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REVIEW: Def Leppard – Yeah! Live (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Thirty-Nine of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Yeah! Live (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 6) (2021)

On the very last disc of the third volume of Def Leppard’s CD Collection box set series, we finally take some previously missing B-sides off the table and into your collection.  This is the shortest of the discs in this set, with only eight tracks.  However the rarity firepower is high.  They call it Yeah! Live, making it the third album in the ret-conned Yeah! covers series.

1. It’s almost inexcusable that “Elected” hasn’t popped on these box sets yet, being a 1987 live version with Steve Clark, released in 1992 on the “Heaven Is” CD single.  Its most logical release point was the fine 2006 deluxe edition of Hysteria, chronologically speaking, but it was not included on the otherwise comprehensive 7 disc 2017 Hysteria box set either.  For a while it seemed this B-side had slipped through the cracks, but here it is opening Yeah! Live.  It is the second time an Alice Cooper song has appeared in this box set, though this is obviously the earliest recording of them all.  Screamin’ Joe is in prime-time form and Steve Clark has been missed on this box set.

2. “Action”.  Completing the Target bonus tracks from the Yeah! release, its “Action” live.  Recorded somewhere on the 2005 tour, here it is, and it’s a stunningly good version.  Leppard at their heaviest, covering Sweet.  No problem.  Thanks for checking this box in the collection.

3. “No Matter What”.  The last of the Best Buy bonus tracks from the Yeah! album.  Same as above, recorded live somewhere unspecified on the 2005 tour.  The Leppard studio original was included on the main Yeah! track listing, but this is its first and only live release to date.  Nice solid pop rock, and a good version to boot.

4. “Rock On”.  Recorded live in 2006.  Not a bad version in fact, of a song that’s pretty “meh” usually.  They take it to a really Zeppelin-y “Levy Breaks” kind of place at the end.  It does not say “previously unreleased” on this track, but it also does not state where it was released before.  You can get different live versions on the Leppard releases The Lost SessionsAnd There Will Be A Next Time…, and Mirrorball Live.

5. “Travelling Band” with Brian May, live in 1983.  I’ll quote myself from my review of Pyromania Live from the deluxe edition of that album:  “The long friendship between Leppard and Queen began right here.  A cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Travelling Band’ is the earliest recording of Joe and May together, but certainly not the last!  This is not only a piece of history, but it’s a brilliant track!  Joe’s screaming voice is strangely well suited to an overblown CCR cover.  But hearing the guitar trio solo together, each with their own style, is the real icing on the cake.  May is so creamy!”

6. “Now I’m Here” with Brian May, live in 1992.  From the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, and previously released on the Adrenalize deluxe and the 1993 “Tonight” CD single.  A brilliant version of one of Queen’s hard rockers, and the Brian May solo is as thrilling as you’d expect.  One of the highlight performances at the Freddie Mercury concert.

7. “20th Century Boy” with Brian May, live in 2006 from the VH1 Rock Honors show.  Previously unreleased!  Automatically superior to Leppard’s studio version due to the wall of guitars caused by the presence of Dr. Brian May.  Awesome solo work.

8. “All The Young Dudes” with Ian Hunter, from Hunter’s rare Once Bitten Twice Shy album.  First ever release on a Def Leppard collection.  Joe’s favourite song and really thick sounding.  Too thick, perhaps.  Ian Hunter takes all the lead vocals with Leppard joining him on the backings.  Really cool to end this box set with Ian Hunter, and nice to finally get this song.  Scratch it off your wishlists.

Pretty good, if a bit weird, collection of all the live covers not included on previous discs in this series, and some unreleased stuff too.  It’s a bit odd to get stuff like “Elected” and “Travelling Band” that are better suited to earlier discs, but here they are and that’s what’s important.  That brings Vol 3 of the CD Collection to an end, and it’s nice to have closure for some of the single B-sides.

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)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Recored Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II

Next:

40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings
42. Viva Hysteria

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Yeah! II (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Thirty-Eight of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Yeah! II (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 5) (2021)

This disc, exclusive to the box set, isn’t really a sequel to Yeah! as the title implies.  This CD instead collects all the Yeah! bonus tracks (aside from the live ones – they’ll be coming next week) and a few other covers from single B-sides.  19 tracks total, this is the collector’s dream disc for knocking a few rarities off the list.  There are also B-sides here going back to Adrenalize, so well overdue to appear in this series of box sets.  If you were wondering, “Hey, how come ‘Little Wing’ hasn’t popped up in this set yet even though it goes all the way back to 1992?”, now you know.

There is a lot of information here to digest, so buckle up!

1. “Only After Dark”, the original B-side mix (as opposed to Retro-Active remix) leads us off.  This Mick Ronson cover was the first Adrenalize B-side, from “Let’s Get Rocked” in 1992.  The remix added guitar overdubs by Vivian Campbell, but this one is all Phil Collen.  Great tune, and perfect for Leppard to cover.  Upbeat, cool riff, great playing by Phil and vocal performance by Joe Elliott.

2. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.  This and the next track are by The Acoustic Hippies From Hell, which was Def Leppard plus three Hothouse Flowers:  Fiachna Ó Braonáin, Liam Ó Maonlaí, and  Peter O’Toole.  Tin whistle, piano and mandolin are interesting accents for Def Leppard, but this is a brilliant cover, essentially live in the studio.  These Acoustic Hippies tracks originated from the 1992 “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” single.  Notably, this group also recorded the Leppard original “From The Inside”, so the sound is similar.  Brilliant if surprising.  Especially considering this song is so difficult to cover without wrecking completely.

3. “Little Wing”.  Also by the Acoustic Hippies From Hell, and also from the ’92 “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” single.  Quieter, darker, and slightly trippy.  The tin whistle here is really something and is the only solo instrument.

4. “Ziggy Stardust”.  This track is from the 1996 UK “Slang” single, and it is another acoustic performance.  It would not be a stretch to say it is one of Leppard’s finest covers.  I daresay nobody covers David Bowie better than superfan Joe Elliott.  An shimmery acoustic stunner.

5. “Under My Wheels”.  Very rare track from the 1999 “Goodbye” single.  Not the first time Leppard have covered Alice Cooper, but we won’t get to the first time until next time!  Very confusing, I know.  Good, if stock, cover.  Lots of bands have tackled “Under My Wheels” over the years, but the unexpected sax solo is a treat!

6. “Who Do You Love?”.  Also from the “Goodbye” single.  This Ian Hunter cover is a bit forgettable unfortunately.  It replicates the thump of the original but lacks the same sass (and harmonica).

7. “Rebel Rebel”.  Back to Bowie and another great version.  Another rarity, originating with the 2002 single for “Now”.  Electric Bowie this time, and performed near-perfect.

8. “Led Boots” from the 1996 “All I Want Is Everything” single, and not performed by Def Leppard.  It was recorded by Vivian Campbell as a solo artist for a Jeff Beck tribute album called Jeffology.  This one is way out in left field compared to the others, being a funky zig-zag of a song.  That’s Jay Schellen from Hurricane playing those funky drums, and John Alderette from Racer X on bass.  Very much in the vein of early, jammy Journey and a side of Vivian you never get to hear.

9. “‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers”.  Phil Collen’s solo Beck cover featuring the same rhythm section as Viv’s, with Billy Sherwood on Rhodes.  From the same 1996 CD single as well.  This song cries; it just weeps.  Again, a side of the guitarist that you never get to hear.  You’ve never heard Phil play so slow!  (Don’t worry, he burns it up later.)  Full of feel and one of the guitarist’s most memorable performances.

10. “Search and Destroy”.  Finally, onto the bonus tracks from different versions of the Yeah! album.  The Iggy & the Stooges cover “Search and Destroy” originated on the Walmart bonus CD.  It features Phil Collen on all instruments and lead vocals.  If it wasn’t for the expert solo work, you could call it fully-fledged punk.  Phil captures a snotty vocal vibe, and you gotta say it sounds authentic.

11. “How Does It Feel?”.  SERIOUS RARITY ALERT!  The only way to get this track was by iTunes download, and only with the initial release of Yeah!.  The song was discontinued thereafter and you were out of luck.  Therefore, this is a first time physical release!  The piano-based Slade cover features Joe on all instruments (piano and acoustic guitar).  It’s a beauty that sounds very different from the typical Slade sound.  Melodic as hell and Joe does a bang-up job.

12. “Roxanne”.  Another serious rarity, a previously unreleased Phil Collen demo of the Police classic.  Unsurprisingly, Phil has a Sting-like voice, so it sounds about right, though Phil sings it in an understated way.  It’s funky and Phil’s solo is perfect butter on top.

13. “Dear Friends”, a Queen cover by Rick Savage, is an album highlight.  Originally from the Walmart bonus CD, it features Sav on vocals and all instruments.  And holy shit, dear friends, did Rick ever go in left field!  Although it begins similar to the Queen original with soft layered vocals, it then goes in a Live Killers “We Will Rock You” hard rock direction!  Almost a punk rock speed to it.

14. “Winter Song”.  A seasonal sounding acoustic Lindisfarne cover from the Best Buy edition of Yeah!  (One of two Best Buy bonus tracks, with the second one appearing on Yeah! Live.)  Lindisfarne were a folk rock combo, and this version is performed as a duo by Joe and Sav.  A great addition to your favourite homebrew Christmas mix CD.

15. “American Girl”.  Fabulous Tom Petty cover from the Walmart bonus CD.  Performed by Joe and Viv, with Mark Danzeisen on drums.  Another disc highlight.  Joe and Viv captured everything you like about the song.  Its spunky upbeat vibe lasts all night.

16. “Heartbeat”.  Joe calls this cover the most “out there” of them all, but I think that honour has to go to “Dear Friends”.  “Heartbeat” was by Jobriath, the first openly gay artist signed to a major label record deal.  He only made two albums before fading into obscurity.  It’s a beautiful piano ballad performed by Joe.  You could originally get it on the Walmart bonus CD.

17. “Space Oddity”.  The final Bowie cover and fifth & final track from the Walmart bonus CD.  Joe on all instruments.  Lovely version but it’s hard to top the sheer vibe of the original, no matter how faithful.  At best you can say it’s a nice reproduction.  At worst, it’s unnecessary.  However it was recorded as a gift from Joe to his dad, so can you really blame anyone?  Not at all.

18. “When I’m Dead and Gone”.  Target was the last chain to get exclusive bonus tracks, and like Best Buy they got two.  And like Best Buy, one was live and therefore appears on Yeah! Live.  The other Target bonus track was “When I’m Dead and Gone” by McGuiness Flint.  It is another folk rock cover, done up nice acoustically by Joe and Phil.  An album highlight; so damn melodic, upbeat and catchy!  And then it detours into “Ooh La La” for a minute.  The perfect ending!

19. “Stay With Me”.  Closing Yeah! II just like it closed Yeah! is The Faces’ “Stay With Me”.  This is an earlier B-side version from the “Now” CD single (2002).  Phil Collen takes on the raspy Rod Stewart lead vocal (and probably had to gargle salt water for several days after).  The version from Yeah! sounds more full than this original, but you gotta have ’em all or it ain’t complete, is it?

So there you have Yeah II, a mixed bag of a compilation from all kinds of singles and assorted releases.  One more disc of covers to go before we’re done, but Yeah II is the best listen of the three.  Though long, it has the variety and fearlessness that sounds great on the speakers compared to the original Yeah!.

4/5 stars

 

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Recored Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides

Next:

39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings

REVIEW: Def Leppard – B.Sides (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Thirty-Seven of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – B.Sides (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 4) (2021)

It’s somewhat irksome that this disc wasn’t titled Rarities 5 to maintain continuity with the previous two box sets.  Alas, this disc is titled B.Sides (probably so the artwork jives with the X album) even though it contains more rarities than just single B-sides.  Quibble aside, let’s dive in with an important caveat:  Many of the tracks on this disc are from the X era, which did not rate well in this series thus far.

Two inconsequential radio edits begin the CD:  “Now” and “Long Long Way to Go”.  In the case of “Now” that could be an improvement, though less than 10 seconds were chopped from the song.  Credit due:  when the song starts cooking after the first chorus, that guitar riff is pretty awesome.  “Long Long Way To Go” suffers more in the radio edit context, losing 38 seconds, ending abruptly with a quick fade.  A better version is still to come on this disc.

From there we move on to the Japanese and UK X bonus track “Kiss the Day”.  This song is generally acclaimed by fans as a tune that would have improved the album in general.  It has a riff to it, but then slows right down into ballad territory.  It recovers on the psychedelic chorus but it’s a bit uneven.  There’s a smoking solo worth noting in the burning ending section.

B-sides galore next!  Some of these tracks were hard to collect at the time, at least in North America.  “10 X Bigger than Love” from one of the “Long Long Way to Go” singles would have been awesome had it been on an album, but it’s too rock and roll for X.  Leaving it off an album was a mistake.  “10 X Bigger than Love” was considered a keeper by Joe but the other guys in the band didn’t like it as much.  “Love Don’t Lie” is Joe’s demo version of the album track, previously released as one of the B-sides to the “Now” single.    It doesn’t have the chorus production of the album version, but might actually be more interesting for that reason.  Apparently they were going for a Seal vibe similar to “Crazy”. Close but no cigar.

The included demo of the ballad “Let Me Be the One” (another “Now” B-side) is so much more raw and genuine than anything on the X album.  It should have just been released as-is!  They didn’t have to muck it up for modern audiences.  This one has so much more heart and genuinity.  Joe’s Cybernaut friend (and Bowie’s bandmate) Dick Decent handled the difficult piano part.  The rocker “Gimme a Job” (from the “Long Long Way To Go” single) is a pretty simple but gets the job done for a B-side.  Why so simple?  The other guys didn’t care for it, so Joe played everything — including the guitar solo!  It might be a bit similar to a previous B-side called “When Saturday Comes”.

The last B-side in this chunk of songs is an acoustic version of “Now”, also included on the “Long Long Way to Go” single.  Though it lacks that chunky riff section that we all love so much, it also lacks the digital bleeps and bloops from the original.  Unfortunately, this acoustic version proves the song just isn’t all that great at its core.

The stripped down acoustic version of “Long Long Way to Go” does the opposite.  This is a real rarity from the Japanese printing of the X album.  A truly great song (though they didn’t write it), and this is really the definitive version.  Easily superior.  They didn’t have to go all-in with the production, and here’s more proof.  This is the same recording, just with all the junk removed.  Great to finally be able to get this version easily now.  It should have been on the album and the other version released as a remix.

In another slightly irksome move, the CD jumps ahead in time here, only to jump back on the next song.  Moving forward in time to the album Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, it is the much demanded “Joe Only” version of “Nine Lives”.  This valuable Japanese bonus track should have been more widely available from the start, so in-demend was it over the “Joe and Tim McGraw” version on the album.  This is the song as it always should have been!  Hard rocking, chunky, upbeat, and fun.  Not a single bad thing about it.

Then back in time for the final X track:  “Perfect Girl”.  Much like the previously released download-only 11 song live set, you could grab this song for free from the official Def Leppard site.  A big thank-you to Def Leppard for being so proactive and fan-friendly in the early internet days.  “Perfect Girl” is a superior demo version of the song “Gravity” and has never been released physically until now.  When we say it’s the “superior” version”, let’s just add that it’s less boy-band-y.  It’s still not all that great, just…not as bad.

Finally, the last of the tracks is the other Japanese bonus track from Sparkle Lounge.  This is a piano version of the album epic “Love”.  Those who thought the album could have used a ballad will enjoy it.  “Love” is notable as one of Joe’s best vocal performances and now you can hear it adorned only with backing piano.  The album version will remain the go-to since it’s so big and bombastic, but this a nice Queen-like alternate version that the diehard fans will enjoy.

Though a bit X-heavy, this excursion into Leppard B-sides was a better listen than that album.  Collecting them all was a pain in the behind, so having them all in one place (plus the one that was download-only!) is a brilliant solution.  Wish it was “rarities” and was in stricter chronological order, but the disc checks off a ton of boxes for collectors.

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)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah! – Record Store Tales
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)

Next:

38. Yeah! II
39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings
42. Viva! Hysteria (DVD & CD 1)
43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & Bonus features)
44. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
45. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
46. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

 

RE-REVIEW: Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (2009 DVD)

Part Thirty-Six of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original ReviewCMT Crossroads (2009)

Dedication (noun):  The character trait of being so devoted to a project that you will watch the Taylor Swift & Def Leppard DVD one more time, even though you reviewed it once before and swore you’d never watch it again.

TAYLOR SWIFT & DEF LEPPARD – CMT Crossroads (2009 Walmart exclusive DVD)

You can blame Rick Allen’s brother for this DVD.  How did pop country songstress Taylor Swift and Def Leppard hook up?  Taylor was on tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill whose tour manager was Rick Allen’s brother. You might recognize McGraw from the song “Nine Lives” on Leppard’s last album Songs From the Sparkle Lounge.  Swift expressed interest in doing an episode of CMT Crossroads with Leppard and eventually they made it happen.  Lucky us.

The DVD starts immediately, no big long intro, with “Photograph”.  In a democratic way of doing things, it’s a Def Leppard song to open, but Taylor Swift getting the first lines.  Her smooth voice doesn’t sound right with Screamin’ Joe’s vocal lines, and takes some getting used to with these songs.  You can’t really hear her fiddle player or acoustic guitarists on “Photograph” but they sure are having fun.

The concert is intercut with interviews that help bring the context to this odd collaboration.  Taylor was born two years after Hysteria, but was exposed to Leppard’s music from birth.  She had been wanting to do a show with Leppard for some time so she made it happen.  It’s also fun watching her learn British slang.

Taylor’s “Picture To Burn” is…well, it’s a song about some guy who drives a pickup truck, it seems.  No matter how much they try to convince us that Leppard and Swift are not all that different, they sure are.  “Love Story” is more like a Leppard ballad and isn’t so hard to swallow.  Finally we get to “Hysteria” which works remarkably well as a duet.  Taylor’s vocals add rather than subtract.  You can actually hear certain parts of her massive backing back on this as well, plinking here and fiddling there.

A blues jam about Taylor’s boy trouble is amusing.  “Teardrops On My Guitar” is a nice song, a little more understated and quiet.  Stage choreography seems important with so many band members on stage, and they all seem to have their places and times.  Leppard’s ballad “When Love and Hate Collide” is one song that is the most transformed by the collaboration.  It sounds at home in both worlds.  Taylor reveals she’s long had an obsession with this hit.  It’s very fun to see Joe give her the last line of the song too.

Taylor’s “Should’ve Said No” is upbeat and twangy.  A little bit rock and roll, something a little more familiar.  There’s a great march-like arrangement towards the ending, and then the drums start thumping and you know what that means.  “Pour Some Sugar On Me” has never sounded like this before.  Fiddles and double drums…it actually sounds pretty good.  And that’s the closing song of what is a fun but definitely jarring set of hits.

The three bonus tracks are “Our Song” (written in 9th grade for Taylor’s highschool talent show), “Love” (new Leppard song), and “Two Steps Behind”.  These Taylor songs really take some effort to digest when you’re a Leppard fan, until Joe starts singing at least.  Giving her credit, Taylor sure knows how to command an audience, but it’s irritating to see Vivian ripping up the fretboard, but being unable to hear him in the mix.  More interesting is “Love”, the only choice from Songs From the Sparkle Lounge.  It really benefits from all the extra backing singers and musicians, becoming something really big and huge.  The final bonus track “Two Steps Behind” has eight guitar players and a nice intro from Joe explaining how the song was written electrically in 1989 to become a hit acoustically later in 1993.

To Def Leppard fans at least, some of the best content might be contained in the bonus interviews.  It’s clear Leppard had a new but genuine appreciation for Taylor Swift and how her songs are constructed.  They discuss all the things they have in common with Taylor, such as age.  Rick Allen turned 16 opening for AC/DC and Taylor of course released her first hit album at 16.  Allen reveals his parents were supportive of him leaving highschool in order to tour with Def Leppard, but made him get a tutor.  They understood that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Both artists discuss what it’s like to be pigeonholed into a genre be it “country” or “heavy metal”.  But the coolest thing is the foreshadowing of Leppard’s new album Diamond Star Halos.  “You know who else is a huge Def Leppard fan?  Alison Krauss,” reveals Taylor.  And in 2022 she too collaborated with Def Leppard.

In addition to the interviews, there’s a press conference with Joe, Phil and Taylor where they discuss their history with each others’ music.  They are obviously having fun with their collaboration, even if you are not.  One of the things Joe says is that they would love to work with Taylor in the studio any time anywhere.  Rather than ask why this hasn’t happened any time in the last 13 years, let’s just be glad it hasn’t.  This is a difficult DVD for the Leppard fan to finish in one sitting so let’s just be glad that’s all there is.

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: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah! – Record Store Tales
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)

Next:

37. B-Sides
38. Yeah! II
39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings

#998: Yeah…Nah!

Part Thirty-Three of the Def Leppard Review Series

There comes in a time in many, but not all, bands’ lives.  Its a fan moment, not a band moment, but just as important.  It’s the point in time when a fan starts losing interest.  Every fan has their own reasons.  I can chart the trajectory of my own Def Leppard love on a graph.

In grades 10 and 11, when Hysteria was at its peak, Def Leppard were my favourite band.  I cut them some slack for the lack of anything truly new on Adrenalize, given what the band had endured to get there.  Slang was the spiritual successor to Hysteria, returning to musical experimentation and dramatic change.  But it didn’t catch on, so Leppard were forced to contrive a “return to roots” on Euphoria, which failed to resonate with me.  The X debacle with all the boy-band pretensions was a right turnoff.  Only on Sparkle Lounge did the trajectory start to return in the right direction.

But…it was not the same.  A trust had been broken.  The band that I had loved in highschool (when my previous favourite band, Kiss, made some dubious direction choices in the late 80s) had taken some serious detours over the years that left me unsure.  As much as Kiss had let the quality slide themselves, I had a hard time forgiving Def Leppard over X.  And I don’t think that feeling from the before-fore times ever really comes back.

The Taylor Swift thing was like a reminder.  “Def Leppard are going to do things that you don’t like much.”  Nothing against Taylor who has her own style of art.  There is an entire demographic of fans that are not going to listen to a collaboration with Taylor Swift.  Many of them are reading this now.  Meanwhile, there are fans who have delighted to one degree or another in every twist and turn in the Def Leppard discography.  And that’s fine too.  There is no right or wrong.  It’s only fair for you to know where the head of the reviewer is.  This is your disclaimer.

Because of my love for this band, I’ll always give them a fair shot.  I just won’t always care.  And that’s the big difference.  Def Leppard went from a band that I cared deeply about, to one that I was buying music from out of routine instead of passion.  Similarly, with these reviews, they are being written out of diligence and not a place of deep commitment.  It is becoming harder work, so beware!

Thanks to Holen for the inspiration

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews

Next:

34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge

REVIEW: British Whale (Justin Hawkins) – “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” (2005 single)

BRITISH WHALE – “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” (2005 Atlantic CD single)

In 2005, while we anxiously awaited a new Darkness album (and they changed producers from “Mutt” Lange to Roy Thomas Baker), Justin Hawkins decided to do something on his own.  The rumour mill was going on about how the new Darkness was going to be an 80s-fest.  Justin’s solo single under the name British Whale certainly conveyed that sound.

“This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both Of Us” is a Sparks cover, previously tackled by Faith No More.  The original track was from 1974, but Justin’s rendition really did sound like the 80s.  Russell Mael’s high pitched vocal was exaggerated by Justin, with the cheese-whiz poured on thick.  It’s the kitchen sink approach.  But a classic pop song cannot be sunk and it’s quite listenable.  Faith No More’s cover would win in a one-on-one competition, but Darkness fans will obviously want to hear Justin’s take. The music video was popular because it featured world darts champion Phil Taylor (no relation to the Motorhead drummer).  Some fans expressed disappointment that the music video wasn’t included on the single, but in 2019 it matters not.  (The video was included on a DVD single, along with a “making of”, but that DVD did not include the B-side “America”.)

Perhaps better than the A-side is the more Darkness-like B-side.  It’s a tribute to the USA, its weather, and trees.  According to “America”, Justin really likes the scenery!  He sounds very sincere in his high-pitched praise.  There’s gui-board (or “keytar”) and a guitar solo that sounds like a cross between Brian May and Thin Lizzy.  It’s a bit of goofy fun.  Actually an excellent track, even containing some music from the “Star Spangled Banner” in the well-constructed solo.

These two songs really seem to convey that Justin really wanted to have some fun, blowing off steam with pop music in 2005.  In a way these songs are “peak Justin”.  You just can’t imagine anything more Justin than this!  (British Whale did another single called “England” in 2006 that never saw a physical release but we’ll cover that another time.)

British Whale can be bought on CD for ridiculously low prices.  If you’re a Darkness fan, you have no excuse.  Dive on in!

3.5/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (2009)

TAYLOR SWIFT & DEF LEPPARD – CMT Crossroads (2009 Walmart exclusive DVD)

“Of course that country cop out track (“Nine Lives”) is brutal…Leppard has no place for CMT! I remember hearing about the Swift deal…I had zero interest. I was like, ‘How can a band that put out stellar product (basically the first four albums) go and cross over!??’ I mean right out of the Sixx play book entitled Following Trends!”Deke from Metal Shatz

“There’s always a first day when you discover a band, be it the Beatles or Taylor Swift, when you hear the name for the first time and then you go and check it out. So we just Googled her, iTuned her, listened to it all and said, ‘Wow’!” — Joe Elliott

“I like to write songs about what’s going on in my life.” — Taylor Swift, stating the obvious

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Before the Swifties come and tear us apart for what you’re about to read, let’s be perfectly clear. Taylor Swift is very talented and has a genuine love for Def Leppard’s music. She is also an incredibly bright individual, and she has written more hits than Def Leppard in a fraction of the time. Both of them started in their teens, and are guilty of using outside writers. In the included interview footage, she and Def Lep seem like a mutual admiration society. We have nothing against Taylor Swift here, though her brand of pop music is never heard around LeBrain HQ…save this Walmart exclusive DVD release.

How did they hook up? Taylor was on tour with “Tim and Faith” (McGraw and Hill) who’s tour manager was Rick Allen’s brother. She expressed interest in doing an episode of CMT Crossroads with them, and then the phone rang.

Leppard and the Swift’s band share the stage, dual drummers, umpteen guitar players, and fiddle…but on a heavier track like “Photograph” you can’t really hear her group. Taylor gets the first line (she says she felt like a kid in a candy store to do so); then she and Joe swap. It’s clear that she doesn’t have the power nor the control that Joe Elliot has. Her voice is whispy by comparison. It’s also weird to see a girl in a gold mini-dress and cowboy boots fronting Def Leppard, but talk about dreams come true! I’m sure Def Leppard didn’t mind the national exposure either.

“Picture to Burn” is the kind of candy-coated pop country that irritates so many fans of the old fashioned stuff. Taylor is more at home on her own songs, but Joe has never sounded more awkward. Taylor’s band dominates on this song, with only a few Phil Collen guitar squeals to remind you he’s there. Tellingly, Joe Elliot says of her music, “You take the banjos and fiddles off, and you’ve got pop.” The next Taylor number, “Love Story” is one I’ve heard on pop radio many times, but it’s hard to suffer through. It brings back bad memories of Leppard’s pop disaster, X.

Taylor butchers my favourite Def Leppard ballad, “Hysteria”. The song successfully absorbs the twang, but again, Swift just lacks the vocal power to blast it the way Joe can. Her own ballad “Teardrops on my Guitar” is so laid back that most of the Leppard guys are sitting down for it. The bands mesh well and the song is pretty good, although she has a guitar player who kind of looks like a goth country emo Russell Brand. She’s at home on Leppard’s “When Love and Hate Collide”. Once again the meshing of the two bands works well here. There’s a full string section, plus backing vocalists crowding the already overloaded stage, but that’s what the song calls for and it’s genuinely great version of the well-worn hit. “Should’ve Said No” is a Swift song I don’t know, but it’s one of those pop tracks that just feels like it was written by a computer. It transforms directly into the show closer “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, but…damn. Taylor’s out of breath. She is audibly gasping (a big no-no) between lines and unable to deliver the goods. With the fiddle and extra accouterments added, this one’s a write-off.

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There are three bonus tracks that weren’t broadcast as part of the show: One Swift, two Leppard. Taylor says she wrote “Our Song” in ninth grade (“three years ago, actually”). That’s exactly what it sounds like, ninth grade pop, but obviously there is a need in the world for that kind of kid-friendly music. Leppard fans won’t find any appeal here. They will however appreciate “Love”, the only new Leppard song in the set. Interestingly it starts with only Taylor and two of her guitarists on stage, then Leppard emerge from the shadows. As a duet, it’s enjoyable, and it’s overall probably the heaviest thing all night. The much-overplayed “Two Steps Behind” is the final bonus track. The fun thing here is trying to count the number of people playing guitar on stage. (Eight plus fiddle and Rick Savage on acoustic five-string.)

Phil Collen gets bonus points for wearing a jacket on stage, dressing up a bit for the television, but he sticks to tradition by having no shirt on underneath.

2.5/5 stars

Part 314: The Musical Crimes of Mrs. LeBrain

Apologies in advance to my lovely wife.  She really is awesome for letting me do this.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 314: The Musical Crimes of Mrs. LeBrain

As we wind down the Record Store Tales, we get to the point that I met Jen in September 2005.  The funny thing about love is the rose-coloured glasses.  I don’t remember Jen having such bad taste in music.  However, the photographic proof is here.  She recently dug up her old Linkin Park CD wallet (!!!) , inside which are many dirty and scratched CDs.  Yes, Jen never took proper care of her discs either before we met, it’s true.  I can’t even identify some of the filth on her Marilyn Manson CD.  Could be coffee.

So here I am, a single Record Store Guy in the fall of ’05, meeting the love of his life…and these are the CDs in her collection.  Thankfully we shared a love of bands such as The Beatles and The Darkness too.  Even more thankfully, Jen doesn’t listen to Limp Bizkit anymore.  (I mean seriously, look at these!  She even owns the Limp Bizkit CD without Wes Borland!)

In her defense, I found no Nickelback. What I did find may upset you.

REVIEW: Rik Emmett – Absolutely (1990)

RIK EMMETT – Absolutely (1990)

Alright, to be fair, with 20/20 hindsight now we all know that Rik Emmett wanted to be a jazzbo. Back in 1990, those of us that weren’t expecting the second coming of Triumph were at least hoping for something with some balls. Either alternative would have been acceptable, but Absolutely is so middle of the road, so directionless, so antiseptic, so horridly contrived and ill-conceived, that we just had no idea where the man’s head was at.

Absolutely is purportedly a rock album, but the sterile cover reveals the terrible secret within.  Absolutely is glossy and clean; overloaded with ballads and lite-rock dreck.  You’re left with only a couple real rock songs. “Drive Time,” which deceptively opens the album, is a Van Halen speed boogie.  (Drummer Randy Cooke is frickin’ amazing.)  “Big Lie,” the second song, has a bit of that latter day pop-Triumph sound. It also has decent lyrics which are more relevant than ever today.  On side two, there’s a song called “Heaven Only Knows” that has some hard rock trappings. But that’s where it ends.

“The disappearing forests should be no cause for alarm, the greenhouse effect won’t do you any harm.”

The single “When a Heart Breaks” is sappy crappy, the kind of boring ballad that was too common at the beginning of the 90’s. The rest of the album is just shamelessly pop rock. That’s not always a bad thing, I enjoy quite a bit of pop in my life, but this isn’t even good pop rock.  “World of Wonder” makes me want to retch.  I mean, wait until you get to “Smart, Fast, Mean & Lucky”. Think that title sucks?  Wait till Rik starts rapping. When Rik raps, it’s like the Bartman. Hey, at least it was current for the time, but why did rock bands think they had to start rapping in the early 90’s?  (Kip Winger, I’m looking at you.)

For fans of Rik’s guitar, there’s just not enough. A song like “Stand and Deliver” has some smoking guitar work, but it’s drowned out by claptrap and clutter.   It’s a shame. I’m glad that Rik is now doing what he loves, and even found time to do a mini-Triumph reunion. Anything to forget this misguided solo project.

2/5 stars

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REVIEW: Triumph – The Sport of Kings (1986)

Part one of a two-part series by request of the mighty DEKE!

TRIUMPH – The Sport of Kings (1986, remastered 2003, TML Entertainment)

And the award for Worst Album Cover of 1986 goes to…Triumph!

Seriously, can anybody tell me what the hell this is supposed to be? Methinks the band just didn’t care anymore, and the music contained herein bears me out.

The Sport Of Kings, following the double live Stageswas a total about-face for Triumph. Starting off with a turgid sequencer riff, the album shifts immediately into “coast” on “Tears In The Rain”. Keyboards, bad sounding drum samples, coupled with a sappy almost guitarless song, and that is the opening track! (I hereby trademark the word “guitarless” as my own creation.)  Post-split, Gil Moore and Mike Levine were pretty adamant in their blaming up Rik Emmett for the change in direction.  Certainly, the early part of Rik’s solo career backs up that claim.

I’ll admit to being into “Somebody’s Out There” at the time, but it is hard to listen to now in the car with the windows down.  Wouldn’t want anybody to see me.  (The remixed version from the recent Greatest Hits Remixed CD is better.)   This song is just pure pop, way further into that direction than anything Bon Jovi was doing at that time.  But not in a good way.

The sad thing is, I really used to dig this album to the point that I wore out my original cassette. Now, on CD, I once every few years.  I’ll claim that I didn’t know better at the time. When I owned this the first time, I’d never heard a single Led Zeppelin studio recording; not one. I had never heard of “Smoke On The Water”, and I’d never heard a Rush album. Perspective changes even if the songs remain the same. The problem is that Sport Of Kings is too pop:  not enough guitar, not enough rock, not enough Triumph, too many keyboards! Hell there are three keyboard players on this album (one being Kitchener’s own Scott Humphrey).

I’m trying to pick out some non-embarrassing highlights. I kind of like “If Only” for the lyrics and chorus.  “Play With the Fire” is Triumph trying to be progressive again, but the song isn’t any good.  I like “Take A Stand”, and I’ll admit to still enjoying “Just One Night” (an old Eric Martin demo, co-written by Martin and Neal Schon). I only wish the video remix was on an album of some kind. The superior original remixed version used in the music video has never been released on any music format that I own.  I’ll have to use Audacity to rip it from a DVD.

This is not the remixed video, unfortunately — they’ve replaced the remix with the album version

I used to enjoy “Don’t Love Anybody Else But Me”, and I think the melody is still OK, but man, those lyrics. Gradeschool stuff. Of course, I was in gradeschool at the time!  To me in 1986, these lyrics were probably pretty profound.  There’s nothing wrong with admitting that your tastes have changed and some music you just don’t dig anymore. In this particular case, the tastes of the entire world have changed. Richard Marx does not make top-ten albums anymore. This album lacks spark of any kind, it’s just a keyboard-ridden embarrassment. If you played anything on this album side by side with “Blinding Light Show” or “It Takes Time”, you’d never guess it was the same three guys.

But it is, and they had only one more “contractual obligation” record left in them after this. The end was nigh.

1.5/5 stars

Come back in a few days, and we will be discussing that very contractual obligation record!