rarities

Tim’s Vinyl Confessions Ep. 390: Rare CDs II With Mike Ladano

“Mr. Lebrain is back, and this time he brought a ton of his Japanese import CDs. Or should I say, he grabbed a stack of rock! We once again go through our rare, out of print, imported, and otherwise hard to find discs. A follow to our first episode on the subject which can be seen here.”

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Def Leppard (2015 Japanese + Classic Rock fan pack edition)

Part Forty-Seven of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Def Leppard (2015 Sony Japan + Classic Rock fan pack edition)

As with anything these days, you often have to buy multiple copies to get “all the songs” (only for them to be reissued in a box set later on).  The Classic Rock “fan pack” edition of 2015’s Def Leppard has plenty of bonuses (which we’ll get into) including two exclusive versions of songs.  The Japanese CD has an exclusive demo.  Gotta catch ’em all.

Def Leppard are in a comfortable niche now and their self-titled 2015 album easily could have been another “ia” titled construction, next to Pyromania, Hysteria and Euphoria.  Hell even 1992’s Adrenalize was originally to be titled DementiaDef Leppard is another “ia” album, but it’s notably closer to matching the quality of Hysteria better than most of their records since.  Upon dropping the laser after a long period of neglected, the album comes to life.  The hooks are remembered, and stand the test of time.

“Let’s Go” pretends to be another re-write of “Sugar” before going into an unexpected lush pop chorus.  Not a “Sugar clone at all, but something new for Leppard combining their trademark sound with bubblegum.  The Classic Rock fan pack comes with a bonus single edit, shorter by a minute.  “Dangerous” is straight-up Leppard, like “Photograph” or “Promises” all over again.  This song smokes, just like the previous hits in the same mold.

Funky Queen-like bass isn’t far out of Def Leppard’s range.  “Man Enough” is kind of goofy and might have worked better with just about any other lyrics.  When the song gets going, it starts to bang.  This is the kind of song that will divide people:  some will think it’s a highlight, others will say it stinks.

An album highlight is the first ballad “We Belong”.  It’s a gentle song recalling the softer moments on Slang, but what makes it unique is that all five Def Leppard guys sing lead vocals for the first time.  Truly an outstanding track, made more special by the vocals.  Even a non-fan can appreciate the different textures the voices add.  Phil is gritty, Sav is smooth, and they all bring extra dimensions.  Classic rock’s bonus tracks include an alternate version with just Joe Elliot singing.  It’s interesting because his solo take is different from the other singers.

“Invincible” is a rare Rick Allen co-write, a blazer like Pyromania-era Leppard, without the screaming.  That’s the only difference.  “Invincible” is otherwise vintage-style, including a quintessential Phil Collen guitar solo.  Moving on to “Sea of Love”, this one stretches out melodically.  The guitar riff keeps it rooted in Def Leppard, but the intro and chorus are something else.

The first mis-step is the ballad “Energize” which sounds like a Euphoria reject, something that came out of a computer.  Thankfully “All Time High” does the real energizing.  Back to a Pyromania style of rock, and the solos is right out of the 80s.

“Battle of My Own” is more like acoustic Led Zeppelin.  Quite unlike Leppard’s early acoustic experiments in 1992.  The psychedelic vocals and Zeppish riffs really set it apart.  This is definitely something that could have followed Hysteria, and probably right up the charts.

A fun rocker steals the “Don’t Shoot Shotgun” riff and turns it into “Broke ‘N’ Brokenhearted”.  There might be a touch of Leppard’s recent country influence coming through on the chorus.  This seamlessly goes into “Forever Young” which, in the past, might have been left as a single B-side.  A good B-side admittedly.  “Last Dance” goes back to acoustic, this time for a ballad like “Two Steps Behind”.  Don’t forget “Two Steps Behind” was a B-side as well, and “Last Dance” would probably work well in that format.  Interesting, the Japanese CD’s bonus track is a demo version of “Last Dance” with Rick Savage, its writer, singing lead.  This is probably the best of the two versions because on a long album like this, additional lead singers help keep things interesting.

Two songs remain, both unusual.  “Wings of an Angel” uses the penultimate slot to deliver a dark, understated rock song.  Then “Blind Faith” goes Beatles, with strings, bluesy guitars, and the kitchen sink.  Totally a “Walrus” kind of song.  A good closer, albeit very different for this band.

Sometimes I like to think of Def Leppard albums in terms of pre and post-Hysteria.  To me, Adrenalize was not the followup that Hysteria deserved and I think Def Leppard knew that.  Adrenalize was more like a bonus disc, or a Reload to the original Load.  Because of the sad passing of Steve Clark, the band had to deliver and so they kept things safe.  But Leppard are an experimental band, and if they weren’t dealing with another series of hardships, I think they would have progressed beyond Hysteria.  They did on Slang, but by that time grunge had washed the slate clean and Def Leppard made their sound more alternative and more organic to adapt.  Slang was not the sequel that Hysteria would have got either.  Maybe Def Leppard is the closest we have to a proper followup.

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!  (Record 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
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (DVD and CD 1)
  43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 and Bonus features)
  44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese import)
  45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
  46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)

Next:  Thanks for reading!

 

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Helen Wheels” from The Art of McCartney (2014)

Part Forty-Six of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – “Helen Wheels” and
JOE ELLIOTT – “Hi Hi Hi” from The Art of McCartney (2014 Arctic Poppy)

The Art of McCartney has to be one of the most anticipated yes lesser known tribute albums of the last two decades.  Anticipated because it promised new cover tunes by Kiss, Rick and Robin from Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Heart, Willie Nelson Paul Rodgers, and so many more.  For this review series we’ll be looking at two tracks:  one by Def Leppard, and one by Joe Elliott.

Paul McCartney needs no introduction.  If he does, then I ask you to read about a band called “The Beatles” before you read anything else here!

Produced by Ronan McHugh and Def Leppard, “Helen Wheels” is unmistakable Def Leppard.  The opening drum pattern certainly recalls Rick Allen’s work on “Rocket”.  Then it careens into pure pop rock delight!  This Wings single was released in 1974 and later included on some versions of Band on the Run.  Driving, fun, and while different from Def Leppard’s core sound, it’s ideal for them to cover.  The boys in the band aren’t bad singers y’know.

Joe’s solo cover is “Hi Hi Hi”, a standalone Wings single from 1972.  This is far more raw than the Leppard track.  Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums!  Joe’s vocals were recorded at his home studio while the backing tracks were recorded in Los Angeles and London.  Quite a production, but that’s the modern way of doing things.    One thing about Joe’s vocal:  he absolutely goes for it!  It’s like rough and ready Joe from 1980 has returned, but with the skill and experience of an older singer.  This is just a piano-boppin’ rock and roller.

Bravo to Joe and Def Leppard for coming up with some inspired covers.  Certainly more inspired than most of the Yeah! covers album.

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!  (Record 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
    39. Yeah! Live
    40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
    41. iTunes Re-recordings
    42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
    43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & bonus features)
    44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)
    45. Slang (2014 deluxe edition bonus tracks)

Next:

47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – Slang (2014 Deluxe edition bonus tracks)

Part Forty-Five of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review:  Slang 2014 Deluxe Edition

DEF LEPPARD -DEF LEPPARD – Slang bonus tracks (Deluxe Edition, 2014 Bludgeon Riffola)

‘Twas a surprise when 1996’s Slang received the deluxe edition treatment in 2014.  The Viva! Hysteria celebrations were a success, and now another album was getting a little bit of attention, although the word “deluxe” really pushed it.  As the Heavy Metal Overlord once stated:

When it turned up I wis pure gutted. I thought the booklet had better be snazzy but it wisnae either. Just a wee hing where Joe tried tae mind stuff fae back in the day. Nae liner notes. Nae lyrics. Nuhin. Just some shite photies. My old copy had two discs, a slimmer case and lyrics. And some photies an aw! Gid wans. One of them oan a bus like they were aw goin doon the toon or somethin. How wis that no deluxe but this is deluxe? If they’d called it a “2CD Edition” that wid huv been awrite but they didnae. This is “deluxe”… cept it isnae. I don’t have a Scooby whit they’re playin at. Eejits.

Exactly.

Deluxe or not, the expanded edition of Slang gave new focus to the cult-status album.  Radically different versions of album tracks, unreleased songs, and works in progress offer a look at an album that really has never received its due credit for what it was.

The Slang deluxe featured a number of bonus tracks, and some iTunes exclusive bonus tracks as well.  Thankfully, the Def Leppard CD Collections box sets include some of these bonus tracks. Today we’ll mostly focus on the ones not included in previous reviews, from the Slang deluxe.

Here is a list of the iTunes bonus tracks, later included on one of the CD Collection box sets.  We’ve discussed these before in more detail.

1. “Truth?” (Demo Version) – Previously on “Work It Out” CD single.

2. “Work It Out” (Demo Version) – B-Side from “Work It Out” with Viv singing and completely different from the other versions on the Deluxe. Viv referred to it as his “Crowded House” version.

3. “When Saturday Comes” From the film When Saturday Comes and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

4. “Jimmy’s Theme” From the film When Saturday Comes and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

5. “Cause We Ended as Lovers” (Solo track by Phil)  From the Jeff Beck tribute album Jeffology: A Guitar Chronicle and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

6. “Led Boots” (Solo track by Viv)  From the Jeff Beck tribute album Jeffology: A Guitar Chronicle and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

There are also two iTunes exclusive bonus tracks that remain exclusive to iTunes.  We’ll get to those.

The Slang deluxe’s first bonus was track 12 on disc one, the buttery “Move With Me Slowly”, the original Japanese bonus track for Slang.  This is a beautifully recorded, raw, smooth, and sexy Def Leppard song.  An incredible song, as we have discussed on the CD Collection Vol. 2.  We’ll say it again:  should have been on the album.  We’ll add:  those guitar solos are so incredible.  Full of feel, organic sounding tone.  Some of the best guitar playing on a Def Leppard song.  Another good one is track 16, the acoustic “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame”, a B-side and Japanese bonus track to the Vault CD.  Another song that deserved a proper place on an album.  “Worlds Collide” is also on this set, a really heavy metal track, originally released on the B-side to “Goodbye” during the Euphoria era.  Heavy, but definitely B-side material.  We also have “Burn Out”.  Great little rocking groover, more like old Def Leppard than the final Slang album.  No loops, no electronic instrumentation, so acoustics.  Just chug, chug, chug and rock and roll.  Joe’s vocal is full of attitude.

Let’s go through all the remaining Slang bonus tracks and have a listen to a largely misunderstood album, as it might have been.

1. “All I Want Is Everything” (Demo) – iTunes only.  A unique version of the song, with the some of the lyrics intact and everything radically different.  The chorus has the final melody, but delivered as a more traditional rock shout.  The melancholy mood of the final version is taking shape, but there is no question that “All I Want Is Everything” was better in its final version.

2. “Turn to Dust” (Phil verse vocal version)  (Track 1, disc two.)  This version of the second Slang album track is similar to the final, though with Phil Collen singing the verses, with Joe on the chorus.  Phil’s raspier voice adds a different, laid back direction.  The backing track is not the final mix though the sitar and some of the effects are in place.  Collen fans will love it.

3. “Raise Your Love” (version of “Slang”)  (Track 2, disc two.)  Choppy rock guitars are the main feature here!  Joe’s opening rap is intact, but the song deviates from there.  The chorus is a very different refrain of Phil singing, “Baby raise your love!”  Cool track for sure, but the final song became something far more unique as we’ve seen.  If you wished “Slang” was a more rocking tune, then you better check out “Raise Your Love”.

4. “All I Want Is Everything” (1st draft) (Track 3, disc two.)  Somehow, the “1st draft” is more complete and closer to the album version than the “demo”.  Were the two versions mislabelled?  This sounds more like a demo, with the other being the first draft.  In fact this is so close to the final album mix, that you might be able to fool your friends.  The guitar solo is missing, as are the big vocal hooks that follow, which is the biggest clue.

5. “Work It Out” (1st draft) (Track 4, disc two.)  Like the above, this is very close to the final album version.  Very different from Vivian Campbell’s demo, one of the aforementioned iTunes bonus tracks.  Joe’s vocal is not the final take, but the backing track sounds almost ready.  The stuttering guitars and droning strings are all there.  You can hear, in the layers of guitar, the skeleton of Viv’s original idea.

6. “Breathe a Sigh” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 5, disc two.)  All the pieces are in the place but the atmosphere isn’t captured yet.  The final mix would nail that R&B crossed with Def Leppard vibe.

7. “Deliver Me” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 6, disc two.)  Again, very close to the final mark.  Just an earlier, less elaborate version of the final album mix.

8. “Black Train” (version of “Gift of Flesh”) (Track 7, disc two.)  The main riff is there.  The verse melodies are there.  The chorus is the major difference, with this one being a shouty affair.

9. “Blood Runs Cold” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 8, disc two.)  Of all the rough mixes, “Blood Runs Cold” is the most indistinguishable from the final track.  The chorus is the most different, with Phil prominently assisting Joe.

10. “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” (1st draft) (Track 9, disc two.)  Has an almost Marillion-like sheen to the opening guitar textures.  These fade and the mix goes purely acoustic.  This excellent song was already in fantastic shape at this stage.  Could have been on the album as-is.

11. “Pearl of Euphoria” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 10, disc two.)  The epic album closer from Slang, in an early mix.  Similar, but the final version sounds busier, which enhances it.  They made some different choices in the middle section of this mix, but the in-your-face guitar is quite delectable.

12. “All on Your Touch” (2012 revisit) (Track 11, disc two.)  A Slang-era track never properly finished until 2012.  Laid back, dark ballad.  Understated, with shades of “Love Bites” in the guitars, but with an explosive hard-edged chorus.  Awesome solo work on this song.

13. “Anger” (“Deliver Me” 1st draft) (Track 12, disc two.)   Different from the above “final mix” which was very close to the album.  This “first draft” has a different chorus:  “Anger, I’m feeling so much anger!”  It fails to deliver the intended punch, and so it is good they revised it and kept working on it.  They obviously knew the chorus was not the needed hook.

14. “Move On Up” (Vivian demo) (Track 13, disc two.)  Completely unreleased song, a Campbell demo.  Neat punchy riff, with a hint of Jimmy Page.  Vivian sings, and his vocal melody is melodic, different and enjoyable.  It’s too bad the guys didn’t take this song further.

15. “Gift of Flesh” (Phil vocal) (Track 14, disc two.)  Another treat for those who love the raspy voice of Phil Collen on lead vocals.  The backing track is not all the way there yet, but Phil’s vocal track provided the blueprint for the final album version.

16. “Move with Me Slowly” (1st draft) – iTunes only.  The buttery smooth “Move With Me Slowly” appears again, this time in a “first draft” version exclusive to iTunes.  Rougher, slightly rawer mix.  The outro goes out longer, lingering like flavours on your tune.

While it was nice to see Slang get a reissue with a wealth a bonus material, it was a shame the packaging didn’t quite rise to the occasion.  With two tracks remaining unreleased in physical form, and not all the material from the era available in a single place, it’s not too late to do a super deluxe.

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!  (Record 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
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
  43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & bonus features)
  44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)

Next:

46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – iTunes re-recordings (2012-2013)

Part Forty-One of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original reviews: 

DEF LEPPARD – iTunes re-recordings (2012-2013)

It began in 2010.  After a long absence from the digital platform, Rick Savage of Def Leppard announced that their music would soon be available to buy on iTunes.  Due to a long dispute over dollars and cents with the record label, Leppard’s albums were not yet available on the platform.  Then, due to “some twat at the label” (according to Joe!), somebody reneged and the deal never came to be.  As a short-term solution, Def Leppard decided to record new versions of old hits exclusively for iTunes.

The first of these new versions, affectionately called “forgeries” by Joe, came in 2012.  It was a double-A sided single (to use ancient terminology) for “Pour Some Sugar On Me (2012)” and “Rock of Ages (2012)”.

Beginning with “Sugar”, the opening guitar figure is virtually indistinguishable from the 1987 original.  Only the “Hey!” vocals really hint this is not your old “Sugar”.  Joe Elliott sounds a teeny bit rougher around the edges, but just a smidge.  This is the same version used on the Family Guy / Simpsons crossover episode, for Peter and Homer’s “sexy car wash”.  Only serious fans will know immediately this is a forgery.  Everyone else should be happy thinking they’re listening to the same recording they had on their Walkmans in highschool.

From the “Gunta Gleeben Glooten Globen”, it’s clear “Rock of Ages” is also pretty close.  Being more reliant on the vocals, it becomes more evident early on this is a re-recording, but it is an admirable job.  The backing music and even the mix is eerily similar.  It’s just impossible for anyone to scream as if it’s 1983.

The next re-recording released in 2012 was a single track, but a medley of acoustic hits.  This is less a forgery and more a re-imagining and re-framing of some big and lesser known songs.  The abbreviated tracks performed in order are:

  • 0:00 to 1:01: “Where Does Love Go When It Dies”
  • 1:02 to 2:06: “Now”
  • 2:07 to 3:22: “When Love and Hate Collide”
  • 3:23 to 4:36: “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”
  • 4:37 to 7:32: “Two Steps Behind”

Joe’s in fantastic form on this medley and even though it’s an acoustic performance, there’s care and production value, not just acoustic guitars.  They obviously spent time arranging this medley, because it flows incredibly well from song to song, focusing on the best parts.  It also includes the complete “Two Steps Behind” as the closer.

The final iTunes re-recording came early in 2013.  One more ballad, but not acoustic:  this was “Hysteria”, which coincided with their Viva! Hysteria shows in Las Vegas.  This one might be the closest of all the forgeries.  Joe worked hard to get his voice in vintage shape again for those shows, and “Hysteria” shows it.  Easily the most satisfying of all the tracks.  The backing vocals are so bang-on, you’d think Mutt Lange himself stepped into the room to record them all, a note at a time.

Today, only the 2012 acoustic medley is still available to buy on iTunes.  The other three tracks have disappeared.  One of those cases of “you snooze you lose” in the digital world!

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!  (Record 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
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)

Next:

42. Viva! Hysteria

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – Mirror Ball: Live & More (2011 Japan bonus track)

Part Forty of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review:  Mirror Ball (2011)

DEF LEPPARD – Mirror Ball: Live & More (2011 Marquee Japanese import with bonus track)

It took Def Leppard until 2011 to release finally their first standalone live album that you could go out and buy on a CD.  Chronologically speaking, we have already reviewed seven Leppard live “albums” from earlier sources.  Mirror Ball is still technically considered their “first” live album.   And they really leaned into doing live albums since then, as you’ll see going forward.  Most of the content of this series will be live in nature post-Mirror Ball.

One cool thing about Mirror Ball is that there is no long lead-in.  It starts immediately with the opening to “Rock! Rock!” with no fade-in.  Cut to the chase, get on with the rock.  It’s Screamin’ Joe Elliott in fine form right from the start.  Brilliant, hard version going top speed.  Leppard shift gears into “Rocket” from there, certainly a sudden change in direction.  This is a short 4 1/2 minute version compared to the longer jam on the “C’Mon C’Mon” single.  As second track on a live album, it’s probably a good thing it’s not a 10 minute workout.

Just as on Hysteria, “Animal” follows “Rocket”.  Joe’s voice is more gentle here, and the song offers some different guitar touches that are fresh and interesting.  Next, it’s the aforementioned “C’Mon C’Mon”, the first new track presented from Songs From the Sparkle Lounge.  You’d think it would be a live highlight, but it’s just a tune.  Onto the next.  Unfortunately the next is “Make Love Like a Man” which really…how is this still in the set?”  Not a good version either.  Fortunately, the trajectory is reversed with the Pyromania classic “Too Late For Love”.  Always underappreciated, this apocalyptic burner has it all.  Cool, atmospheric slow opening, wicked guitar parts, and Screamin’ Joe!  Not screaming as much, but just enough.  Keeping with the Pyromania, a decent version of “Foolin'” follows.  Decent but not quiet incendiary.

The much maligned “Nine Lives” from Sparkle Lounge clicks live only when we get past that silly twangy intro.  With that out of the way, it’s just rock and roll.  Better than the album counterpart.  At this point, we’ve come a long way without a ballad.  “Love Bites” is the first, and it’s a good version, even if it feels a touch understated.  Unfortunately, the cover tune “Rock On” from the Yeah! album closes this disc, and I wish Def Leppard never played it again.

Disc two opens with the acoustic ballad “Two Steps Behind” which the audience goes nuts for.  There are a lot of versions of this song out there in the Leppard oeuvre, so here’s another one!  From there, it’s a surprising acoustic version of “Bringing on the Heartbreak”, an unexpected variant.  It would be nice if there weren’t choruses where the audience sings, but it’s live.  Whatcha gonna do.  That’s part of the experience that doesn’t translate well to album.  Eventually it goes electric, and right into “Switch 625” which is automatically an album highlight.

A brilliant “Hysteria” is another album highlight.  It’s a hard song for this band to mess up.  They never do.  Always powerful, as ballads go.  A guitar-packed “Armageddon It” follows, and it’s a solid string of nothing but hits.  “Photograph”, “Sugar”, “Rock of Ages”, and “Let’s Get Rocked” continue the golden oldies.  Even “Let’s Get Rocked” cooks, which it doesn’t always.  Really cool guitar stuff happening here.

That’s the end of the main set, as there is a fade and an audio change.  It’s weird to get the Sweet cover “Action” at this stage of the game, but it does rock.  And that goes into “Bad Actress”, a really fast smoker from Sparkle Lounge that was a true return to form for the band.  These songs sound like an opening from another concert, but that’s it for the live stuff.  Onto the new!

This album features three new studio cuts, with one bonus track in Japan.  The first of these is the tepid “Undefeated”.  Yes it rocks, and yes it has some groove…but that “Cha!” vocal hook?  I dunno.  I just don’t know.  The Rick Savage ballad “Kings of the World” has a Queen-like sound.  We know Sav likes Queen.  This piano ballad is quite nice if a bit long.  The Queen-like qualities and bombast are its strengths.  In Japan, you also get the “different version” which is shorter and stripped down.  Not as impactful though.  The final new song, “It’s All About Believin'” has an upbeat staccato opening but then turns into a stock rocker.  Nothing special or particularly memorable.

Mirror Ball is somewhat disappointing as the “first” Def Leppard live album.  A few tracks sputter, and several could have been axed.  Worth buying, as there’s enough good here, but it might not get frequent spins in your deck.

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
  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)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live

Next:

41. iTunes re-recordings
42. Viva Hysteria

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)

 

REVIEW: Seagram Synth Ensemble – “Ephem” (2022 single)

SEAGRAM SYNTH ENSEMBLE – “Ephem” (2022 single)

How many formats do you own?  I know many of you own 8-track tapes, cassettes, CDs, different types of vinyl, DVDs, Blu-rays, and hybrids of said discs.  But do you own any music that comes self-contained in its own electronic box?  The Seagram Synth Ensemble’s new single “Ephem” only comes in this format, but it’s not that simple.  “Ephem” is more than a piece of music.  It’s a statement, an experiment, and an interactive art piece.

First let’s discuss the actual song “Ephem”.  Much like the group’s 2019 album No Moving Air, this track has an atmospheric though melodic quality.  A light beat backs up a couple of recurring and very enjoyable keyboard melody lines.  A sound like a flock of seagulls soaring overhead comes into play.  Things then get upbeat, and a nice fat bass synth sinks the hooks in.  The track builds with more fun melodic accompaniment, and then strips it all back to something like it was in the beginning.  It’s a great standalone song.


Learn more here in this extensive interview with Seagram Synth Ensemble

Here’s the catch.  You can plug in a battery and a pair of headphones, power up, and hit play to enjoy “Ephem”.  But you better pay attention because each time you play the song, it changes.  Like an old cassette tape, each play degrades the sound ever so slightly, almost like the wear and tear that comes with physical media.  Each time you press play, the track becomes slightly more distorted, thin, brittle.  Eventually it will deteriorate and become unplayable.  The point is to listen with intent, pay attention, and absorb the music.  Now, there is a reset function, which is awful nice of the guys, but they discourage using it.  At least that way you won’t be throwing your money away when it’s toast.  Don’t forget the whole point of it though.  To listen; to pay attention, because it will never sound exactly the same twice.  Every single time you play “Ephem” will be a unique experience.  Even the artwork on the box reflects this.

“Ephem” cost just $20 but is now sold out.  (A reissue is possible but not certain.)  Don’t expect these to turn up on the second hand market quickly.  And if it does, pray that it comes with the instructions so you can hear “Ephem” like it was brand new.

A+