Part Thirty-Six of the Def Leppard Review Series
Original Review: CMT Crossroads (2009)
Dedication (noun): The character trait of being so devoted to a project that you will watch the Taylor Swift & Def Leppard DVD one more time, even though you reviewed it once before and swore you’d never watch it again.
You can blame Rick Allen’s brother for this DVD. How did pop country songstress Taylor Swift and Def Leppard hook up? Taylor was on tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill whose tour manager was Rick Allen’s brother. You might recognize McGraw from the song “Nine Lives” on Leppard’s last album Songs From the Sparkle Lounge. Swift expressed interest in doing an episode of CMT Crossroads with Leppard and eventually they made it happen. Lucky us.
The DVD starts immediately, no big long intro, with “Photograph”. In a democratic way of doing things, it’s a Def Leppard song to open, but Taylor Swift getting the first lines. Her smooth voice doesn’t sound right with Screamin’ Joe’s vocal lines, and takes some getting used to with these songs. You can’t really hear her fiddle player or acoustic guitarists on “Photograph” but they sure are having fun.
The concert is intercut with interviews that help bring the context to this odd collaboration. Taylor was born two years after Hysteria, but was exposed to Leppard’s music from birth. She had been wanting to do a show with Leppard for some time so she made it happen. It’s also fun watching her learn British slang.
Taylor’s “Picture To Burn” is…well, it’s a song about some guy who drives a pickup truck, it seems. No matter how much they try to convince us that Leppard and Swift are not all that different, they sure are. “Love Story” is more like a Leppard ballad and isn’t so hard to swallow. Finally we get to “Hysteria” which works remarkably well as a duet. Taylor’s vocals add rather than subtract. You can actually hear certain parts of her massive backing back on this as well, plinking here and fiddling there.
A blues jam about Taylor’s boy trouble is amusing. “Teardrops On My Guitar” is a nice song, a little more understated and quiet. Stage choreography seems important with so many band members on stage, and they all seem to have their places and times. Leppard’s ballad “When Love and Hate Collide” is one song that is the most transformed by the collaboration. It sounds at home in both worlds. Taylor reveals she’s long had an obsession with this hit. It’s very fun to see Joe give her the last line of the song too.
Taylor’s “Should’ve Said No” is upbeat and twangy. A little bit rock and roll, something a little more familiar. There’s a great march-like arrangement towards the ending, and then the drums start thumping and you know what that means. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” has never sounded like this before. Fiddles and double drums…it actually sounds pretty good. And that’s the closing song of what is a fun but definitely jarring set of hits.
The three bonus tracks are “Our Song” (written in 9th grade for Taylor’s highschool talent show), “Love” (new Leppard song), and “Two Steps Behind”. These Taylor songs really take some effort to digest when you’re a Leppard fan, until Joe starts singing at least. Giving her credit, Taylor sure knows how to command an audience, but it’s irritating to see Vivian ripping up the fretboard, but being unable to hear him in the mix. More interesting is “Love”, the only choice from Songs From the Sparkle Lounge. It really benefits from all the extra backing singers and musicians, becoming something really big and huge. The final bonus track “Two Steps Behind” has eight guitar players and a nice intro from Joe explaining how the song was written electrically in 1989 to become a hit acoustically later in 1993.
To Def Leppard fans at least, some of the best content might be contained in the bonus interviews. It’s clear Leppard had a new but genuine appreciation for Taylor Swift and how her songs are constructed. They discuss all the things they have in common with Taylor, such as age. Rick Allen turned 16 opening for AC/DC and Taylor of course released her first hit album at 16. Allen reveals his parents were supportive of him leaving highschool in order to tour with Def Leppard, but made him get a tutor. They understood that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Both artists discuss what it’s like to be pigeonholed into a genre be it “country” or “heavy metal”. But the coolest thing is the foreshadowing of Leppard’s new album Diamond Star Halos. “You know who else is a huge Def Leppard fan? Alison Krauss,” reveals Taylor. And in 2022 she too collaborated with Def Leppard.
In addition to the interviews, there’s a press conference with Joe, Phil and Taylor where they discuss their history with each others’ music. They are obviously having fun with their collaboration, even if you are not. One of the things Joe says is that they would love to work with Taylor in the studio any time anywhere. Rather than ask why this hasn’t happened any time in the last 13 years, let’s just be glad it hasn’t. This is a difficult DVD for the Leppard fan to finish in one sitting so let’s just be glad that’s all there is.
- The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night
- The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
- The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
- The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
- The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings
- The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
- Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
- Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
- In The Round In Your Face DVD
- “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
- Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
- Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
- Video Archive
- “Slang” CD single
- I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
- Rarities 2
- Rarities 3
- Rarities 4
- Cybernauts – Live
- Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
- Best Of (UK)
- Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
- Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
- Yeah…Nah! – Record Store Tales
- Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
- “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
38. Yeah! II
39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings