Songs From the Sparkle Lounge

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

Part Thirty-Seven of the Def Leppard Review Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.5/5 stars

 

Previous:  

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

Next:

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

 

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

Part Thirty-Six of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original ReviewCMT Crossroads (2009)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.5/5 stars

Previous:  

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

Next:

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

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – “C’Mon C’Mon”(2008 12” picture single)

Part Thirty-Five of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original Review “C’Mon C’Mon” (2008 12″ picture single)

DEF LEPPARD – “C’Mon C’Mon” (2008 12″ Mercury picture single)

We haven’t reviewed many actual Def Leppard singles in this review series.  Why?  Because we reviewed the CD Collection box sets in detail instead, which do an excellent job of collecting all the albums and B-sides from specific eras.  This picture disc for “C’Mon C’Mon” from Songs From the Sparkle Lounge is one single for which the B-side has yet to be issued in box set form.

The B-side in question is a live version of “Rocket” from an unknown place and time.  What we do know is this:  It’s not a pipsqueak edit version from a live album.  This is a full-on 10 minute recording with all the extended bells and whistles.

Opening with the usual backwards vocals (“We’re fighting for the gods of war” in reverse), “Rocket” is a Rick Allen vehicle.  It’s endurance.  The drums are a main feature, but Screamin’ Joe Elliott doesn’t take a back seat to anyone.  Still, by the 3:30 mark it’s the Rick Allen show.  Soon he’s accompanied by Rick Savage on bass, before the guitar solos begin.  Phil Collen goes first followed by Vivian Campbell, in a call & response series of licks.  Together the two weave notes and squeals into a tapestry of cool, with Vivian going full metal into speed and tapping.

Around 7:50, Joe surprises the crowd by going into “Whole Lotta Love”.  “You need coolin’, baby I ain’t foolin’,” with guitars that replicate what Jimmy Page might have done had he been on stage that night.  Back into “Rocket” for the finale, the whole thing works from start to finish as if it wasn’t 10 minutes long but maybe half that.  A valuable B-side for your collection, just spectacular stuff.

The A-side is hit or miss.  “C’Mon C’Mon” was in the vein of that “Pour Some Sugar” sound, ultimately derived from Gary Glitter.   It’s…well, to overuse a phrase, “it is what it is”.  Def Leppard are always going to have this kind of song in their repertoire.  It’s not bad, just nothing new.  Performance-wise, Rick Allen is once again a champion.  The guitars have a really sweet crunch.  It’s a great sounding single, just an unnecessary direction to keep toiling away at.

3.5/5 stars

Next:  Leppard goes country with…yes, we’re at that point now…with Taylor Swift.

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

Next:

36. CMT Crossroads (DVD with Taylor Swift)
37. B-Sides
38. Yeah! II
39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (2008)

Part Thirty-Four of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original Review Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (2008)

DEF LEPPARD – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 3) (Originally 2008, 2021 remaster)

Finally!  Three misfires in a row (Euphoria, X, Yeah!) and Def Leppard finally had a new album that rocked and was worth listening to again.  While imperfect, the badly-titled new album Songs From the Sparkle Lounge really felt like an actual effort this time.  With the exception of one credit on one song, everything here was written by Def Leppard and only Def Leppard.  And — hallelujah! — no ballads.  What a refreshing turn of events.  A lot of the album was written and recorded on tour.  It seemed like Def Leppard were really listening to the fans who said “We’re tired of pop and ballads.  Please, write us a rock record again like you used to.”

We mostly got it.

Of course, in the press Leppard exaggerated as they often did, comparing the album to High ‘N’ Dry, AC/DC, and Led Zeppelin.  And so, the fans knew not to get their hopes up too high.  The album rocked, but not like that.  The standard version of Sparkle Lounge was a tight eleven tracks, just under 40 minutes.  No bloat.  But let’s get to the elephant in the room first.

When discussing this album, dissenters often point to track 2, the first single “Nine Lives” as the main offender.  As a collaboration with Tim McGraw, it reeks of terrible offences committed by Bon Jovi earlier in the decade.  In order to find new success, too many rock bands went to Nashville for fresh names and influences.  Fortunately, Japanese fans were able to buy a version of the album including the song without Tim McGraw, and just Joe Elliott ripping the lead vocals.  That is definitely a preferred experience.  McGraw’s voice makes it sound…not like Def Leppard!  The two worlds simply do not mesh.  Fortunately “Nine Lives” is not a country song, but a hard rocker with a slight twang in the electric guitars.  It’s actually a pretty good song, when you edit Tim out.  So there’s that.

However, opening Songs From the Sparkle Lounge is a song you can only describe as “real” Def Leppard!  Combining the loopy vibe of the Slang era with the riffiness of Pyromania, “Go” is out of the gates on the right note.  It slams.  Heavy, modern, guitar-heavy and hooky without pandering to trends.  It merely combines some of Leppard’s best and heaviest ingredients in a modern way.  The only critique would be the title.  “Go” is a word that Leppard overuse.  “Go”, “Let’s Go”, “Gotta Let It Go”, “Let It Go”…just too much “going” on!

After “Go”, you have to sit through the Tim McGraw song before we’re back to tunes with integrity.  The glam rock “C’Mon C’Mon” was in the vein of that “Pour Some Sugar” sound, ultimately derived from Gary Glitter.   It too was a single (to be discussed next time) and sits comfortably in the Hysteria-style box.  Not exactly like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin as Joe claimed, but not a bad track if a bit too much like a sequel.

“Love” written by Rick Savage was an important tune and surprisingly the longest at 4:17.  It’s the one that they called “not a ballad” and you can get where they were coming from.  Yes there’s a soft acoustic intro but the song is bigger and more dramatic than the average ballad.  A big heavy chunky section rises towards the end.  The acoustic version on the Japanese release could fairly be pigeonholed as a ballad, but the standard album cut it more like Leppard meets Queen.  Freddie and the boys seem to be the biggest influence on “Love”, especially vocally.

Phil Collen wrote “Tomorrow” which is one of the most pop of the tunes, sort of in an Adrenalize mold.  The chorus is solid and there’s a nice guitar part to bite into.  Not a highlight but not a throwaway.  Just a good hard rock tune that sounds great in the car come chorus time.

Vivian Campbell contributed the low groove of “Cruise Control”, whose bassline is the main feature, rolling and churning beneath the song.  Interesting tune with some truly great and adventurous guitar playing from Viv.  Playing for feel and not speed.  But the band reverts to their standard form again on the uptempo rocker “Hallucinate”.  Though the hooks sound like you’ve heard ’em all before, they’re all welcome to return on this great track.

Another solid song, “Only the Good Die Young”, boasts some mellotron that always seems to recall the Beatles.  Not a constituent part of the average Def Leppard rocker, but an enhancement that works well here.  Joe ever references a “diamond in the sky” so it’s probably not coincidence.  A good tune made better by stepping just slightly outside the box without destroying the box.

Joe’s “Bad Actress” is by far the hardest rocker on the album, going full speed ahead to a place that Leppard had not gone in many years.  Pure heavy and reckless rock, pedal to the metal, just givin’ ‘er as much as there is in the gas tank.  This, yes this, is what fans had been begging for!  Something that really drives but still sounds like Def Leppard.  Something that wouldn’t have sounded too out of place in the early years.  Finally, we got “Bad Actress” out of them!

The penultimate track “Come Undone” slows it back down to a deliberate 90s pace.  Decent album track, but might have been considered filler in an earlier age.  Unfortunately, it’s just one of those easy to forget second-last album tracks.

Fortunately, Leppard saved the best track for last:  “Gotta Let It Go”, which rocks so hard on the chorus that it might just rip your head off.  This Vivian contribution opens with deceivingly soft drum programs before absolutely exploding on the epic chorus.  It’s a brilliant slice of songwriting from the Irish rock wizard, and the way the lead and backing vocals overlap on the chorus is just the kind of thing Def Leppard do so exceptionally well.  An absolute triumph that leaves a sweet taste in the mouth when the album is complete.  This kind of closer invites repeat listens.

Sparkle Lounge ends as it began:  rocking.

Fortunately for Def Leppard, a young American fan of both them and Tim McGraw was hitting brand new heights in her fresh solo career.  At just 19 years old, she was born while Def Leppard were still the biggest rock band in the universe.  So, leaning even further into country music, Def Leppard would gain a lot of attention from a new younger crowd thanks to their big fan Taylor Swift.  It seemed a strange move for Leppard to make while they were just starting to rock again, but we’ll discuss the Swift collaboration in a future instalment.

Though Songs From the Sparkle Lounge does contain some fillers and some cuts that fail to stick in the memory, there are no outright “deletes” except arguably the McGraw track.  It doesn’t even fit with the vibe of the album.  The Leppard version should have been in the main album sequence, with the McGraw version as a bonus track and single in special markets.  Guaranteed, this album would be better remembered if that was the case.

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

Next:

35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (12″ picture disc)
36. CMT Crossroads (DVD with Taylor Swift)
37. B-Sides
38. Yeah! II
39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (Japanese import)

For Aaron’s KMA review of this same album, click here!

DEF LEPPARD – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (2008 Deluxe edition, Japanese version)

Could it be? The band who I once wrote off with the Euphoria album, followed by the dismal X, actually came back with something approximating a rock album! And not a bad rock album at that!

The band say that doing the covers album Yeah! revitalized them. Maybe. Personally I thought the covers album sucked, and that the dozen or so bonus tracks available elsewhere were way better than the actual album they released. Whatever. That was then and this is now, inside the Sparkle Lounge.

Terrible title, although I liked the single-disc cover art quite a lot. We know Def Leppard are more of a glam band than a metal band. The problem is, they were such a great metal band! High ‘n’ Dry is a masterpiece of riff-rock. Anyway, if you can forget High ‘n’ Dry, On Through The Night, or even Pyromania, you can get into Sparkle Lounge for what it is: A strong ballad-free return for one of the most beloved rock acts of the last two decades. Even Joe Elliot decided to show up this time, and sing to the best of his ability.

Very few weak tracks, lots of strong ones. “Go”, “Love”, “Hallucinate”, “Tomorrow”, “Only The Good Die Young”, “Bad Actress”…there is some serious fire happening here on these tracks! But the band saved the best new song for last. “Gotta Let It Go” has a riff and melody that fit right in with Def Leppard’s earlier sound. Only the occassional drum programs betray the thunder.

One song that I would call a weak track is the single “C’Mon C’Mon”.  In my review from the 12″ vinyl single, I called it a “crap song”.  It’s a shameless T-Rex rip-off, and also a Def Leppard rip off.  Next!

Japanese bonus tracks are disappointing in the sense that they are not different songs, just different mixes. “Nine Lives” appears without Tim McGraw (this is my preferred version as nu-country is like kryptonite to me and would probably kill me if I was overexposed). “Love” appears as a powerful piano version, in some ways superior to the original, but turning it into a ballad dilutes the purpose of this album.

I have no comments as to the SHM-CD. It sounded the same to me. I guess these things are supposed to last longer? The DVD includes the music video for “Nine Lives” (yuck), an album commentary and a “behind the scenes” feature.  For me, the all-region NTSC DVD contents and the lacklustre packaging don’t really  justify the existence of a “deluxe edition”.

So, whatever went right, this is the best Def Leppard album since the criminally underrated Slang in 1996. It could be the heaviest album since Pyromania. It’s far from perfect, but the good news is you can play it in the car with the windows down and nobody will laugh at you.

3.25/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “C’Mon C’Mon” (12″ picture single)

It’s the end of the WEEK OF SINGLES 2! Hope you enjoyed! I thought I’d save a recent and expensive acquisition for last.

Monday: Dream Theater – “Lie” (CD single)
Tuesday: Jimi Hendrix – “Valleys of Neptune” (7″ single)
Wednesday: Them Crooked Vultures – “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” (10″ single)
Thursday: Megadeth – “Creepy Baby Head” (“Crown of Worms” CD single)
Friday: CD Singles (of every variety) featuring T-Rev

DEF LEPPARD – “C’Mon C’Mon” (2008 12″ Mercury picture single)

This one was a gamble. It was not cheap to ship. All I had to go by was the non-descript B-side “Rocket” (Live). No indication of where or when. It could have been the live version previously released on the “Rocket” single back in ’88. Or more likely, it could be the live version later released on the Mirrorball CD. On that disc, recordings are noted as “Recorded at various points around the world, in the not so distant past.” Thanks for the specifics guys.

I don’t know what prompted me to hit the “buy” button given the uncertain B-side and price.  Maybe it was instinct.  Maybe it was that Mrs. LeBrain was out of the house.  Either way, in a couple weeks I had this rare 12″ picture single in my hot little hands.

Unfortunately it’s not much to look at: a Def Leppard logo on a black background.  On the other side…the track listing on a black background with a grey clover leaf!  Somebody at Mercury Records had no concept of what a picture disc can be!

Anyway, music trumps packaging. I don’t care about the A-side. It’s a crap song, let’s be honest. It’s Def Leppard trying be T-Rex for the umpteenth time. I care about the B-side. Upon first listen it was immediately obvious that this is an otherwise unreleased live version of “Rocket” and a great one at that. Unlike the mere 4:29 version on Mirrorball, this one is the fully extended version that Def Leppard sometimes play.

This extended performance of “Rocket” features an excellent Vivian/Phil guitar duel. At one point, Viv is positively in “Holy Diver” territory. It’s brief but it’s there and it’s unmistakable. This series of solos demonstrates one of the things I love about the guitar players in Def Leppard: they can shred when they want to! Then, after a brief segue, Joe Elliot breaks out “Whole Lotta Love” just as he did on the ’88 live version.

For the B-side:  5/5 stars
For the A-side and picture disc: 2/5 stars
Average: 3.5/5 stars