Classic Rock Magazine

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Def Leppard (2015 Japanese + Classic Rock fan pack edition)

Part Forty-Seven of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Def Leppard (2015 Sony Japan + Classic Rock fan pack edition)

As with anything these days, you often have to buy multiple copies to get “all the songs” (only for them to be reissued in a box set later on).  The Classic Rock “fan pack” edition of 2015’s Def Leppard has plenty of bonuses (which we’ll get into) including two exclusive versions of songs.  The Japanese CD has an exclusive demo.  Gotta catch ’em all.

Def Leppard are in a comfortable niche now and their self-titled 2015 album easily could have been another “ia” titled construction, next to Pyromania, Hysteria and Euphoria.  Hell even 1992’s Adrenalize was originally to be titled DementiaDef Leppard is another “ia” album, but it’s notably closer to matching the quality of Hysteria better than most of their records since.  Upon dropping the laser after a long period of neglected, the album comes to life.  The hooks are remembered, and stand the test of time.

“Let’s Go” pretends to be another re-write of “Sugar” before going into an unexpected lush pop chorus.  Not a “Sugar clone at all, but something new for Leppard combining their trademark sound with bubblegum.  The Classic Rock fan pack comes with a bonus single edit, shorter by a minute.  “Dangerous” is straight-up Leppard, like “Photograph” or “Promises” all over again.  This song smokes, just like the previous hits in the same mold.

Funky Queen-like bass isn’t far out of Def Leppard’s range.  “Man Enough” is kind of goofy and might have worked better with just about any other lyrics.  When the song gets going, it starts to bang.  This is the kind of song that will divide people:  some will think it’s a highlight, others will say it stinks.

An album highlight is the first ballad “We Belong”.  It’s a gentle song recalling the softer moments on Slang, but what makes it unique is that all five Def Leppard guys sing lead vocals for the first time.  Truly an outstanding track, made more special by the vocals.  Even a non-fan can appreciate the different textures the voices add.  Phil is gritty, Sav is smooth, and they all bring extra dimensions.  Classic rock’s bonus tracks include an alternate version with just Joe Elliot singing.  It’s interesting because his solo take is different from the other singers.

“Invincible” is a rare Rick Allen co-write, a blazer like Pyromania-era Leppard, without the screaming.  That’s the only difference.  “Invincible” is otherwise vintage-style, including a quintessential Phil Collen guitar solo.  Moving on to “Sea of Love”, this one stretches out melodically.  The guitar riff keeps it rooted in Def Leppard, but the intro and chorus are something else.

The first mis-step is the ballad “Energize” which sounds like a Euphoria reject, something that came out of a computer.  Thankfully “All Time High” does the real energizing.  Back to a Pyromania style of rock, and the solos is right out of the 80s.

“Battle of My Own” is more like acoustic Led Zeppelin.  Quite unlike Leppard’s early acoustic experiments in 1992.  The psychedelic vocals and Zeppish riffs really set it apart.  This is definitely something that could have followed Hysteria, and probably right up the charts.

A fun rocker steals the “Don’t Shoot Shotgun” riff and turns it into “Broke ‘N’ Brokenhearted”.  There might be a touch of Leppard’s recent country influence coming through on the chorus.  This seamlessly goes into “Forever Young” which, in the past, might have been left as a single B-side.  A good B-side admittedly.  “Last Dance” goes back to acoustic, this time for a ballad like “Two Steps Behind”.  Don’t forget “Two Steps Behind” was a B-side as well, and “Last Dance” would probably work well in that format.  Interesting, the Japanese CD’s bonus track is a demo version of “Last Dance” with Rick Savage, its writer, singing lead.  This is probably the best of the two versions because on a long album like this, additional lead singers help keep things interesting.

Two songs remain, both unusual.  “Wings of an Angel” uses the penultimate slot to deliver a dark, understated rock song.  Then “Blind Faith” goes Beatles, with strings, bluesy guitars, and the kitchen sink.  Totally a “Walrus” kind of song.  A good closer, albeit very different for this band.

Sometimes I like to think of Def Leppard albums in terms of pre and post-Hysteria.  To me, Adrenalize was not the followup that Hysteria deserved and I think Def Leppard knew that.  Adrenalize was more like a bonus disc, or a Reload to the original Load.  Because of the sad passing of Steve Clark, the band had to deliver and so they kept things safe.  But Leppard are an experimental band, and if they weren’t dealing with another series of hardships, I think they would have progressed beyond Hysteria.  They did on Slang, but by that time grunge had washed the slate clean and Def Leppard made their sound more alternative and more organic to adapt.  Slang was not the sequel that Hysteria would have got either.  Maybe Def Leppard is the closest we have to a proper followup.

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!  (Record 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
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (DVD and CD 1)
  43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 and Bonus features)
  44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese import)
  45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
  46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)

Next:  Thanks for reading!

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Limitless (2017 Classic Rock exclusive CD)

DEEP PURPLE – Limitless (2017 exclusive CD included with Classic Rock #234, April 2017)

You have to hand it to the folks at Classic Rock.  It’s a quality publication that also manages to give out quality free cover-mount CDs.  With all the attention on Deep Purple these days due to their newly released album Infinite, Classic Rock have done the band up in style.  The CD is not just for beginners either.  Limitless (get it?) has a bunch of material from recent vintage and one exclusive track too.  That’s right — one track on this CD is exclusive to Classic Rock, so get on it, collectors!

At 43 minutes, Limitless has the ideal run time for a great listen through.  If you want to check out some new Deep Purple right off the bat, then just dive in.  Tracks 1 and 2 are the first two singles from Infinite:  “Time For Bedlam” and “All I Got is You”.  Both tracks are excellent, and fine samplings of what the current Deep Purple lineup (est. 2003) sound like.  With Steve Morse and Don Airey, the band have gone from strength to strength.  The instrumental prowess on these songs will easily demonstrate why Deep Purple are universally lauded.

Going back one album prior, we have two tracks from the Now What?! period.  The single version of “All the Time in the World” is a nice ballad for inclusion, though I think “Vincent Price” blows everything else on that album away.  Also included is the rock and roll “First Sign of Madness”.  The liner notes state this song is taken from the “Above and Beyond” CD single.  That doesn’t actually appear to be the case, but ” First Sign of Madness” was included as a bonus track on many editions of the Now What?! album.

The second half of Limitless is dedicated to live material, all classics.  “No One Came” from 1971’s Fireball is one of Purple’s most lethal grooves, and is lifted from the deluxe “Gold” reissue of the Now What?! album.  Gillan’s voice strains hard on this one.  A fun version of “Strange Kind of Woman” comes from the double live 2015 Wacken set.  It’s pure delight.  Next, “Perfect Strangers” is always welcome aboard, and this live version comes from the parallel double live 2015 Tokyo release.

Finally the set draws to a close with the Classic Rock exclusive track, a live tape of “Black Night” from Milan, July 21 2013.  Many of the live tracks on the Now What?! reissue come from that gig, but “Black Night” is previously unreleased.  It’s a jamming version, over seven minutes and Morse-heavy.  And there are more live tracks from that gig in the Deep Purple Infinite box set version, which looks just fantastic.

And magazine isn’t bad either!  The Deep Purple interview reveals some of the lighter side of the legendary Gillan/Blackmore relationship, tempered by the passage of time.  Incidentally, the magazine gives Infinite 7/10 stars.  That’s not bad for a band about to hit their 50th anniversary in a year’s time.  Check it out, and enjoy the 8-track CD Limitless while you read along!

4/5 stars