pop rock

REVIEW: The Beaches – The Professional (2019 EP)

THE BEACHES – The Professional (2019 Universal EP)

Fact:  Toronto’s The Beaches put out consistently good music.  On their 2019 EP The Professional, they teamed up with big namer Jacknife Lee for production.  The band has grown a huge fanbase opening up for artists like Avril Lavigne, but the truth is they are better than most of the bands they open for.  The Beaches have developed a signature sound early on.  It doesn’t hurt that singer/bassist Jordan Miller has a unique, powerful voice.

Opener “Desdemona” boasts some sharp opening chords because the bass and drum groove takes us to the dancefloor.  Jordan Miller goes falsetto for that vintage vibe.  The guitars cut but don’t dominate.  There’s a fun 80s vibe but with the modern clarity and production that fans demand today.  It thumps!

More 80s vibes on “Fascination” which has an fast tempo Blondie direction.  Short, sweet and upbeat.  Synth drums open “Snake Tongue”, an understated angry pop masterpiece.  Check out these lyrics:

I can’t say I lack for much attention,
‘Cause these creeps come in from all directions,
Getting in my face,
Every single day.

And these:

Stop sending me all your dick picks,
They are boring me to pieces.

Although the Beaches certainly don’t need my sympathy, that kind of behaviour pisses me off.  Have some respect, dudes.  Though the music is nothing but pure uptempo fun, the lyrics bleed reality and it’s awesome.  You can hear why the Beaches are really resonating with kids today.

“Want What You Got” continues the 80s dance direction.  The bottom end just booms.  The chorus slays.  Everything about this song rules.  No weak links. There’s even a heavy breakdown midway through.  This is a guilt-free ode to jealousy, and why not.  When the chorus is this killer, who cares about deadly sins.

The final track “Lame” was a radio hit upon release.  A bit of an anthem, with bite! 70s glam rock vibes all over.  Loaded with attitude and soaring high on confidence, this track attacks!

The Beaches are only going to get bigger.  They’ve been releasing music consistently, including the Future Lovers EP and live tracks on Youtube.  Their next album will be huge, just wait.

5/5 stars

 

Catch the Beaches in Toronto TONIGHT!

 

REVIEW: Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection (US 2005)

Part Thirty of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection (2005 Universal)

The Def Leppard’s Best Of released in the UK in 2004, North America followed suit in 2005 with Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection.  We’re not going to comment on that “definitive” claim, but this new compilation covered a bit of ground that the UK version did not.  With ten years and three albums since 1995’s Vault, it was a logical time to put out an updated collection.  With the musical Rock of Ages hitting the stage in Los Angeles, everything seemed to be lined up for Leppard.

Disc One is much the same as Best Of and Vault.  Same tracks in the same order with some slight variation.  The big difference here is that Disc One closes on something very special:  The High N’ Dry instrumental scorcher  “Switch 625”.  It was a side closer on High N’ Dry and so fits the role of ending Disc One very well.  It’s the heaviest song on the disc by a mile, and the only one that was not a single somewhere.  A brilliant surprise especially to those who didn’t know Leppard’s heavy side.  This version fades in from “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” just like it did on album.  Really, it’s a one-two combo.

Disc Two is a larger departure from that on Best Of.  They both begin with “Rock Rock (Till You Drop)” and then diverge.  Here, we carry on with a killer streak of early tracks from High N’ Dry and Pyromania.  “Let It Go”, “High ‘N’ Dry (Saturday Night)”, “Too Late For Love”, all rifftastic tracks of Clarkian proportions.  “Let It Go” isn’t on Best Of.

The key “bait” on these new greatest hits compilations was the inclusion of one new cover song.  On Best Of, it was “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks.  Here it is “No Matter What” by Badfinger, a truly poptastic inclusion that benefits from Leppard’s vocal prowess.  According to Phil in the liner notes, the band started playing it live on the X tour and therefore decided to record it.  With two great covers in the bag and on the shelves, we’d certainly expect the band’s forthcoming covers album to knock the socks off….

More great songs follow the Badfinger cover, beginning with the hit “Promises” from Euphoria which does deserve the spot.  “Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” (which wasn’t on Best Of) and “Another Hit and Run” sandwich the hit “Women” from Hysteria.  It’s just a constant stream of awesome.  “Slang” follows, which although a great song indeed, sounds out of place next to these riff rockers.

The excellent ballad “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)” is a disc highlight.  So is the early track “Rock Brigade”, a blazer from On Through the Night.  “Now”, from X, could have been left off.  It is however the only representation of the X album here.  The superior “Long, Long Way to Go” was included on Best Of, but not here.  Instead, we get a great epic track that was not on Best Of called “Paper Sun”.  A universal favourite from Euphoria, it really deserved to be on a compilation of some kind.  Then “Work It Out” from Slang is a modern sounding track that might not be heavy, but sure is worth uncountable listens over the years.

The closing trio of rockers are a delight.  “Die Hard the Hunter”, “Wasted” and “Billy’s Got a Gun” are beloved Leppard non-singles that have been cherished by fandom for a long time.  Particularly “Wasted”, likely the heaviest Leppard track of all time.  It’s all riff!  As for “Billy’s Got a Gun”, it gets the closing position that it should have had on Best Of.  They got the running order right this time.

Similar to the UK Best Of, this compilation has ample photos and liner notes inside.  The band track commentary remains, as does the opening essay.  For overall listening, this is probably the better of the two.

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)

Next:

31. Yeah!

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Best Of (UK 2004)

Part Twenty-Nine of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Best Of (2004 Mercury UK)

Nine years after Vault, why not another “best of” collection?  And why not make it a double?  And a “limited edition” too?

The approach was all but perfect for Def Leppard’s double Best Of.  Except when you look at it in hindsight.  You always need some bait, and this time the bait was an unreleased new track.  Suggested by Phil for a forthcoming covers album, Leppard recorded “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks, and quite well in fact.  The problem was it was going to be re-released in two years on 2006’s Yeah!.  So we spent all that money on one new track that we were going to end up re-buying in two years.  Hard to justify.

Fortunately, “Waterloo Sunset” is an excellent version.  It defies expectation in fact.  Phil and Vivian sound absolutely stellar on guitar, with warm tones.  It’s soft, laid back, and Joe Elliott nails the lead vocal in his own style.  It does sound like Def Leppard, but it does not sound like them bastardizing the Kinks in any way.  It sounds just fine, like a Waterloo sunset!

The compilation kind of plays as if disc one was the “greatest hit” and disc two is the “bonus disc”.  The first disc is almost an exact repeat of the UK version of Vault., with only slight differences.  It opens with the “video version” of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, and then rolls through a what’s-what of Leppard hits.  Every song, in order, from the UK Vault, until you get to track 10.  Originally “Foolin'”, track 10 was swapped for “Action”.  Then for track 11, they inserted the recent ballad “Long, Long Way To Go”, a good selection.  “Make Love Like A Man” is also wedged in here, which let’s face it, most of us can do without.  The Vault tracklisting then resumes, with “Armageddon It” through to the end, but minus “Miss You In A Heartbeat”.  “Foolin'” eventually appears on CD Two, but “Miss You In A Heartbeat” does not.  In the end, CD One is two songs longer, and overall a better listen than the original UK Vault.

CD Two is the one that hardcore fans will enjoy more.  “Rock! Rock!”, what an opening number.  “Promises” is the only inclusion from Euphoria, and justifiably so.  Then you get “Slang” for a double dose of fun, and then the melancholy “Foolin'”.  An unfortunate inclusion is the morose “Now” from the X album, but it’s worth sitting through to get to “Rock Brigade” from the debut.  That’s an odd transition, by the way.  From Lep’s latest with programming and loops and bleeps and bloops, to their early hard riffing stuff.  Very weird.  Sounds like two different bands presented that way.

Every single track after the dull “Now” is a killer.  “Women” wasn’t on Vault.  Strange, right?  Rectified here.  Then onto “Let It Go”, the killer “Too Late For Love”, and “High ‘N’ Dry”.  A trifecta of perfect right there.  The disc takes a turn to the modern side again on “Work It Out”, but at least this track isn’t a waste of space.  It might not fit with the early Lep songs so well, but it has integrity and wickedly choppy guitars.  When it fades, we go into “Billy’s Got A Gun” which ups the Pyromania factor a notch.  “Hit and Run” and the ever-loved “Wasted” bring more of that old-school vibe, but sandwiched between them is the ballad “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)”.  A great ballad and highlight of the disc, but in an odd setting to be sure.

Following “Wasted”, the disc closer is “Die Hard the Hunter”, another strange choice.  Would “Billy’s Got A Gun” not made for a better closer?  Or even “Wasted”?  Probably.  Good song, but in the wrong position for sure.  It’s just not the kind that closes an album.  It’s more the kind that closes a side (which it did on Pyromania).

Sonically, the second disc is the most uneven since it combines tracks from both the first album and the most recent.  It’s also a much more fun listen just because it includes a couple deeper cuts and some lesser heard gems.  I mean…”Wasted”, right?  Just wish it was the closer.

On the plus side, Best Of Def Leppard has a nice booklet with track commentary from the band members.  There’s an essay and a few photos.  It also comes in a nice cardboard slipcase with an embossed Def Leppard logo in shiny black.  The cover art, with that slate background, is simple, cool and effective.  There’s even a picture of Steve Clark inside (but no Pete Willis).

So what about that covers album?  In the liner notes, Joe says it’s recorded, but it took them until 2006 to release it.  In the meantime, the US would put out their own 2 CD compilation album, with a slightly different running order, a few different deep cuts, a Badfinger cover instead of the Kinks, and a better closing track.  How does the US compilation stack up against the UK?  Check in next time.

3/5 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

Next:

30. Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection (US)
31. Yeah!

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!

REVIEW: Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (2001)

Part Twenty-Seven of the Def Leppard Review Series

CYBERNAUTS – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (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 more recordings from their Cybernauts side-project, a fun David Bowie cover band featuring members of the Spiders From Mars.  This time they entered the studio (both in Ireland and Japan) to lay down some covers.  These were released on a bonus disc in a very rare, very limited 2001 2 CD issue of the Cybernauts Live album.

Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” opens; organ-heavy and slightly more psychedelic.  After that rocks your socks, an awesome rendition of “All the Young Dudes” follows.  Purists may not like Joe Elliott’s straight-ahead delivery compared to the original, but his pure love of the song comes out.  He’s not trying to be someone else.  Just Joe.  And that’s fine for Leppard fans!

Phil Collen opens “Moonage Daydream” with some very delectable guitar.  An album highlight, the guys really do this one plenty of justice.  Keyboards add the appropriate subtle lush backdrop.  The solo section is sharp and wicked.  Just a killer cover.

A fairly standard version of “The Man Who Sold the World” is satisfactory but the song is picky about who sounds good covering it.  Phil’s guitar work is notable, as it has been throughout this set.

One tune that wasn’t on the live disc was “Time” from Aladdin Sane.  Dick Decent (R.I.P.) tickles the ivories in glorious glee.  From the same album comes “Panic in Detroit”, upbeat rock that doubtless inspired bands like The Darkness and Def Leppard.  The Cybernauts sound at home covering it.  The second half of the song is just a band jamming together and having a blast in the studio.

The closing track, “Lady Grinning Soul” is an excellent deep cut to go out on.  Complex, passionate and performed with expertise.  But is it really the end?  The track time of 19 minutes tells us something is up.  After a 10 minute silence, the Cybernauts return with an unlisted bonus track.  It’s an acoustic version of “Moonage Daydream”!  Probably even better than the first version!  Stunning acoustic solo by Phil.  Worth the wait?  Well, I invite you to edit out the silence yourself and just enjoy the music.

This double disc of the Cybernauts will cost you a pretty penny.  It goes for over $200 when you can find an original.  Good hunting!

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

Next:

28. X

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 2)

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