rock of ages

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 1 – DVD & CD 1)

Part Forty-Two of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 1 – DVD & CD 1) (2013 Bludgeon Riffola)

In the long history of Def Leppard, one of the greatest things they did was go to Vegas and play all of Hysteria live in sequence.  Joe Elliott worked hard on getting his voice in shape to sing those old songs from 25 years before.  Hysteria was an album where every track was meant to be a potential single.  It’s really the most logical of any record, short of a concept album, to play live in sequence.

This review focuses on Disc 1, the Hysteria set.  The next review will cover Disc 2 and the “Ded Flatbird” set of rare tracks.

You already know Hysteria (or at least you better since we have reviewed it here three separate times).  You know every song is great (with the possible exception of “Excitable”) and you know how important this album was, and still is.  In the opening DVD intro, Joe stresses the importance of writing great songs.*  Hopefully you know every one by heart and can hear the differences.  Viva la difference!

Shirtless Phil Collen opens on a rising platform, playing the opening signature to “Women”.  The DVD looks fantastic, sharp and with great angles.  Rick Allen’s Hysteria kick drum lights up when he hits it.  And check out Joe’s cool Hysteria-striped mic stand.  The recording is also excellent with lots of separation between the guitars.  Dig Rick Allen’s union jack headphones, and check out Joe nailing that first scream before the solo.

“Rocket” has some impressive backing vocals.  The backdrop changes to a wall of TV sets, like the old music video.  The guitars slightly deviate from the album blueprint but only just.  Onto “Animal”, a reliable toe-tapper.  The pace changes with the first ballad “Love Bites” but it’s a natural place to slow it down.  Phil takes some different roads with his guitar parts, adding some new flavours.  The camera lets us see all of Rick Savage’s pedal work too, normally hidden by the stage monitors.  Vivian Campbell does a wonderful job of the classic Steve Clark guitar solo.

 

“Sugar” goes next, always a bit goofy live (if not in the studio).  It’s still an undeniable anthem and the smiles in the audience tell the story.  The backing vocals can be dicey but they are solid as a rock here, with Viv and Shirtless Phil doing the heavy lifting.  Viv takes the spotlight for the “Armageddon It” intro and we’re already halfway through.  There are times in the solo when the Irish axeman just bursts into grins at the Vegas experience.

At this point the lights go out, and old video footage from In the Round: In Your Face goes up on the screens.  It’s a Steve Clark moment, as “Gods of War” was one of his signature songs.  Steve’s unique intro plays before the band comes back live.  It’s almost seamless, as if Clark was there for a brief moment.  Joe Elliott really delivers on this song.

“Don’t Shoot Shotgun” is surprisingly fun, with live vocals instead of the layered and sequenced album counterparts.  Now that we’re on side two of Hysteria, Viv has shed his jacket and changed his colour palette from blue to red.  It must be said, the Irishman does an impeccable job of paying tribute to Steve Clark’s solos.

On the demanding “Run Riot”, Joe does the best he can with his voice at his age, but this is the first point of the show where it’s really noticeable.  Though he’s hitting the notes, the depth of grit and power can’t be matched.  And that’s fine.  That’s not a criticism, just an observation for the purposes of this review.

“Hysteria” is the centerpiece.  Majestic; magical, mysteria!  This version is as good as any other live version.  They always do it well.  But “Excitable” might the surprise.  Is it better live, stripped of the samples and loopiness?  It may well be.  It’s certainly harder.  Screamin’ Joe absolutely nails every high on this one.

Hard to believe we’re already there, but it’s the Hysteria album closer, “Love and Affection”.  Always one of those deep cuts that should have been a commercial single, “Love and Affection” rules.  Vocally, it too is very demanding and so the album version cannot quite be matched.  Close, though!  Very close.

Joe Elliott does not get enough credit.  As a singer, a songwriter, and just awesome human.  He does not get enough credit.

Encore?  Of course!  “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”; two essential songs from Pyromania.  They need to be there.  So there they are.  For deeper cuts, we’ll have to wait until Disc 2, the “Ded Flatbird” set (which is Def Leppard opening for themselves with a set of rarities).  As for the Viva! Hysteria portion of the package, it’s a completely satisfying disc.

As an unlisted extra, the end credits are to the tune of the 2013 re-recording of “Hysteria”.  A physical release, albeit DVD and not CD.

5/5 stars

 

* Some of this footage is recycled from the Visualize DVD, including Steve Clark interview material.

 

 

 

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)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings

Next:

43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 and DVD extras)
44. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
45. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
46. 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 – Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983

Part Eight of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review:  Pyromania deluxe (2009)

DEF LEPPARD – Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983 (2009 deluxe edition)

Leppard were riding high when they hit the L.A. Forum in 1983.  Pyromania was selling hot enough that every kid in the neighbourhood had heard at least one of its singles on the radio.  MTV was factoring in now, and its impact can’t be understated.  Leppard had some high budget and good looking videos on offer.  Their live show was just as impressive.

Widely bootlegged, the second night in Los Angeles must have felt like a victory lap, even though there were still months left on the tour.  They hit the stage psyched to perform.  Earlier, Frank Zappa phoned up to ask if he could score some tickets for his kids, Moon Unit and Dweezil.  Members of Van Halen and Heart were in attendance.  Best of all, Queen legend Brian May was in town, and he surprised  Leppard by playing them the twin guitar part of their hit “Photohraph” all by himself!

Remixed and remastered, the second L.A. show is now easily available on the Pyromania deluxe edition — the first official release of a live album with Steve Clark, although it did not come until 2009.

“Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” is a natural opener.  Since it already opened Pyromania itself, it was well suited, but its extended (taped) intro made for a dramatic band entrance.  Joe’s road-worn scream is employed to great effect.  Even so slightly faster than LP, “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” defined the mood.  Rock rock till you drop indeed!  Keeping with the “Rock” theme, “Rock Brigade” was locked and loaded for the second spot.  It sounds fresh with Phil Collen on lead guitar and backing vocals.  His solo is balls-out technical, and completely unlike those of Pete Willis.

Joe pauses to say “good evening”, and then it’s straight into “Saturday Night (High ‘N’ Dry)”.  This ode to getting wasted from 1981 is not a vast departure from the album version despite Phil amping up the guitar work.  Into “Another Hit and Run”, it’s pure adrenaline and foot on the gas pedal.  Screaming into the ether, Joe sings of youthful self-destruction.  It turns into a jam towards the end, before careening through the finish line.

“Billy’s Got a Gun” is one of those songs that can get a bit rickety live, but this version is solid.  The excellent “Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes” follows, and it’s very slightly revised to increase the tension.  Some won’t notice the differences.  As usual, the chorus kills.  It’s been all album cuts thus far, and no hits.  But then Joe invites Steve Clark to the spotlight to play an acoustic guitar solo, which becomes “Foolin'”, the first of the three massive hits rolled out in a row.  This might be considered the center of the show:  “Foolin'”, “Photograph” and (a slightly fast) “Rock of Ages”.  Each one a perfect gem, but with the live edge intact.  To take it over the top, a ragged “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”, Leppard’s other recognisable hit, is rolled out immediately after.  What do you do for an encore?  We’ll get to that.

“Switch 625” follows “Heartbreak” as it should.  With the hits behind them, Leppard spend the end of the set rocking really, really heavy.  “Switch 625” is already a steamer, but it’s followed by “Let It Go”, “Wasted” and an encore tease, and then “Stagefright”.  Clearly, this setlist was designed to rock!  “Wasted” in particular stands out from this trio.  Phil’s blazing solo technique adds that extra dimension to the song, but it is just as amped up and the best versions from the early years.

But “Stagefright” isn’t the real encore.

“Right, I said we got a surprise for ya.  And we have a big one at that.  Ladies and gentlemen, will you please welcome all the way from England — Queen’s Brian May!”

Queen were not on tour, but they were in Los Angeles recording their 1984 album The Works.  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!

There are no other live releases from the Pyromania era, and the band’s sound transformed permanently when they next hit the road.  This live album is the end of an era, and an excellent good time of it too.

5/5 stars

The Pyromania tour wrapped up 18 December in Dortmund Germany, another two-nighter.  Two weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, Rick Allen had the car accident that severed his left arm.  In a heartbreaking twist, the arm was reattached, but after an infection set in, had to be removed again.  This devastating tragedy united the band.  Ambulance-chasers were ready and waiting to take the drum stool away from Rick Allen, but the band refused to see it as the end for the drummer.  We all know what happens next.  It was total Hysteria!

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  • Hysteria

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – Pyromania (1983)

Part Seven of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review:  Pyromania deluxe (1983)

DEF LEPPARD – Pyromania (1983 Polygram)

Disruption!  Midway through the recording of Def Leppard’s crucial third album, guitarist Pete Willis was fired.  It had been coming for a while.  His alleged alcohol consumption was causing problems and the band had their eye on Phil Collen from Girl already.  They were lucky to get Phil, as he had already been approached about joining Iron Maiden to replace Dennis Stratton.

This was serious.  Once again working with “Mutt” Lange, whose schedule was booked solid, time was money.  And music, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a business.  The third Def Leppard album was critical.  The potential of the band was not underestimated.  “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” made the top 20 in the US and the new album was intended to do better.  Lange has a songwriting credit on every song, indicating the level to which he was involved to make the album as perfect as could be.  It took 10 months to record, a mind-numbingly long time to the young band.  If only they knew….

Pete Willis had writing credits on four songs, including two singles.  With rhythm guitars laid down on all tracks by Willis, Collen just needed to whip up a few solos and finish off some bits and pieces.  He and Steve Clark made a formidable duo.  Collen had a more schooled sound than Willis and the contrast added a new dimension to Leppard’s solos.  Meanwhile, the songs were streamlined.  Sleaker, more hooks per minute, more direct…more commercial.

Some feel this is where Def Leppard started to go over the cliff.  The majority probably see it as Def Leppard becoming the real Def Leppard.

The opening music would have been familiar to anyone who caught Def Leppard live in the early years.  “Medicine Man” was an early track with an absolutely killer Clark riff.  With Mutt’s help they re-wrote it into the now-esteemed “Rock! Rock! Till You Drop”, but that riff is still the main feature.  After the headbanging commences, a screamin’ Joe Elliott lays down one of his most raging lead vocals.  Collen’s style is audible from the solo; a fretburner.  “Rock! Rock!” isn’t really that far off from High ‘N’ Dry, but you can tell it’s spent more time at the polishing wheel.  The production also seems colder and more clinical.

The triumphant “Photograph” really showed where Leppard were going.  Sure there’s a riff, but the main features here are the vocal melodies and harmonies.  Noticeable keyboard accents de-clawed the Leppard, and the sweetened harmonies have the full-on Mutt Lange treatment that you hear elsewhere with Bryan Adams and Billy Ocean.  None of that is necessarily a bad thing, but this is where Def Leppard decidedly left the New Wave of British Heavy Metal behind them.  “Photograph” went to #1 in the United States.  Mission accomplished.

Track three, “Stagefright” opens with a faux-live intro and a biting riff.  Credited to Joe Elliott, Mutt Lange and Rick Savage, it’s surprisingly one of the heaviest songs.  Back then Joe’s voice could deliver both menace and melody simultaneously, and he does that here.

While not a deep cut (#9 US), “Too Late For Love” is a lesser-known classic.  No music video was made though they did a lip-synched TV appearance that later ended up on their home video Historia.  A dark ballad with edge, “Too Late For Love” has cool atmosphere and just the right amount of scream.

“Die Hard the Hunter” opens with synthesised war sound effects and a soft guitar melody that deceives into thinking it’s another ballad; but no.  This rocker burns hot, but damn those drums are really sample-y sounding.  Rick Allen had a better sound on High ‘N’ Dry, but of course the times were changing.  Eliminator by ZZ Top was out the same year.

One of the big singles (#9 US once again) is the undeniable “Foolin'”.  Mixing rocker and ballad formulas, it set a template for bands to attempt to copy on their way up the charts.  The stuttering chorus is now a Leppard hallmark, and not a second of the song is boring.

You can imagine, spending 10 months in the studio, how monotonous some tasks must be, take after take after take.  The simple act of counting in a band — one, two, three, four — must be tedious the hundreth time.  Perhaps the next time, to stave off boredom, it’s uno, dos, tres, quatro.  Then something else, language by language until finally you end up with “gunter, glieben, glauten, globen”, a nonsense phrase that sounds vaguely Germanic.  And suddenly, without knowing it, you’ve created a catchphrase.  At least that’s how it happened for Mutt Lange on “Rock of Ages”!

That’s the story of “Rock of Ages” (#1 US), one of Leppard most irresistible hits, and also one indicative of the shift in Leppard’s sound.  A very synth-y bassline and tech-y drums stamp out a a robotic 80s groove that was destined for radio and video stardom.  The chorus was even more potent.  “What do you want?” yells the band in harmony.  “I want rock and roll!” you respond, fist in the air.  It all seems very contrived, and perhaps it was.  Is that so bad?  Back then, it really felt like you had to fight for rock and roll.  It seemed every church and every politician wanted to neuter rock bands.  A good, defiant, radio-ready smash hit like “Rock of Ages” tapped into the 80s.

The killer deep cut here is called “Comin’ Underfire” which, had there been five singles, would have made a fine fifth.  Tapping into the angst and tension of earlier tracks like “Lady Strange” and “Mirror, Mirror”, this is nothing but awesome wrapped up in a taut chorus like a bow.  Steady, strong, and loaded with hooks.  Pete Willis had a hand in writing it, demonstrating the guitarist’s often overlooked value.

Another wicked deep cut is the terrifically fun “Action! Not Words”, which, if there was a sixth single… Anyway, the slippery slide-y riff is reinforced by a simple and effective chorus.  Let’s face it, there’s very little fat on Pyromania.

If anything, perhaps it’s the closing track “Billy’s Got a Gun” that might be the the only one that could be argued as filler.  Laid back and emoting a dangerous vibe, it’s less exciting than the preceding material.  It is, however, the closer, which has to draw the album to a proper close, and end it on the right vibe.  “Billy’s Got a Gun” does the job.  The album concludes with a song that feels like an ending, especially with that “bang bang” at the end.

A brief record-spinning coda is tacked at the end of the album for those who let it play all the way to the end.  It probably fooled a few kids into thinking their turntable was broken, as the record seemingly spins fast and slow, over and over.

There were no B-sides or bonus tracks recorded.  No extras, no unreleased songs.  Talk about having your eye on the prize!

Pyromania had broad appeal.  The numbers showed it.  It put Leppard in the big leagues.  To date it has sold 10 million copies in the US.  It was the end of obscurity.  The band toured relentlessly.  Though they did not release a live album, the 2009 Pyromania deluxe edition contains one from the L.A. Forum in 1983.  We’ll look at that next time.

5/5 stars

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  • Pyromania bonus disc Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983

#490: Sh*t LeBrain’s Mom Says

Thanks for joining me this week, for the week of Getting MORE Getting More Tale. I hope you enjoyed all five musical stories!

Monday – #486:  Dream Music
Tuesday – #487: All Apolologies
Wednesday – #488: Almost Cut My Hair
Thursday – #489: I Forgot To Remember To Forget
Friday – #490: Shit LeBrain’s Mom Says

CHEESE

I love my mom.  I have the best mom in the world!  That’s why I want to share these memorable mom quotes.  Let’s hear it for my mom!

1. One day we were at the cottage playing cards.  Someone cut a stinky fart.  My sister demanded to know who the cuplrit was.  “Who cut the cheese??” she asked.

“What cheese?” answered my mom.

 

2. Remember “More Than Words”? Extreme really broke into the mainstream with the standard-setting acoustic ballad. This is the one, more than any other acoustic ballad, that conjures the most images. My mom liked the song. She asked my sister and I who sang it.

“Extreme!” we answered simultaneously.

“Who’s Nick Streen?” she asked back.

3. My mom and dad just got back from a cruise. They excitedly told me about the different activities I would enjoy. Rock climbing, bumper cars, and lobster every night if I wanted it. “And they have special shows,” added my mom. “Like Rock of Ages.”

Doing my best to exaggerate the degree to which I was offended by this suggestion, I slowly turned my head to stare, and removed my glasses raising the eyebrows just so.

My mom caught my drift, but not why.

“Do you not know what Rock of Ages is?”

I answered matter-of-factly, “Yes I do, that’s not my point!”

“But it’s about rock!” clarified my mom.

My mother-in-law, who was also visiting at the time, knew what I was getting at.

“Your son is a music snob,” she said.  She turned towards me and quickly amended, “Or a music aficionado if you prefer.”  I smiled at her and laughed.   That was it exactly.

 

Thanks for being such a good sport mom!  Glad you enjoyed the trip.

Gallery: Def Leppard – Pyromania (India import cassette)

Aaron finds the weirdest stuff!  In a recent Box of Goodness that he sent me (including an awesome Thin Lizzy Thunder and Lightning reissue on vinyl) I found this.  It’s Def Leppard’s Pyromania (review here) on cassette, but not just any cassette.

The weird extra-thick and bendy clamshell case was the dead giveaway that this was something unusual.  A quick look at the sleeve reveals it’s an actual Vertigo release, but also an import from India!  Does anyone know if cassettes in India always came in these odd cases?  The cassette actually snaps into the case, and is held by two tabs.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  This version even has an oddly coloured Def Leppard logo, that I’ve never seen on anything else.

Pyromania had a max. retail price of 60 rupees. That’s approximately one US dollar today.

Even though the yellow price tag on the side says $2.99, Aaron got this for the princely sum of one Canadian dollar!  And now here’s the gallery of this strange oddity.

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Pyromania (deluxe edition, 24kt gold Ultradisc II)

Another one that I wasn’t happy with my original review for.  I redid this one, with loads of new pics.  Here it is:  Pyromania redux!

DEF LEPPARD – Pyromania (1983, 24kt gold Ultradisc II, 2009 deluxe edition)

Pyromania is one of those landmark albums that every melodic rock fan should own: Over 10 million copies sold, four classic hit singles, and a sound that at the time was so new and fresh that everybody took notice. This is before Rick Allen’s accident, before Steve Clark’s death, and before Def Leppard had any serious hits. Three would prove to be their lucky number when they set down to record their third album.

Pyromania is also the only Leppard album to feature a three-guitar lineup, in a sense.  Pete Willis was fired mid-way through recording, ironically for alcohol abuse, the same illness that would take Steve Clark 8 years later.  Phil Collen (ex-Girl, with Phil Lewis of the future L.A. Guns) was hired to complete the unfinished guitar rhythms and solos.  Willis’ rhythm guitar appears on all 10 tracks, making this his final Def Leppard album.

Girl, featuring Phil Collen and Phil Lewis

Girl, featuring Phil Collen and Phil Lewis

At some point in the 1990’s, Pyromania was licensed out to Mobile Fidelity labs, who used the original master tapes to create a 24kt gold “Ultradisc II”.  The discs are “custom pressed” (don’t know what that really means) on gold, because it doesn’t oxidize (IE, it’ll last longer).  Although the back cover states that “all liner notes, photos and artwork from the original LP are faithfully recreated”, this is not so.  All the Ultradisc comes with are the lyrics, and nothing else.  Not even a producer credit.  And the weird thing is, Leppard didn’t even print lyrics in their albums at the time.

The ultradisc comes in its own unique case seen below, and does sound tremendous, I can vouch for that.  Does it sound better than the remaster?  Hell, I don’t know.  I’m no audiophile.  They both sound good to me!  The 24kt gold is obviously collectible, which is why I still have it, even though I upgraded to the deluxe since then.

SAM_2504

The Ultradisc II’s unique case

Now, onto the deluxe.  This was freshly remastered. It brings the glory of Mutt Lange’s groundbreaking production to daylight. The liner notes (by one of my favourite writers, Rolling Stone’s David Fricke) reveal Mutt’s obsession: At one point the band were laying down entire chords one note at a time in order to get the right alchemy. Their goal was to create an album that nobody had made before, and they succeeded. (Hard to believe that they would pull off the same stunt twice, and do it again on Hysteria, as different from Pyromania as Pyromania was from On Through the Night!)

This landmark album contains no weak songs:  All 10 of its tracks were valuable use of precious vinyl.  It even filled the vinyl, a full 45 minutes, pretty close to the maximum afforded by the format.  From the melancholy apocalyptic riffage of the power ballad “Too Late For Love”, to the manic gallop of “Rock! Rock! (‘Til You Drop)”, this album is nearly flawless.  Album cuts like “Comin’ Underfire” (tied for my favourite on the album) and “Stagefright” stick to the brain like peanut butter in the mouth.  (“Too Late” is my other favourite.)

And that’s not including the hits:  “Rock of Ages”, “Foolin'”, and “Photograph”, all classics in their own right, which I certainly hope you already know by heart.  The combo of Def and Mutt had, by this point, gotten quite good at writing riffs with hooks, and the songs to go with them.  “Rock of Ages” has a life of its own now, radio will never let this one die.  “Photograph” was a mid-tempo pop rock classic, pointing the way to Hysteria, four years later….

Unlike the Hysteria and Adrenalize deluxe editions on the market, Pyromania has no B-sides.  There were no extra tracks lying around unreleased, and no B-sides available. The liner notes reveal that an 11th song was written, but not much else is known about it.

Instead, the bonus second CD contains an awesome sounding show from the Pyromania tour. It’s important to remember that no live albums or videos were released by Def Leppard until post-Hysteria, so this is the only live release featuring Rick Allen before his accident. Def Leppard sound absolutely ferocious. Joe Elliot’s voice is at its vocal-cord-shredding best, gargling glass like Brian Johnson possessed. Steve Clark and Phil Collen (the new boy) rip and shred on their guitars, and weave them into a wall of thunder (listen to “Switch 625”). The two Ricks, Allen and Savage, keep it rolling on the rhythm, steady as she goes. And then Brian May of Queen even shows up at the end for a CCR cover tune (with a surprise foray into Led Zeppelin)! Some of these songs have never been heard live on a CD before. Indeed, Leppard rarely play anything pre-Pyromania anymore.

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I mean, it’s always a treat to hear “Wasted”, isn’t it?  Combine that with some great tunage from High N’ Dry, such as “Mirror Mirror” and “Another Hit and Run”.  These are some of my favourite Def Leppard tracks anyway, and to hear them live in ’83 by a young and hungry band is really, really entertaining.

Pyromania being their third release, it would have been totally appropriate (and in hindsight very wise, considering the gap between albums) to release this concert as a live album back in the 80’s as the band buckled in for the very hard Hysteria recording sessions. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen. At least we get to hear it now!

5/5 stars

Pictured below:  the three versions I currently own.  The original LP, the 24 kt gold Ultradisc II, and the deluxe. 

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me / Rock of Ages 2012 (iTunes)

DEF LEPPARD – Pour Some Sugar On Me / Rock of Ages 2012 (iTunes exclusive single)

As the title suggests, Def Leppard have re-recorded two of their biggest hits, “Pour Some Sugar” and “Rock of Ages”.  This obvious move was made to capitalize on that new Rock of Ages movie that I have no desire to see.  Also, the songs coincide with a summer tour.

Apparently, you can’t get Def Lep’s studio versions on iTunes for contractual reasons with the label, and the band didn’t want to miss the window of opportunity afforded by the movie.  So they re-recorded both songs and put them up on iTunes.

These will never replace the original songs in any universe, but they’re actually not bad.  Both tracks are very, very close to the originals.  Knowing Def Leppard I am certain that this was intentional and done with surgical precision.  Aside from some additional guitar parts and sounds added to “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, the recordings are nearly identical.  This surprised me particularly on “Rock of Ages” since you don’t hear Joe do the high voice that often anymore.

For $1.29 a piece, I’m not going to complain too much.  I doubt I’ll listen to this very often, but the obsessive compulsive collector in me is glad to have these recordings.  I’d advise serious music fans to just buy the original two albums, Hysteria and Pyromania.  Both albums are loaded to the gills with hits so you can’t go wrong, plus I believe songs are best enjoyed in the context of the albums.

Having said all this, I hope some kind of limited edition physical release is forthcoming.  The collector in me would like that.

3/5 stars.

UPDATE:  According to Joe Elliot, there are more of these “forgeries” coming.

POUR SOME SUGAR