phil collen

REVIEW: Cybernauts – Live (2001)

Part Twenty-Six of the Def Leppard Review Series

CYBERNAUTS – Live (2001 Arachnophobia Records)

While fans awaited the return of Def Leppard with another new album to follow 1999’s Euphoria, Joe Elliott and Phil Collen released some recordings from their Cybernauts side-project, a fun David Bowie cover band.

But not just any cover band.

Cybernauts were formed as a tribute to the late Mick Ronson, featuring Spiders from Mars members Trevor Bolder, Mick Woodmansey, and Dick Decent.  The liner notes are a little bit contradictory when it comes to specific recordings.  One page in the booklet says the disc was recorded at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, August 7 1997.  On another page, Joe Elliott states that the album was “pulled together” from a five gig mini-tour.  Dublin was the final date on that tour.  18 tracks, and almost 80 minutes of music comprise this live disc.

Without any preamble, we jump right into the rock and roll of “Watch that Man” from Aladdin Sane.  Cybernauts are naturally a little more heavy handed but Leppard fans will love it.  Things get punky with “Hang Onto Yourself”, full speed ahead, with Phil Collen whipping up some guitar magic to salute Ronson, while the original guys bang it out with bedevilling youthful energy.  Massive hit “Changes” comes next, a little chunkier than the version you’re used to but still brilliant.  Joe’s lead vocal has the Leppard sound, the Spiders’ backing vocals sound like Bowie.  It’s a mash-up of two bands.

Acoustic guitars come out for “The Supermen”, but then Phil kicks in with the distortion.  So far, an album highlight though purists might baulk at the heavier rock approach.  It’s followed by an emphatic “Five Years”, with Joe doing an excellent job of the complex vocals.  Bouncing from album to album, they do “Cracked Actor” next, a nice boogie.  The familiar “Moonage Daydream” is welcome, and the keyboards recreate the lush backdrop authentically.  Another album highlight with exceptional lead work by Phil.

A Mick Ronson solo cut called “Angel No. 9” from his second album Play Don’t Worry is rolled out next, with a wickedly tasty guitar lick.  A brilliant selection, the backing vocals by the Spiders are quite sweet.  “Jean Genie” is so familiar is almost skippable, but they pretty much had to play it — can’t blame them.

It’s pretty much non-stop classics from there on it.  “Life on Mars” featuring Dick Decent on piano has a more delicate touch and they do a fine job of it.  “The Man Who Sold the World” works well with the keyboards providing the backbone and Phil Collen doing his best Ronson.  “Starman” is great fun; Joe is clearly enjoying himself.

“The Width of a Circle” is the long bomber, clocking in at almost 10 minutes.  Progressive, guitar heavy and epic.  After that exercise, “Ziggy Stardust” is rolled out, and always welcome.  That guitar riff, the familiar melodies, they never tire.  Of course, Leppard covered it a couple times but not as convincingly as this.

The Velvet Underground’s “White Light, White Heat”, which also appeared on Ronson’s second album, is a party.  Backing vocals on this are awesome.  Joe teases a “goodnight” at this point, but the tracklist on the back reveals three encores.

“Rock and Roll Suicide”, “Suffragette City” and Mott’s “All the Young Dudes” are a pretty good three-for-three.  Encores that start slowly and laid back like “Rock and Roll Suicide” does are often like a mini-set unto themselves.  “Suffragette City” blasts forth with punky energy and then “All the Young Dudes” is the anthem to end the party.

But that’s not it for the Cybernauts.  In 2001 they did a Japanese tour, recorded some stuff in the studio, and released it.  We’ll talk about that next time!

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

Next:

27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Rarities 4 (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Twenty-Five of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Rarities 4 (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 7) (2019)

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.

4/5 stars

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!

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

Next:

26. Cybernauts – Live

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Rarities 3 (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Twenty-Four of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Rarities 3 (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 6) (2019)

The rarities continue with the CD Collection Volume 2 and the Slang era.  The Slang album cycle produced a number of rarities, including a bonus CD included in its first run.  When this first run of CDs sold out, so did the bonus disc, a six-song set called Acoustic In Singapore.  The whole tracklist is included in Rarities 3, in the right running order.  These songs were recorded at the Hard Rock Cafe in Singapore on the autumn 1995 promo tour for Vault.

“Give it up for Def Leppard!” says the man.  Opening with a bouncy “Armageddon It”, the band were really getting the hang of this acoustic thing.  Comparing one acoustic version to another is a somewhat pointless affair so we’ll just say “it’s great”!  With only acoustic instruments, Leppard are able to reproduce the upbeat party atmosphere of the immaculate original.  Of course they do the same with the vocals, weaving an impressive live facsimile of the layered album.

“Two Steps Behind” is up again, a song we keep hearing over and over since its original 1992 B-side release.  Good on Leppard for turning a throwaway into a perennial.  The Hard Rock Cafe audience positively explodes to sing along the chorus.  An interesting stripped version of “From the Inside” without the whistle and piano then stirs the cafe into silence.  It’s not the kind of song you whoop and holler through.  Phil’s solo is a blur of notes, but Vivian’s is more nuanced and chord-based.

A light “Animal” brings the mood back party.  Take note of Rick Allen’s subtle creative cymbal use on this classic.  Phil’s solo is another blaze of fast flying fingerwork – impressive but also perhaps a little abrasive.  The new ballad “When Love and Hate Collide” is then rolled out, similar to the version recorded at the Wapantake club for the Video Archive release.  The build up to the chorus pretty nice.

“Pour Some Sugar On Me” closes the acoustic set, a song that adapts well to the format.  The party resumes and concludes on a suitably bombastic note.  Amusingly, it seems to take the audience a second to realize what song they’re hearing.  With that, the Acoustic In Singapore CD is out of the way and we’re off to other rarities.

The “Piano & Strings” version of “When Love and Hate Collide” is the song’s second appearance on this disc.  It’s a pretty cool version, with little of the rock instrumentation left.  Like the title says, it’s piano and strings (and minimal guitar), with the vocals of Def Leppard.  This very rare mix comes from the “Slang” single with the “souvenir pack” – an envelope with a set of postcards.

A pretty awesome acoustic song called “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame” was on the same souvenir pack single.  It’s not sad or ballady, just an upbeat and basic acoustic song.  Guitars and vocals, no percussion.  The only critique would be that the song is just too short!

The “Original Version” of the Slang song “Truth?” is next, as we go into tracks from the “Work It Out” CD singles.  The songs for the Slang album went through a lot of experimentation before they took their final form.  Some like “Truth?” are vastly different and it’s a matter of preference which you prefer.  The original’s structure has elements that carried onto the album, but it’s a consistently heavy slam, and far less exotic.  The final version is probably the greater artistic achievement, but the original is the headbanger.

“Move With Me Slowly” also came from the “Work It Out” singles, and the Japanese release of Slang itself.  It’s long been a fan favourite, the kind of song that people say “should have been on the album”!  It’s a buttery, bluesy and soulful song with not a hint of Leppard going in over their heads.  The backing vocals are awesome, and the tune really swings when they start the engine.  Had it been on Slang internationally, it might have satisfied the fans who wanted less experimental songs on the album.

Of note (and this is where things get hairy), as good as this CD Collection is for getting rarities together, if there’s one weakness it’s that there’s a lot more Slang material out there, including a “1st Draft” of “Move With Me Slowly”.  This version is only available on the digital iTunes release of the 2014 Slang Deluxe Edition.  There are undoubtedly reasons for this, but be aware.  The “1st Draft” is very similar to the final version, but with Phil Collen (the songwriter) taking some of the lead vocals.  Pretty cool — and worth the download — but sadly outside the purview of this review.

A lot of the Slang album can be characterised as songs brought in by individuals, and then radically changed by the band process.  The last song on Rarities 3 is one of those:  “Work It Out” as originally demoed by Vivian Campbell.  Again this is taken from the “Work It Out” single B-sides.  Viv had compared the bouncy pop demo to a Crowded House song, and you can hear that kind of quirkiness.  That’s the word — quirky.  The song is more or less the same — same lyrics, same melody — but radically different.  And since it’s Viv’s demo, that’s him on lead vocals as well.  A mini-treasure.

Rarities 3, clocking in at a comfortable 45 minutes, is a solid listen with only one drawback of too much love and hate colliding, fer cripes sake.  I suppose such things are inevitable; a no-win scenario.

4.5/5 stars

One more disc of rarities to go, before we detour with Joe Elliott on a cybernautic adventure.  The next disc is the most special to me, as it’s the one that includes some of my own personal contributions to a box set that has my name in the thank-yous.  It includes more of the Slang demos, but be aware of the list below, all exclusive to the Slang deluxe:

  • “Turn to Dust” (Phil verse vocal) 4:03
  • “Raise Your Love” (version of “Slang” 3:01
  • “All I Want Is Everything” (1st draft) 5:19
  • “Work It Out” (1st draft) 5:19
  • “Breathe a Sigh” (Feb ’96 rough mix) 4:08
  • “Deliver Me” (Feb ’96 rough mix) 3:17
  • “Black Train” (version of “Gift of Flesh”) 4:06
  • “Blood Runs Cold” (Feb ’96 rough mix) 4:12
  • “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” (1st draft) 4:36
  • “Pearl of Euphoria” (Feb ’96 rough mix) 5:49
  • “All on Your Touch” (2012 revisit) 3:58
  • “Anger” (“Deliver Me” 1st draft) 3:15
  • “Move On Up” (Vivian demo) 3:31
  • “Gift of Flesh” (Phil vocal) 4:03
  • “All I Want Is Everything” (1st draft) 5:03 – iTunes only 
  • “Move with Me Slowly” (1st draft) 6:22 – iTunes only

The above tracks aside, Rarities 4 (and eventually the third box set) will get us caught up to complete all the rarities up to Euphoria.

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

Next:

25. Rarities 4

…and the Cybernauts!

 

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Rarities 2 (CD Collection Volume 2)

Part Twenty-Three of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Rarities 2 (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 5) (2019)

Quick explanations first:

“Hey, what’s with this Rarities 2?  You didn’t review Rarities 1!”  This is true!  Def Leppard Rarities 1 is in the first volume CD Collection box set.  For this review series, I opted to go with The Early Years box set to cover a lot of those albums and rarities.  Between that set and the Hysteria super deluxe box set that I reviewed in great detail back in 2017, I have written about all the rarities up to this point.  Though packaged together in one sleeve in this box set, we will tackle the Rarities series one disc at a time.

We open with the earliest tracks:  two demos with Steve Clark on guitar.  “Tonight” is brilliant, with the thick opening layered harmonies intact right from the demo stage (would not surprise me if they used the demo intro for the final track).  The quieter acoustic arrangement of the opening is very different from the more standard album cut.  It kicks in hard during the chorus, which is a cool aspect of this arrangement.  The chorus really slams on this version.

Steve’s final Def Leppard appearance was also the final guitar solo he ever recorded (and likely played).  It’s the demo for “When Love and Hate Collide”, the overly soft ballad from 1995’s Vault.  What a solo, too!  He was on to something, with its big Hysteria-esque hooks.  The demo overall is much rougher (programmed drums) but also harder edged.  Joe’s more screamy, the last vestiges of the old style still hanging on.

The Acoustic Hippies From Hell — yes, that is how Def Leppard & Hothouse Flowers billed themselves on the B-side of the “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” single — are next with the original track “From the Inside”.  This is the original version from the single, slightly different from the one on Retro-Active.  Please welcome Vivian Campbell on the second guitar solo slot!  With tin whistle, mandolin and grand piano it’s a very different kind of song for the guys in Leppard.  Lyrically it’s even darker than their previous work like “White Lightning” or “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down”.  This time the subject matter is addition, but with a twist of the perspective.  The lyrics are the drug speaking to the user.

You may recall the Acoustic Hippies From Hell cut three songs together, including covers of “Little Wing” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.  We used to wonder why they weren’t included here on this CD.  Those further two B-sides were held back for a covers disc in the next box set.  We’ll get to them when we get to that set!

Def Leppard’s first acoustic song was “Two Steps Behind” from the “Make Love Like A Man” single.  Here is the original track from that B-side, unadorned with strings or electric guitars like the ones on Retro-Active.  If you recall, Michael Kamen dubbed some strings over this one for the Last Action Hero soundtrack, and “Two Steps Behind” became an A-side hit in its own right.

Joe Elliot’s screamin’ hot 1987 demo of “She’s Too Tough” is up next.  Why a 1987 song?  Because its first release was on the B-side of “Heaven Is” in 1993.  (That single also had live versions of “Women” and “Let’s Get Rocked”.  “Elected” is on a live covers disc later on in this series, and “Let’s Get Rocked” will be discussed shortly.)  “She’s Too Tough” was covered by Helix on their Wild in the Streets album in 1987.  While Brian Vollmer does an admirable job of the lead vocal, Leppard’s recording is hands down the better of the two, even though it is just a demo.

Another demo:  Phil Collen’s impeccably arranged “Miss You in a Heartbeat” is all but complete except for the vocals.  Phil did the lead on his own demo versions, and not a bad job of it.  Paul Rodgers used “Miss You in a Heartbeat” for his 1991 album with Kenney Jones called The Law.  It’s cool hearing Phil do his own lesser-known version.  “Miss You in a Heartbeat”, once a B-side like “Two Steps Behind”, was eventually released as its own single too.  That’s where Phil’s demo was original taken from, though it is mislabelled as “Acoustic, Acoustic Version”.  Nope – just Phil’s demo, same as this one here.

Two awesome acoustic versions from the “Tonight” CD single are next in a row.  The acoustic version of “Tonight” itself could surpass the album version.  It just had vibe.  Loads of vibe.  Fabulous guitar solo.  Then Collen’s “S.M.C.” (named for Phil’s wife) features just he and Vivian on acoustic guitar.  It’s a very brief, often forgotten instrumental in a neo-classical style.  This is its first re-issue since the original single.  Play it for your friends and ask them to guess who it is.  (They won’t be able to.)

This CD closes on the four tracks from the rare EP In the Clubs…In Your Face, recording in Bonn Germany.  Four solid hits:  “Hysteria”, “Photograph”, “Sugar”, and the aforementioned live version of “Let’s Get Rocked”.  The club crowd is obviously pumped!  “Hysteria” sounds awesome; “Photograph” is as strong as ever.  “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Let’s Get Rocked” are sort of two of a kind live, a little clunkier but the crowd sure loves ’em.  The new song is a happily received as the old.

This disc makes for a solid listen.  Hits in alternate, lesser heard versions are sure to be pleasers.  The tunes that aren’t hits are all solid themselves.  Although it’s a little disappointing when you scan the track listing and realize such-and-such a B-side is missing, the folks in Leppard know what they are doing.  They’ve re-organized this material to sit next to like material later in the series, and it’ll all be coming up in due time…and perhaps in a more enjoyable track listing too.  We’ll just have to hear how it goes disc by disc!  Rarities 2 is a lot of fun and a great (almost) hour on its own.

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

Next:

24. Rarities 3

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Euphoria (1999)

Part Twenty-Two of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Euphoria (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 4) (Originally 1999, 2019 remaster)

This is where we deviate from the norm.  After perhaps oversteering into the 90s with Slang, Def Leppard made a harsh course correction with their next album Euphoria.  An early retail solicitation  emphasized that after the Pyromania and Hysteria, comes the Euphoria.  It was clear where they were going.  The modern organic touch of Slang was dropped like a hot hand grenade!  In its place was an attempt to retread the hits of the past.  Mutt Lange was brought back to help polish up some songs.

Perhaps worst of all, and like Scorpions, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi at the same time, Def Leppard’s image made a big change.  Hair was cut and styled.  Shiny suits and glammy modern clothes were purchased.  While the transition to Slang felt natural, the direction of Euphoria seemed terribly contrived.  It was no secret that Slang was not a hit, and Euphoria sounded like it was crafted to generate hits to multiple formats.

One of Euphoria‘s flaws is its length.  51 minutes isn’t a big deal, but 13 tracks was too many, as we’ll see.

Opener “Demolition Man” has cool stuttering guitars like bands of the 80s employed.  It’s fast, adrenalized, and stacked high with the patented layered backing vocals.  But it feels less like the triumphant return of Leppard and more…unnatural.  To go with the top speed pace of the song, F1 race car driver Damon Hill plays some outro lead guitar on the track.

“Promises” was undoubtedly the centerpierce of the album.  A pretty successful re-write of “Photograph”, it captures the classic Leppard sound and vibe without the contrived feel.  The rich vocals of the chorus are hard to beat, and that signature Leppard guitar lick is easy to love.  The liner notes also give you lead solo credits for you to follow along – Phil or Viv.  This one has both in that order.  It’s a way to learn their individual styles, if you haven’t already!

The first serious dud is “Back in Your Face”, a plastic “Pour Some Sugar” homage with purposefully thin drum samples.  The ballad “Goodbye” is also filler, even though it was selected as a single.  By this time Leppard had accumulated plenty of ballads, and this reeks of a rewrite of “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”.

The worst track on the record could be the Collen/Lange atrocity called “All Night”.  Digital funk just isn’t becoming.  A band like Extreme might have been able to make something of “All Night” if they did it without all the tech-y sounds, but this is a horrible mis-step.

Fortunately, “Paper Sun” is a mid-album redeemer.  A Leppard epic in the tradition of “Gods of Wars” and “White Lightning”, this one is worthy.  Sure it’s nothing new, but it has the vibe of a third song in a trilogy.  Play all three of those tunes in a row for some back chills.

“It’s Only Love” is another unnecessary ballad, which combines an Adrenalize vibe with Slang, but not memorably.  Then we have the embarrassingly titled “21st Century Sha La La La Girl”, a title as bad at Bon Jovi’s “Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen From Mars”.  It’s not a terrible song, though suffers from a plastic production problem.  It’s punchy, and has a singalong quality, but we’re lowering the bar a bit here.  The third ballad “To Be Alive” is the best of the batch.  Quiet and unassuming, it crosses Slang with Adrenalize more successfully.  Viv’s solo is excellent.

Collen’s “Disintegrate” brings us right back to the glory days of High N’ Dry.  Perhaps as close as they could ever get.  The blazing instrumental has definitely “Switch/625” vibes.  It is followed by another above average track called “Guilty”.  It sounds like a cousin to “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)” which isn’t a bad thing.  Mid-tempo Def Leppard, plinking guitars, all good.  Continuing with some decent quality tunes, “Day After Day” has a slower, dramatic Leppard vibe.  The riff sounds vintage.

Closing track “Kings of Oblivion” turns up the tempo one last time for a pretty killer outro.  There’s a hint of the old Joe Elliott scream.  Maybe a smidge of Van Halen.  Rick Allen uses a variety of drum sounds on this album, but he sounds best right here on “Kings of Oblivion”, with a nice loud traditional snare.

A final assessment for Euphoria is difficult to reach.  It’s clear they were out to please old fans that were alienated by Slang.  We’ve argued that the superior Slang was a more creative attempt to adapt to the 1990s.  Euphoria felt like an absolutely commercially motivated attempt to capture “that sound” from the –ia albums, but also with a nudge towards late 90s pop rock.  The modern production does no favours.  But Leppard were unafraid to push further in that direction next time; not folding but going all-in.

Euphoria failed to crack the top ten in America, but “Promises” did hit #1.  It enabled them to go out on a long supporting tour.  But like many bands, the next few years would be rocky in musical direction.

2.5/5 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
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” (UK single)
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales

Next:  

23. Rarities – Volume Two

#981: I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria

Part Twenty-One of the Def Leppard Review Series

RECORD STORE TALES #981:  I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria

Without sounding like a broken record, the 90s were a rough time for rock and roll bands.  Those who suffered did what they had to do to survive.  When that didn’t work out, they’d revert to formula.  In the case of some high-profile groups, the moves were quite obvious attempts to recreate the past.  Take, for example, Bon Jovi.

1995’s These Days was a daring attempt to do something different, a little more laid back and organic.  The result was, with the benefit of hindsight, one of the band’s best records.  But it sold half as many copies as 1993’s Keep the Faith, which sold less than a third of what New Jersey sold, which sold just over half of what Slippery When Wet sold.  The law of diminishing returns.  So what did they do?  The wrote a song called “It’s My Life” which was just “Livin’ On A Prayer 2000” no matter what they admitted to.  Back was the talk box, Tommy, and Gina.  It was embarrassing.  The fans didn’t mind though, and they ate it up like crack-covered ice cream.

Hell, even Motley Crue got back with Bob Rock for a couple new throwback tunes.  They stepped back from the cliff of Generation Swine and scored some minor redemption before Tommy Lee fucked off.

In 1999, Def Leppard were faced with a similar situation.  Like Motley Crue, they leaned into the 1990s on Slang.  The difference was that Def Leppard made a coherent disc that felt natural, unlike the slop that Nikki Sixx fed us.  Instead of selling half of what the triple-platinum Adrenalize sold, Slang only mustered up gold in the US.  Alarm bells were ringing and something had to be done.  And like Bon Jovi at the same time, Leppard too attempted to recreate the past.

A certain Robert John “Mutt” Lange was summoned, and one of the resultant tracks called “Promises” sounds a dead ringer for “Photograph”.  And then, this artwork was released.

“After Pyromania and Hysteria comes…Euphoria.”

My buddy T-Rev was working at the Cambridge location of the Record Store.  He received the press release for Euphoria featuring that slogan in his morning shipment of CDs.  He laughed and gave me a ring to tell me.

Another “-ia” album.  For fucksakes…

I can’t recall my exact words, but I do remember my exact feeling:  “I got a bad feeling about this.”

It was as if the last decade didn’t happen.  Let’s forget the last couple records, no matter how good they may be.  And the cover art?  The dominant blue recalled the past hits, but the return of the classic logo was a clear message.  You’re going to get the Def Leppard you remember.  You’re going to get the Def Leppard album that should have followed Hysteria.  That’s the message here.

While the majority of fans were in love with the idea, I had reservations.  It seemed contrived.  Slang deserved better than to be buried like this.  In fact this move really does a disservice to the whole Slang era.  That album was a brave attempt to try some new hats on.  This looked like a timid step back into safe territory, afraid to do anything but.

Is that what happened?  Find out next time.

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
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” (UK single)
  20. Slang

Next:  

22. Euphoria

 

 

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – Slang (1996)

Part Twenty of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original ReviewSlang 2 CD edition (1996)

DEF LEPPARD – Slang (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 3) (Originally 1996, 2019 remaster)

“Too alternative!”, they moaned.  “Doesn’t sound like old Def Leppard!”, they whined.  But what choice did Def Leppard have?

The world of 1996 was not the same as 1992, when Def Leppard re-emerged after a long hiatus with Adrenalize.  Leppard experimented wildly with their music on 1987’s Hysteria, but tended to stick to formula on Adrenalize.  After the hardship of losing Steve Clark, we can forgive them for not trying to re-invent the wheel a second time.  But by 1996, grunge had passed and the decade continued to move further away from classic hard rock and heavy metal.  It was overdue for Leppard to re-invent themselves one more time.  They owed it to themselves.  But it was actually more natural that that.

Vivian Campbell was on board for his first real album with Def Leppard, only to find they were “moving the goalposts”!  After making two painstakingly produced albums, it was time for change.  The band desired a fresh start with Campbell, using no holdover music from the past.  They wanted a more organic album, and part of that was Rick Allen incorporating acoustic drums back into his setup.  They were going to try and express themselves a bit more, and take some serious chances.  To hell with the critics, expectations, and old ways of doing things.

Regardless of how it sold, the final album Slang became a cult favourite for good reason.

Opening on a fade, the new Leppard begins different from any in the past.  “Truth?” is a slow, exotic groove with background samples and loops.  Not a stretch from “Rocket” in a technical sense, but completely different results.  Deeply distorted chorus vocals are a striking shift from the past, but are just as fetching.  An middle-eastern sounding solo nails the vibe, and drum loops offer more modern twists.  The mix sounds just as dense as anything you hear on Hysteria, but with completely different elements.  And fortunately Leppard haven’t forgotten how to write hooks, even if in a darker tone.

“Turn to Dust” takes the scene to India, with sitar and tabla.  Tempos are still slow and deliberate.  “Turn to Dust” has a bit more of the Def Leppard sound on the chorus, with Phil Collen singing backup, but the lyrics sure are different:  “Sentence rape me, segregate me” is a stark turn from “Let’s Get Rocked”.  But everybody was pissed off in the 90s.  This one drones on with ample musical genius towards the end.  Lots of strings and exotic instrumentation, backed by the grind of electric guitars.

The title track “Slang” is an immediate and fun change of pace.  With a modern sound, it could have been a “Pour Some Sugar” for the 90s had it caught on.  Beats and samples mixed in with an irresistible chorus make for a catchy concoction.  It’s really the only upbeat song on the album, but a treat it is.

The ballad “All I Want Is Everything” was briefly previewed on the VHS release Video Archives, in an October 1995 acoustic performance at the Wapentake Club in Sheffield.  That acoustic rendition did not really hint at the dark ballad on Slang.  A simple but effective droning guitar part forms the backing, but the luscious Leppard melodies are delivered vocally and with guitar flourishes.  It’s a different kind of ballad for Def Leppard, but no less stirring.  It was a single, but underperformed compared to past Leppard hits.

Vivian’s “Work It Out” sounded more like a Crowded House song in demo form, poppy and quirky.  Once Leppard wrestled with it, a different kind of track emerged.  Duskier, heavier, with really dominating drums and surprisingly slinky bass from Rick “Sav” Savage.  The final Leppard version is certainly superior to Viv’s demo in the long run though both have merit.  “Work It Out” was another Slang single that should have done better.

One of the biggest album surprises (and perhaps most divisive) is the supple ballad “Breathe A Sigh”.  Gentle tic-tic-tic R&B drum samples back a song that is mostly vocal with minimal instrumentation.  Drums, piano, and understated guitar melodies should have guided this to a hit spot on the charts.

Flip the record for a darker turn of events.  “Deliver Me” is more straight-ahead rock, but certainly not upbeat.  This is heavy, foreboding and dangerous Def Leppard.  Again, not without their knack for a melody.  The quiet/loud dynamic is very 90s, but that doesn’t make it bad.  The fact that Leppard always strove for a melodic foundation keeps it from falling into the morass of soundalike 90s rock.

“Gift Of Flesh” is another surprising twist.  Blasting fast and loud, this track is the most old-school, but still dark like a cloudy sky.  With lyrics like “scorch the Earth and torch the sky,” this is a more apocalyptic kind of rocker for the Leppard we were used to.  But it does rock, and hard!  You could bang your head to it even if you can’t rock rock ’til you drop.

Was Slang too ballady?  “Blood Runs Cold” is the third such song, followed by a fourth called “Where Does Love Go When It Dies”.  Joe Elliott really nails a killer vocal on “Blood Runs Cold”, which is very light and airey.  “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” lightens the skies further.  Acoustic strumming is a more traditional sound for Leppard.  It’s a little more like the acoustic Adrenalize B-sides, with a minimal arrangement.

The last few Leppard studio albums had “album epics”:  “Gods of War” on Hysteria and “White Lightning” on AdrenalizeSlang ends on an epic called “Pearl of Euphoria”.  There’s a lot going on in this track, with guitar overdubs and drones.  It’s a very Zeppelin-y song, but done in a modern way.  It draws from the same worldly wells that Zeppelin often explored.  Its fade-out alone is a minute long!

Unfortunately one of Slang‘s strengths, its adherence to the darker side of pop rock and hard rock, is also the factor that keeps it from hitting 5/5 stars like Hysteria.  It doesn’t necessarily make you feel as great after hearing it.  It does feel like you’ve heard something deeper and more profound, but not something that brightens your soul.

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
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” (UK single)

Next:

21.  I Got a Bad Feeling About This:  Euphoria – Record Store Tales

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Slang” (1996 UK single)

Part Nineteen of the Def Leppard Review Series

Alternate review:  “Slang” Souvenir pack single

DEF LEPPARD – “Slang” (1996 UK Mercury single)

Kobayashi Maru:  The no-win scenario.  By 1996 the musical landscape had drastically shifted.  Five years of musical upheaval had left many bands in the dust, but Leppard were one of the few survivors.  They simply could not rest of their laurels, and they knew that.  Had Def Leppard come out with another soundalike album in 1996, they would have been accused of retreading the outdated and obsolete 1980s.

We knew Leppard were interested in a more organic way of recording after being locked in studios for so many years.  Their interest in acoustic music was now expressing itself in songs like “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame”, a truly excellent if obscure Japanese Vault bonus track that was also included as a B-side from the new album Slang.  If a track this solid was considered a B-side, you could imagine what the new album was going to be like.  It was a positive sign.  But the album wasn’t going to be acoustic.  Where were Leppard headed this time?

A clue was revealed by the title track, released as a single in May 1996.  Def Leppard had returned to experimentation.  Just as Hysteria was different from Pyromania, now they finally had something just as different from Hysteria.

With hip-hop beats and a big guitar, “Slang” shocked the faithful.  Rick Allen was starting to incorporate acoustic drums back into his kit and they sounded fresh and hot.  All the old Leppard ingredients were shaken n’ stirred, and the new concoction was an acquired addiction.  It’s an upbeat celebration of the new Leppard.  They had indeed gone outside the box.  They had to.  And they did it with creativity and integrity whether you like it or not.

This UK single came with three acoustic bonus tracks, all recorded for the BBC.  Continuing their acoustic side road, “Animal” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” fare well in acoustic form.  Other acoustic versions were coming, on a limited 2 CD edition of Slang (which we will discuss when we get to that disc of CD Collection Vol 2).

The real treat of this single is the acoustic version of “Ziggy Stardust” (also included on CD Collection Vol 3).  A brilliant take, in fact.  Most bands sound like jackasses trying to cover classic Bowie.  Not Def Leppard.  Their acoustic version has just as much edge as an electric take would.  Joe Elliott’s penchant for Bowie will become relevant a few years down the road, when we take a detour on a Cybernautic misadventure.

“Sugar” and “Animal” acoustic at the BBC remain exclusive to this single.  Worth tracking down.  Though ultimately there are other recordings out there, these are just as good and collectible as ever.

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
  18. Video Archive

Next:

20. Slang

VHS Archives #125: Def Lep dish on Danzig (1993)

Cast your minds back to the summer of 1993.  Def Leppard were still sailing high on a string of hits from Adrenalize and the singles it spawned.  Meanwhile in another region of rock, Glenn Danzig was out supporting Danzig’s third album and a new live EP.  When the two bands crossed paths at a festival gig in Europe, the word went down that Glenn and Phil Collen came to blows.  Or was it just tomato soup?  Let’s get Phil’s side of the story in this classic VHS Archive from MuchMusic’s Pepsi Power Hour.

Hosted by Teresa Roncon.  Love Joe’s hat!!

DVD REVIEW: Def Leppard – Video Archive (1995)

Part Eighteen of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Video Archive (1995, 2001 Mercury DVD)

Only two years since their last home video, Def Leppard went back in for round three.  There were not many new video clips waiting to be released, just the four from Retro-Active and Vault, plus an alternate version.  Mostly, this Video Archive focused on live material.

Def Leppard’s big hometown gig in Sheffield was something they were very proud of, and so it appears here and on the previous album’s Vault double disc edition  Well, some of it anyway.  Nine songs were on Vault; you can watch eight of those on video here.  (The ninth, “Photograph” is available on Visualize.)  The whole show has never been released (22 songs total) but this small handful can be had.  The hometown gig had 40,000 people going nuts for Leppard, something Joe mentions in the opening interview.

No shirts for Phil right from the first song, “Let’s Get Rocked”.  The editing in this concert relies on minimal gimmicks, but the choppy slo-mo bits probably were not necessary.  It also seems like the songs aren’t in order, because at the outdoor gig it gets dark and then light again.

On CD, “Armageddon It” comes second.  Here, it’s “Foolin'”.  I like when the camera switches to Phil when Joe sings “take your fill”.  Take your “Phil”?  Solid version of “Foolin'” and nice to see it with Vivian picking away for the first time on video.  “Rocket” features a cool light show, but what’s cool here is seeing Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell taking turns soloing.  Getting the chance to appreciate the differences between the two.  It’s definitely fun seeing Viv do the ol’ two-handed tapping like it was the 80s again.  Then Joe goes into “Whole Lotta Love”, before “Rocket” resumes its course.

The acoustic B-side “Two Steps Behind” is introduced as being from their next album Retro-Active.  The crowd already knows it.  The atmosphere goes from campfire singalong to party mode in seconds flat as “Armageddon It” begins.  Vivian does an admirable job of Steve Clark’s original solo – and then Joe Elliott jumps down to crowd level!

The familiar drum beat to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” is greated with the appropriate “hey! hey! heys!” necessary to start the song.  Viv is really having fun on this one, running and sliding across the stage.  “Rock of Ages” is a natural song to follow it with.  Rick “Sav” Savage doubles on bass and keys.  Some good shots here of Rick Allen doing his thing on his specialised drum kit.  Finally, “Love Bites” closes this portion of the program dramatically.  Fantastically fitting solo work by Viv, and Sav on keys one more time.

The next section of the DVD focuses on the music videos released since “Visualize”, beginning with their latest hit “When Love & Hate Collide”.  It’s here in two forms, but the straight performance is better than the “Epic 8 minute version”, which is bogged down by boring story and dialogue.  The simple, stripped version of the video suits the 90s even though it doesn’t really fit the string-adorned track.  “Two Steps Behind” was a cool grainy clip, featuring a string section this time!  The backwards-walking footage is fascinating and trippy.  Next is the rarely seen “Action” filmed on tour.  Joe’s sportin’ a goatee this time.  Toto, I don’t think we’re in the 80s anymore!  Also rarely seen, “Miss You In A Heartbeat”.  It’s the version with piano & band, and Joe’s tinklin’ the ivories, goatee still intact.  It’s like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, as each band member is playing in beautiful mansion settings.

The highlight of the video is the final section:  Def Leppard unplugged at the Wapantake Club back in Sheffield, 1995.  In the interview footage, Phil says that he enjoys the acoustic setting because it proves that Def Leppard’s famous backing vocals are indeed live.  Meanwhile, Rick Allen appreciates the challenge of using an acoustic drum kit again.  But what’s really special is that the last time Def Leppard played the Wapantake, it was 1978.  Their triumphant return in 1995 is really cool and really should be released in CD form.  Fortunately it was filmed!

Once again, it’s “Two Steps Behind” but without a screaming crowd.  It’s just Def Leppard in a very packed but respectfully quiet room.  “Armageddon It” is bouncy, and the audience responds.  This take is one of the best versions of “Armageddon It” out there; just fun and perfectly performed in the right setting.  Then the new song:  “When Love & Hate Collide” was made available in live form right here mere weeks after its single release.  The acoustic setting works, but novelty aside, Def Leppard have better ballads.  “Animal” and “Sugar” bring the party atmosphere back to the Wapantake.  “Animal” works great acoustically, and “Sugar” takes on a different form.  Phil makes a good point about the backing vocals.  It’s great to hear them live and bare like this because they’re stellar!

Even though Joe said that was the last song, he lied because for the first time, and “for a laugh”, it’s “Ziggy Stardust”!  Joe says it’s the first time they ever played it live as a band in front of a crowd, so that’s special.  It’s also a brilliant version which doesn’t hurt.  Leppard nailed it with pure love.

But wait, there’s more!  The closing interviews discuss the new album Slang:  “Up to date”, “stuck in the 90s”, “different direction”, “complete different turn”, “experimental” are a selection of words used…but then there’s a preview.  Live at the Wapantake, and only for a few seconds, is the new song “All I Want Is Everything”.  One chorus and that’s all we get, though the folks at the gig that night heard the whole song.  The viewing audience at home only got a taste.  Not enough to judge by.  Not enough to get a feeling of what Def Leppard meant when they used words like “experimental”.

We’d find out soon enough.

The end credit music is an instrumental version of “When Love & Hate Collide” with only piano and strings and no band. Now that would be something cool to include in a future box set.

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

Next:

19. “Slang” (UK single)