Part Twenty-Five of the Def Leppard Review Series
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.
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!
- 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
26. Cybernauts – Live