Part Thirty of the Def Leppard Review Series
DEF LEPPARD – Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection (2005 Universal)
The Def Leppard’s Best Of released in the UK in 2004, North America followed suit in 2005 with Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection. We’re not going to comment on that “definitive” claim, but this new compilation covered a bit of ground that the UK version did not. With ten years and three albums since 1995’s Vault, it was a logical time to put out an updated collection. With the musical Rock of Ages hitting the stage in Los Angeles, everything seemed to be lined up for Leppard.
Disc One is much the same as Best Of and Vault. Same tracks in the same order with some slight variation. The big difference here is that Disc One closes on something very special: The High N’ Dry instrumental scorcher “Switch 625”. It was a side closer on High N’ Dry and so fits the role of ending Disc One very well. It’s the heaviest song on the disc by a mile, and the only one that was not a single somewhere. A brilliant surprise especially to those who didn’t know Leppard’s heavy side. This version fades in from “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” just like it did on album. Really, it’s a one-two combo.
Disc Two is a larger departure from that on Best Of. They both begin with “Rock Rock (Till You Drop)” and then diverge. Here, we carry on with a killer streak of early tracks from High N’ Dry and Pyromania. “Let It Go”, “High ‘N’ Dry (Saturday Night)”, “Too Late For Love”, all rifftastic tracks of Clarkian proportions. “Let It Go” isn’t on Best Of.
The key “bait” on these new greatest hits compilations was the inclusion of one new cover song. On Best Of, it was “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks. Here it is “No Matter What” by Badfinger, a truly poptastic inclusion that benefits from Leppard’s vocal prowess. According to Phil in the liner notes, the band started playing it live on the X tour and therefore decided to record it. With two great covers in the bag and on the shelves, we’d certainly expect the band’s forthcoming covers album to knock the socks off….
More great songs follow the Badfinger cover, beginning with the hit “Promises” from Euphoria which does deserve the spot. “Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” (which wasn’t on Best Of) and “Another Hit and Run” sandwich the hit “Women” from Hysteria. It’s just a constant stream of awesome. “Slang” follows, which although a great song indeed, sounds out of place next to these riff rockers.
The excellent ballad “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)” is a disc highlight. So is the early track “Rock Brigade”, a blazer from On Through the Night. “Now”, from X, could have been left off. It is however the only representation of the X album here. The superior “Long, Long Way to Go” was included on Best Of, but not here. Instead, we get a great epic track that was not on Best Of called “Paper Sun”. A universal favourite from Euphoria, it really deserved to be on a compilation of some kind. Then “Work It Out” from Slang is a modern sounding track that might not be heavy, but sure is worth uncountable listens over the years.
The closing trio of rockers are a delight. “Die Hard the Hunter”, “Wasted” and “Billy’s Got a Gun” are beloved Leppard non-singles that have been cherished by fandom for a long time. Particularly “Wasted”, likely the heaviest Leppard track of all time. It’s all riff! As for “Billy’s Got a Gun”, it gets the closing position that it should have had on Best Of. They got the running order right this time.
Similar to the UK Best Of, this compilation has ample photos and liner notes inside. The band track commentary remains, as does the opening essay. For overall listening, this is probably the better of the two.
- 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)