonus tracks from different versions of the Yeah! album.  The Iggy & the Stooges cover “Search and Destroy” originated on the Walmart bonus CD.  It features Phil Collen on all instruments and lead vocals.  If it wasn’t for the expert solo work, you could call it fully-fledged punk.  Phil captures a snotty vocal vibe, and you gotta say it sounds authentic.

11. “How Does It Feel?”.  SERIOUS RARITY ALERT!  The only way to get this track was by iTunes download, and only with the initial release of Yeah!.  The song was discontinued thereafter and you were out of luck.  Therefore, this is a first time physical release!  The piano-based Slade cover features Joe on all instruments (piano and acoustic guitar).  It’s a beauty that sounds very different from the typical Slade sound.  Melodic as hell and Joe does a bang-up job.

12. “Roxanne”.  Another serious rarity, a previously unreleased Phil Collen demo of the Police classic.  Unsurprisingly, Phil has a Sting-like voice, so it sounds about right, though Phil sings it in an understated way.  It’s funky and Phil’s solo is perfect butter on top.

13. “Dear Friends”, a Queen cover by Rick Savage, is an album highlight.  Originally from the Walmart bonus CD, it features Sav on vocals and all instruments.  And holy shit, dear friends, did Rick ever go in left field!  Although it begins similar to the Queen original with soft layered vocals, it then goes in a Live Killers “We Will Rock You” hard rock direction!  Almost a punk rock speed to it.

14. “Winter Song”.  A seasonal sounding acoustic Lindisfarne cover from the Best Buy edition of Yeah!  (One of two Best Buy bonus tracks, with the second one appearing on Yeah! Live.)  Lindisfarne were a folk rock combo, and this version is performed as a duo by Joe and Sav.  A great addition to your favourite homebrew Christmas mix CD.

15. “American Girl”.  Fabulous Tom Petty cover from the Walmart bonus CD.  Performed by Joe and Viv, with Mark Danzeisen on drums.  Another disc highlight.  Joe and Viv captured everything you like about the song.  Its spunky upbeat vibe lasts all night.

16. “Heartbeat”.  Joe calls this cover the most “out there” of them all, but I think that honour has to go to “Dear Friends”.  “Heartbeat” was by Jobriath, the first openly gay artist signed to a major label record deal.  He only made two albums before fading into obscurity.  It’s a beautiful piano ballad performed by Joe.  You could originally get it on the Walmart bonus CD.

17. “Space Oddity”.  The final Bowie cover and fifth & final track from the Walmart bonus CD.  Joe on all instruments.  Lovely version but it’s hard to top the sheer vibe of the original, no matter how faithful.  At best you can say it’s a nice reproduction.  At worst, it’s unnecessary.  However it was recorded as a gift from Joe to his dad, so can you really blame anyone?  Not at all.

18. “When I’m Dead and Gone”.  Target was the last chain to get exclusive bonus tracks, and like Best Buy they got two.  And like Best Buy, one was live and therefore appears on Yeah! Live.  The other Target bonus track was “When I’m Dead and Gone” by McGuiness Flint.  It is another folk rock cover, done up nice acoustically by Joe and Phil.  An album highlight; so damn melodic, upbeat and catchy!  And then it detours into “Ooh La La” for a minute.  The perfect ending!

19. “Stay With Me”.  Closing Yeah! II just like it closed Yeah! is The Faces’ “Stay With Me”.  This is an earlier B-side version from the “Now” CD single (2002).  Phil Collen takes on the raspy Rod Stewart lead vocal (and probably had to gargle salt water for several days after).  The version from Yeah! sounds more full than this original, but you gotta have ’em all or it ain’t complete, is it?

So there you have Yeah II, a mixed bag of a compilation from all kinds of singles and assorted releases.  One more disc of covers to go before we’re done, but Yeah II is the best listen of the three.  Though long, it has the variety and fearlessness that sounds great on the speakers compared to the original Yeah!.

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
  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
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Recored Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides

Next:

39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings

REVIEW: Def Leppard – B.Sides (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Thirty-Seven of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – B.Sides (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 4) (2021)

It’s somewhat irksome that this disc wasn’t titled Rarities 5 to maintain continuity with the previous two box sets.  Alas, this disc is titled B.Sides (probably so the artwork jives with the X album) even though it contains more rarities than just single B-sides.  Quibble aside, let’s dive in with an important caveat:  Many of the tracks on this disc are from the X era, which did not rate well in this series thus far.

Two inconsequential radio edits begin the CD:  “Now” and “Long Long Way to Go”.  In the case of “Now” that could be an improvement, though less than 10 seconds were chopped from the song.  Credit due:  when the song starts cooking after the first chorus, that guitar riff is pretty awesome.  “Long Long Way To Go” suffers more in the radio edit context, losing 38 seconds, ending abruptly with a quick fade.  A better version is still to come on this disc.

From there we move on to the Japanese and UK X bonus track “Kiss the Day”.  This song is generally acclaimed by fans as a tune that would have improved the album in general.  It has a riff to it, but then slows right down into ballad territory.  It recovers on the psychedelic chorus but it’s a bit uneven.  There’s a smoking solo worth noting in the burning ending section.

B-sides galore next!  Some of these tracks were hard to collect at the time, at least in North America.  “10 X Bigger than Love” from one of the “Long Long Way to Go” singles would have been awesome had it been on an album, but it’s too rock and roll for X.  Leaving it off an album was a mistake.  “10 X Bigger than Love” was considered a keeper by Joe but the other guys in the band didn’t like it as much.  “Love Don’t Lie” is Joe’s demo version of the album track, previously released as one of the B-sides to the “Now” single.    It doesn’t have the chorus production of the album version, but might actually be more interesting for that reason.  Apparently they were going for a Seal vibe similar to “Crazy”. Close but no cigar.

The included demo of the ballad “Let Me Be the One” (another “Now” B-side) is so much more raw and genuine than anything on the X album.  It should have just been released as-is!  They didn’t have to muck it up for modern audiences.  This one has so much more heart and genuinity.  Joe’s Cybernaut friend (and Bowie’s bandmate) Dick Decent handled the difficult piano part.  The rocker “Gimme a Job” (from the “Long Long Way To Go” single) is a pretty simple but gets the job done for a B-side.  Why so simple?  The other guys didn’t care for it, so Joe played everything — including the guitar solo!  It might be a bit similar to a previous B-side called “When Saturday Comes”.

The last B-side in this chunk of songs is an acoustic version of “Now”, also included on the “Long Long Way to Go” single.  Though it lacks that chunky riff section that we all love so much, it also lacks the digital bleeps and bloops from the original.  Unfortunately, this acoustic version proves the song just isn’t all that great at its core.

The stripped down acoustic version of “Long Long Way to Go” does the opposite.  This is a real rarity from the Japanese printing of the X album.  A truly great song (though they didn’t write it), and this is really the definitive version.  Easily superior.  They didn’t have to go all-in with the production, and here’s more proof.  This is the same recording, just with all the junk removed.  Great to finally be able to get this version easily now.  It should have been on the album and the other version released as a remix.

In another slightly irksome move, the CD jumps ahead in time here, only to jump back on the next song.  Moving forward in time to the album Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, it is the much demanded “Joe Only” version of “Nine Lives”.  This valuable Japanese bonus track should have been more widely available from the start, so in-demend was it over the “Joe and Tim McGraw” version on the album.  This is the song as it always should have been!  Hard rocking, chunky, upbeat, and fun.  Not a single bad thing about it.

Then back in time for the final X track:  “Perfect Girl”.  Much like the previously released download-only 11 song live set, you could grab this song for free from the official Def Leppard site.  A big thank-you to Def Leppard for being so proactive and fan-friendly in the early internet days.  “Perfect Girl” is a superior demo version of the song “Gravity” and has never been released physically until now.  When we say it’s the “superior” version”, let’s just add that it’s less boy-band-y.  It’s still not all that great, just…not as bad.

Finally, the last of the tracks is the other Japanese bonus track from Sparkle Lounge.  This is a piano version of the album epic “Love”.  Those who thought the album could have used a ballad will enjoy it.  “Love” is notable as one of Joe’s best vocal performances and now you can hear it adorned only with backing piano.  The album version will remain the go-to since it’s so big and bombastic, but this a nice Queen-like alternate version that the diehard fans will enjoy.

Though a bit X-heavy, this excursion into Leppard B-sides was a better listen than that album.  Collecting them all was a pain in the behind, so having them all in one place (plus the one that was download-only!) is a brilliant solution.  Wish it was “rarities” and was in stricter chronological order, but the disc checks off a ton of boxes for collectors.

3.5/5 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
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah! – Record Store Tales
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)

Next:

38. Yeah! II
39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings
42. Viva! Hysteria (DVD & CD 1)
43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & Bonus features)
44. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
45. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
46. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

 

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (2008)

Part Thirty-Four of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original Review Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (2008)

DEF LEPPARD – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 3) (Originally 2008, 2021 remaster)

Finally!  Three misfires in a row (Euphoria, X, Yeah!) and Def Leppard finally had a new album that rocked and was worth listening to again.  While imperfect, the badly-titled new album Songs From the Sparkle Lounge really felt like an actual effort this time.  With the exception of one credit on one song, everything here was written by Def Leppard and only Def Leppard.  And — hallelujah! — no ballads.  What a refreshing turn of events.  A lot of the album was written and recorded on tour.  It seemed like Def Leppard were really listening to the fans who said “We’re tired of pop and ballads.  Please, write us a rock record again like you used to.”

We mostly got it.

Of course, in the press Leppard exaggerated as they often did, comparing the album to High ‘N’ Dry, AC/DC, and Led Zeppelin.  And so, the fans knew not to get their hopes up too high.  The album rocked, but not like that.  The standard version of Sparkle Lounge was a tight eleven tracks, just under 40 minutes.  No bloat.  But let’s get to the elephant in the room first.

When discussing this album, dissenters often point to track 2, the first single “Nine Lives” as the main offender.  As a collaboration with Tim McGraw, it reeks of terrible offences committed by Bon Jovi earlier in the decade.  In order to find new success, too many rock bands went to Nashville for fresh names and influences.  Fortunately, Japanese fans were able to buy a version of the album including the song without Tim McGraw, and just Joe Elliott ripping the lead vocals.  That is definitely a preferred experience.  McGraw’s voice makes it sound…not like Def Leppard!  The two worlds simply do not mesh.  Fortunately “Nine Lives” is not a country song, but a hard rocker with a slight twang in the electric guitars.  It’s actually a pretty good song, when you edit Tim out.  So there’s that.

However, opening Songs From the Sparkle Lounge is a song you can only describe as “real” Def Leppard!  Combining the loopy vibe of the Slang era with the riffiness of Pyromania, “Go” is out of the gates on the right note.  It slams.  Heavy, modern, guitar-heavy and hooky without pandering to trends.  It merely combines some of Leppard’s best and heaviest ingredients in a modern way.  The only critique would be the title.  “Go” is a word that Leppard overuse.  “Go”, “Let’s Go”, “Gotta Let It Go”, “Let It Go”…just too much “going” on!

After “Go”, you have to sit through the Tim McGraw song before we’re back to tunes with integrity.  The glam rock “C’Mon C’Mon” was in the vein of that “Pour Some Sugar” sound, ultimately derived from Gary Glitter.   It too was a single (to be discussed next time) and sits comfortably in the Hysteria-style box.  Not exactly like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin as Joe claimed, but not a bad track if a bit too much like a sequel.

“Love” written by Rick Savage was an important tune and surprisingly the longest at 4:17.  It’s the one that they called “not a ballad” and you can get where they were coming from.  Yes there’s a soft acoustic intro but the song is bigger and more dramatic than the average ballad.  A big heavy chunky section rises towards the end.  The acoustic version on the Japanese release could fairly be pigeonholed as a ballad, but the standard album cut it more like Leppard meets Queen.  Freddie and the boys seem to be the biggest influence on “Love”, especially vocally.

Phil Collen wrote “Tomorrow” which is one of the most pop of the tunes, sort of in an Adrenalize mold.  The chorus is solid and there’s a nice guitar part to bite into.  Not a highlight but not a throwaway.  Just a good hard rock tune that sounds great in the car come chorus time.

Vivian Campbell contributed the low groove of “Cruise Control”, whose bassline is the main feature, rolling and churning beneath the song.  Interesting tune with some truly great and adventurous guitar playing from Viv.  Playing for feel and not speed.  But the band reverts to their standard form again on the uptempo rocker “Hallucinate”.  Though the hooks sound like you’ve heard ’em all before, they’re all welcome to return on this great track.

Another solid song, “Only the Good Die Young”, boasts some mellotron that always seems to recall the Beatles.  Not a constituent part of the average Def Leppard rocker, but an enhancement that works well here.  Joe ever references a “diamond in the sky” so it’s probably not coincidence.  A good tune made better by stepping just slightly outside the box without destroying the box.

Joe’s “Bad Actress” is by far the hardest rocker on the album, going full speed ahead to a place that Leppard had not gone in many years.  Pure heavy and reckless rock, pedal to the metal, just givin’ ‘er as much as there is in the gas tank.  This, yes this, is what fans had been begging for!  Something that really drives but still sounds like Def Leppard.  Something that wouldn’t have sounded too out of place in the early years.  Finally, we got “Bad Actress” out of them!

The penultimate track “Come Undone” slows it back down to a deliberate 90s pace.  Decent album track, but might have been considered filler in an earlier age.  Unfortunately, it’s just one of those easy to forget second-last album tracks.

Fortunately, Leppard saved the best track for last:  “Gotta Let It Go”, which rocks so hard on the chorus that it might just rip your head off.  This Vivian contribution opens with deceivingly soft drum programs before absolutely exploding on the epic chorus.  It’s a brilliant slice of songwriting from the Irish rock wizard, and the way the lead and backing vocals overlap on the chorus is just the kind of thing Def Leppard do so exceptionally well.  An absolute triumph that leaves a sweet taste in the mouth when the album is complete.  This kind of closer invites repeat listens.

Sparkle Lounge ends as it began:  rocking.

Fortunately for Def Leppard, a young American fan of both them and Tim McGraw was hitting brand new heights in her fresh solo career.  At just 19 years old, she was born while Def Leppard were still the biggest rock band in the universe.  So, leaning even further into country music, Def Leppard would gain a lot of attention from a new younger crowd thanks to their big fan Taylor Swift.  It seemed a strange move for Leppard to make while they were just starting to rock again, but we’ll discuss the Swift collaboration in a future instalment.

Though Songs From the Sparkle Lounge does contain some fillers and some cuts that fail to stick in the memory, there are no outright “deletes” except arguably the McGraw track.  It doesn’t even fit with the vibe of the album.  The Leppard version should have been in the main album sequence, with the McGraw version as a bonus track and single in special markets.  Guaranteed, this album would be better remembered if that was the case.

3.5/5 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
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah! – Record Store Tales

Next:

35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (12″ picture disc)
36. CMT Crossroads (DVD with Taylor Swift)
37. B-Sides
38. Yeah! II
39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Yeah! (2006)

Part Thirty-One of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Yeah! (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 1) (Originally 2006, 2021 remaster)

Yeah…nah!

Why Def Leppard, why a covers album?  The idea seems to have come from Joe Elliott, who had been pushing to do something like this for over 20 years.  Upon the completion of promotion for the X album and the two greatest hits that followed, Def Leppard had no new songs to put toward another album.  Therefore, Joe’s cover album concept seemed like the right move.

We had sneak previews of two songs, “Waterloo Sunset” and “No Matter What” on Best Of and The Definitive Collection respectively.  After nearly two years’ wait, we finally got the Yeah! album in 2006.   All told, 22 different studio covers and two additional live versions were released over the many different CDs released to various retailers.  That’s a total of 24 songs to collect.  Fortunately, every single one of those tracks is included in the CD Collection Volume 3.  There are three bonus interview tracks that are not included, and we will discuss those next time.  For this review, we will focus on the core album; the basic 14 songs.

Opening with T-Rex’s “20th Century Boy”, there’s little question that Leppard nailed the authenticity vibe.  The guitar tones are perfect.  So why is my finger itching to reach for the skip button?  Doing covers is like performing magic.  It either happens or it doesn’t.  The highlight of this song is Canadian singer Emm Gryner’s awesome backing vocals.

“Rock On”?  No thanks.  I’ve never liked this track.  Blame Michael Damien for that, but…skip.

“Hanging on the Telephone” (The Nerves) is awesome!  Hard rocking, full speed, really kicking ass.  It takes Def Leppard a little further out of their comfort zone and it rocks!

From Def Leppard’s Best Of (UK only) comes “Waterloo Sunset” (The Kinks), which was an awesome bonus track but feels diminished among the other covers here.  It jumps out less in this context.  Still buttery smooth, still tasty.  They picked an excellent song to cover here.

The Sweet’s “Hell Raiser” was covered previously by Motley Crue, except they called it “Kickstart My Heart” I believe.  The instantly recognizable Justin Hawkins from The Darkness joins Joe Elliott on the microphone.  By the books, this should be a slam dunk.  Maybe it’s just a tad sterile.

One of the most pleasant surprises on the album is ELO’s “10538 Overture”.  They captured the lushness, the complexity and the many melodies.  It sounds very little like Def Leppard; another example of them stepping outside the box and absolutely nailing it.

Roxy Music appears via “Street Life”, which fails to make much of a lasting impression.  As the album progresses, most of the tracks seem to just inhabit this nondescript Glam Leppard vibe.  It happens again on Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday”, and it really shouldn’t.

Free’s “Little Bit of Love” is highly polished, but sounds awesome just the same.  It’s like a jolt after being sleepy for the last couple songs.  Another jolt comes next.  Ian Hunter himself appears on Mott’s “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, and it’s not his first time with Leppard either for those who remember the Retro-Active album.  That’s Emm Gryner on piano too.  This song truly does recall the golden age of rock and roll.  Well done.

The previously discussed “No Matter What” by Badfinger is slotted in here, previously heard on Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection.  Pop genius, rendered well by the Leppard.  They take some chances on “He’s Gonna Step On You Again” by John Kongos, a different kind of rhythm for Leppard.  It’s memorable and tends to work more often than not.  Sounds a bit like what got their engines pumping in the Hysteria days.

Covering Thin Lizzy, now that verges on sacred ground.  And the good news is “Don’t Believe A Word” doesn’t sound bad.  Joe Elliott has worked on Thin Lizzy remixes in the past and he knows what he’s doing when it comes to this band’s music.  It’s not bad.  That’s accurate.  It’s not Thin Lizzy but it’s pretty close.

Phil Collen takes the lead vocal on “Stay With Me”, and he actually nails Rod Stewart’s voice.  Rod was a real screamer back in the Faces days, not the crooner he is now.  Phil probably needed about a thousand lozenges after singing “Stay With Me”.

Yeah! is uneven and unnecessary.  We mentioned earlier that context is important.  “Waterloo Sunset” made a much bigger impact on the Best Of album.  Here, it struggles to be felt among 13 other covers.  Had these tracks come out on the B-sides of singles, some would probably be cult classic covers.  If anything, Yeah! got Def Leppard back into rock and roll music after the meandering X and Euphoria records.  Too many ballads, right?  That’s what we said.  So here’s some rock and roll for you like you ordered, right?

2/5 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
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection

Next:

32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – X (2002)

Part Twenty-Eight of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original ReviewX (Japanese import) (2002)

DEF LEPPARD – X (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 1) (Originally 2002, 2021 remaster)

In a word:  “desperate”.

The opening boops and bops of lead single “Now” sounded like some pop band from Sweden, not Def Leppard.  Worse, they sounded desperate.

The last studio album Euphoria was sonically calculated to bring back the good old days, but only sold half a million copies in the US, in a case of diminishing returns.  To turn the ship around commercially, professional hitmakers Marti Frederiksen, Per Aldeheim and Andreas Carlsson were employed to help produce. Songs from professional songwriters were used.  The band’s core sound was watered down and only now and then does the real Def Leppard surface for air.

It has been argued that eliminating the first single (and first track) “Now” would strengthen the album.  While may be, we simply cannot ignore this track co-written by pro Marti Frederiksen.  While opens with clicks and wheezes like a life support machine, acoustic guitars and keyboards set up the tune.  Dark, soft and unimpressive until the main guitar hook kicks in at the chorus.  But the chorus is lifeless and uninspiring.  Only the chunky guitars have any impact, unfortunately hobbled by more clicks and sonic idiocy.  At least drummer Rick Allen, who co-wrote this and a number of the album tracks, sounds lethal.

The sonic blemishes go unabated on the ballad “Unbelievable”, written entirely by hitmakers including Max Martin.  The drum and sound effect programming is irritating and adds absolutely nothing to do the song.  Only on the chorus, where Leppard drown it out with their harmonies, do we get relief.  On X, Def Leppard had reach Peak Ballad, and that’s not a good thing.  Their reliance on them was hurting their credibility as a rock band.  If their voices were not so recognizable, you would not have been able to identity “Unbelievable” as a Def Leppard song.

Fortunately “You’re So Beautiful” has some spark.  This upbeat pop rocker has a nice, laid back chug and very sweet harmonies. It’s not overly encumbered by programming.  Phil Collen sings a chunk of it which adds another element.  It’s decent.

More acoustics abound on “Everyday”, making us wonder if Leppard ever intend to rock on this album.  As far as pop rock goes, “Everyday” is pretty good, with some pretty undeniable hooks.  Expertly constructed with the aid of Frederiksen, “Everyday” is a keeper.

One of Leppard’s softest ballads is “Long, Long Way to Go” written by One Direction hitmakers Wayne Hector and Steve Robson.  Fortunately it’s a song that Leppard makes work.  Rich strings and heavy production do not impede this time.  There’s an acoustic version included on the Japanese version of the album that lacks a lot of the excess, and is actually superior.  Fortunately, that version is included on a later CD in The CD Collection Volume 3.  “Long, Long Way to Go” is an album highlight.  Even though they didn’t write it, it deserves to sit up there with some of Leppard’s best balladeering.

“Four Letter Word” is the first actual rocker, even though it steals part of its riff from the superior “Armageddon It”.  Decent song, but unfortunately a knockoff.  Better is “Torn to Shreds” which is ballady, but still boasts a pretty tough chorus.  This song has a pop sound that implies it was cowritten by a hitmaker, but it was not.  This is all Leppard.  They were reaching for pop but at least they let it loose a bit on the chorus.

Irritating sound effects return on “Love Don’t Lie”, like ants at a picnic that just won’t go away.  Not a bad song, with a nice stuttery guitar part that would be nice to hear breathing on its own.  It’s not a total loss but the production is really un-rock in every way.  Now, let’s not get into an argument about being open minded, or categorising Leppard as a “rock” band.  Leppard have long called themselves a pop group, and that’s fine.  There’s that, and there’s a step too far into sonic indigestion, and that’s where we are.  Having said all this, the single “Gravity” is one of the most offensive of the songs.  It could have been Backstreet Boys or N*Sync with guitars.  Or worse.

“Cry” introduces the concept of a “guitar riff” to the X album.  Too little, too late, on an unremarkable song.  “Girl Like You” is a better song, but the programming and digital gunk are still there hovering in the background like a computer virus.  At this point, patience is wearing this and we just want this album to end.  One more ballad to endure, “Let Me Be the One” is over quickly, but what is the point?  There are so many ballads seeping into the Leppard catalogue at this point in time, and few of them are notable.

Fortunately, X ends on the best song, “Scar”.  Though not as heavy as “White Lightning” or as memorable as “Gods Of War”, “Scar” has that kind of dark edgy vibe.  It checks pretty much all the boxes.  It has a riff, a good melody, some very vintage Leppard-y guitar work, and great harmonies.  One of X‘s strengths is the care put into the deeply layered vocals, a Leppard trait unheard to this degree since Hysteria.  It truly is a cool sound.

There were a number of bonus tracks and B-sides available to augment your X experience for better or for worse.  Japan had two bonus tracks:  the aforementioned acoustic “Long, Long Way to Go” and “Kiss the Day”, another slow pseudo-rocker.  The official website used to offer a song called “Perfect Girl”, which is a better demo of “Gravity”.  All these and more such as “10 X Bigger Than Love” are now in the box set, and we’ll take a closer look at those songs when we get to disc four of The CD Collection Volume 3.

Oh, and why X as the title?  Counting Retro-Active and Vault, it’s their tenth album.  Yeah, Vault shouldn’t count, but what can you do?

If you were making a Def Leppard Best Of CD set (which, nine years after Vault, was Leppard’s next move), you could make a good case for including two songs from X, those being “Scar” and “Long, Long Way to Go” (preferably the acoustic version).  Is that what Def Leppard did?  Find out next time.

1.5/5 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
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)

Next:

29. Best Of (UK)
30. Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection (US)
31. Yeah!