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 Dementia. Def 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.
- The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night
- The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
- The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
- The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
- The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings
- The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
- Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
- Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
- In The Round In Your Face DVD
- “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
- Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
- Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
- Video Archive
- “Slang” CD single
- I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
- Rarities 2
- Rarities 3
- Rarities 4
- Cybernauts – Live
- Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
- Best Of (UK)
- Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
- Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
- Yeah…Nah! (Record Store Tales)
- Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
- “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
- Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
- Yeah! II
- Yeah! Live
- Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
- iTunes Re-recordings
- Viva! Hysteria (DVD and CD 1)
- Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 and Bonus features)
- Viva! Hysteria (Japanese import)
- Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
- “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
Next: Thanks for reading!