two steps behind

DVD REVIEW: Def Leppard – Visualize (1993)

Part Sixteen of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD –  Visualize (1993, 2001 Mercury DVD)

Perhaps a tad prematurely, immediately after Adrenalize had given all it had in terms of singles, Def Leppard released the spiritual sequel to 1989’s home video Historia.  That thorough collection of videos was composed of music from four albums, while Visualize only covered one (and a bit).  As such, this time they added interviews and interesting TV clips to fill out the run time.

Since Historia closed on “Love Bites”, it’s only fitting that Visualize opens with the next video, “Rocket”.  As far as cool 80s videos go, “Rocket” was a success.  It was even an educational slideshow of all Def Leppard’s musical heroes!  It’s also very very 80s, with lots of TV sets hanging about.

Then Visualize takes a different track.  The next big event in the lives of Def Leppard was a sad one:  the passing of Steve Clark.  He is commemorated with TV clips, interviews and an excellent all-Steve video for “Switch 625”.  Joe Elliott laments that all Steve had in his life was a guitar and a bottle, but at least he left something worthwhile behind — the music.

Interview tracks are interspersed between music videos.  Rick Allen discusses his drum kit and how he uses his left leg to do what he used to with his arm.  Then there’s a surprising video of a live Ben E. King TV performance, featuring his new backing band, Def Leppard.  “Stand By Me” is not the complete clip but enough to show you that Leppard could do it!  Rick Savage plays a strange 80s synth bass guitar, and Steve Clark was still with them.  Another partial clip, “Jean Genie” with Joe, Ronnie Wood and the Hothouse Flowers, is cool but just a snippet.  Same with an acoustic version of “Ziggy Stardust”.  Shame they couldn’t use the full tracks.  The origin of the track “From the Inside” is discussed with a short clip as well.

“Let’s Get Rocked” is opened by an amusing interview with Sav about filming in front of a blue screen.  Indeed, “Let’s Get Rocked” was a pioneering video, if terribly dated.  It’s also their only video as a four-piece band without Steve.  The next interviews address this — the hiring of Vivian Campbell.  His big debut was the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in early 1992.  His music video debut with the band was on the mediocre “Make Love Like A Man”.  Its gimmick was a big screen behind the band; pretty standard stuff.  The rarely seen “I Wanna Touch U” follows, with Leppard once again live in the round!  The fake crowd screams are distracting but the video is cool, if not triumphant.

The big ballad “Have You Ever Wanted Someone So Bad” has a gothic look, but oh so 90s in style.  The picture-in-picture (some colour, some black and white) look was overdone.  A small batch of interviews from the period are followed by “Tonight”, an excellent understated ballad.  The conceptual side of these videos was getting progressively foggy, but when they’re on the screen in start black and white, the band look cool.  “Heaven Is” was another rarely seen clip, and perhaps it’s better that way.  As always, the band stuff looks great but the conceptual shots are just bizarre.  Ditto “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)”.  Dunno what’s up with the naked people or Cliff Burnstein playing baseball with a window.  A true shame, as this semi-ballad is a Def Leppard masterpiece of a song, simply top drawer.  It deserved better.  When the video came out, I was so disappointed. “What have they done?”  We deserved better.

“Two Steps Behind”, “Love Bites” and “Photograph” are live, from a hometown gig in Sheffield.  More of the show would be made available on a 1995 home video release called Video Archive.

Finally, the future:  Joe says there’s a long long way to go, not realizing he just wrote a future Def Leppard hit song title!  Collectively, they were excited to write together.  Rick Savage says it’s “Phase 2”, and Joe Elliott employs another Star Trek analogy about exploring.  There was plenty of creative energy in the band and it’s obvious.  But don’t hit “eject”!  Stay tuned for the post-credit scene!  An important message from Joe.

Visualize was one of those sequels that just came too soon.  Interview material is valuable and desirable, but Historia played more like a visual album.  It was a better entertainment experience.  Visualize is choppier.  It wouldn’t matter so much if all the songs were complete, but the TV performances are just teases of complete tracks.  Unfortunate.

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

Next:

17. Vault / Limited Edition Live CD

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Retro-Active (1993)

Part Fifteen of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Retro-Active (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 2) (Originally 1993, 2019 remaster)

Like Hysteria before it, Adrenalize produced a wealth of riches in B-sides.  Between the two albums, they had enough B-side studio material to turn into an album compilation.  Tellingly, the final album called Retro-Active featured very different cover art, and a toned-down logo.  It was intended to be the ending of an era, and the start of a new one.  Guitarist Steve Clark was gone, replaced by veteran Vivian Campbell.  The grunge era was two years deep, and Leppard were about to change sonically.  In their minds they needed to “clear the decks” of old material so they could focus on the new.

What’s interesting about Retro-Active is that it is not simply a compilation of rare material.  Everything has been reworked to some degree — everything.  There are even two “new” songs, unfinished tracks with Steve Clark that were finally completed for this album.  We will take this album track by track and go over the changes made to the original B-sides.  (The printing on this 2019 CD reissue is so small, I had to pull out my original 1993 CD to read the notes.)

1. “Desert Song”.  A track begun during the Hysteria sessions but left unfinished without lyrics or vocals.  Joe finished the words in 1993, while Phil laid down guitar overdubs and Rick Allen re-recorded the drums.  Steve Clark is featured on the second guitar solo.  What’s surprising about “Desert Song” is how modern it sounds even though it was originally written in 1987.  A slow, heavy groove is melded with middle-eastern vibes for a dark winner.

2. “Fractured Love”.  Another from the Hysteria sessions.  You can tell the intro is of more recent vintage compared to the body of the song.  Joe’s vocals suddenly revert to the old screamin’ Elliott and it’s absolutely brilliant.  Drums were re-recorded in ’93, along with the new intro by Joe and Phil Collen.  Both these songs sound ahead of their times and well suited to the darker moods prevalent in the early 90s.  “Fractured” is choppy, intense and reminiscent of the old band while still sounding like a 90s song.  Steve Clark on lead guitar!

3. “Action”.  This Sweet cover originated on the 1992 “Make Love Like a Man” CD single.  Vivian Campbell had joined the band by this time and the track features some of his guitar work.  Like most of the tracks on Retro-Active, the drums were re-recorded by Rick Allen in 1993.  “Action” became a Leppard staple over the years, and as a rare fast/heavy rock singalong, you can hear why.  In fact, it was later released as a single, from this album!

4. “Two Steps Behind” (Acoustic Version).  As we’ll see, “Two Steps Behind” exists in a number of different versions.  The demo was electric.  The first version released appeared on “Make Love Like a Man” as a purely acoustic song with no drums.  The second release had strings added by Michael Kamen for the Last Action Hero soundtrack, and that version was released as its own single.  The version on Retro-Active is the popular Kamen single mix.  This was Leppard’s very first acoustic song and it opened new doors for the traditionally hard rocking band.

5. “She’s Too Tough”.  Helix recorded this Leppard outtake themselves for 1987’s Wild in the Streets.  From their version, you could hear the song deserved wider renown.  Def Leppard released their finished version on the single for “Tonight” in 1993.  The drums were re-recorded for Retro-Active but there were no other changes made.  This blitz of a rocker features the screamin’ Joe voice and all the adrenaline you can handle (and was missing from Adrenalize).

6. “Miss You In a Heartbeat” (Acoustic Version).  This is actually a piano version of a song that exists in many forms.  It was first recorded by Paul Rodgers and Kenney Jones as The Law in 1991.  For that band, it was a low-charting single.  It faired better for Leppard themselves, who released it as a single A-side themselves in 1993.  This quieter version features a stunning acoustic guitar solo by Phil Collen.  There are many, many versions of this song, as you will see as we proceed through this series.  (And this album!)

7. “Only After Dark”.  The Mick Ronson cover was first released on the “Let’s Get Rocked” single.  Both Vivian and Phil added guitar overdubs for the Retro-Active version.  The additional guitar depth is noticeable.  Leppard are so good as these kinds of glam rock songs.

8. “Ride Into the Sun”.  From the very first EP, and then re-recorded on the “Hysteria” single.  Could this be the fastest Def Leppard tune?  It’s certainly among them.  Also ranks highly among the heaviest, and best, of Def Leppard!  Rick re-recorded the drums, and for some reason Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople added a honky-tonk piano intro.  The “studio talk” at the end of the song has also been trimmed off.  Sonically, this could be the best sounding version of “Ride Into the Sun”, though the preferred will always be the “Hysteria” B-side.

9. “From the Inside”.  Originally released as part of a three-song session with Hothouse Flowers on “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad“.  Billing themselves as “Acoustic Hippies from Hell”, Leppard were really leaning into their acoustic side!  The song originated as a TV broadcast on a program called Friday at the Dome with Joe Elliott and Liam Ó Maonlaí.  The only modification made to this version is that the count-in at the start has been deleted.  Leppard fans may be surprised by the tin whistle but it’s not too much of a stretch.  The bleak song is about the dark side of addiction.

10. “Ring of Fire”.  Dipping back into the Hysteria B-side collection, “Ring of Fire” has a new intro.  The drums were re-cut and backing vocals thickened up.  It’s one of two Mutt Lange co-writes on the album and stands as one of Leppard’s harder rockers from the era.  An excellent track, “so stick around and settle down, enjoy the mystery.”

11. “I Wanna Be Your Hero”.  From the “Animal” EP, this is the second Lange co-write on Retro-Active.  With new drums added, here it stands as one of the highlights among many highlights.  The track should always have been on Hysteria.  Combining ballad and rocker into one meaty package, “I Wanna Be Your Hero” is a stone cold Leppard classic.

12. “Miss You In a Heartbeat” (Electric Version).  Nothing was overdubbed or re-recorded for this track, but the opening fades out of “I Wanna Be Your Hero”, meaning it is still different from its original B-side release on “Make Love Like a Man”.  Another stone cold Leppard classic.  A majestic electric ballad with layers of Phil’s sweetest guitars and backing vocals.  A masterpiece.

13. “Two Steps Behind” (Electric Version).  Previously unreleased.  Joe’s original backing track was fully Leppardized with all the band members including Vivian.  This gives you an idea of how the song was originally envisioned before it took its better known acoustic guise.  The acoustic version is more original, but this one does boast a big huge Leppard chorus.

14. Unlisted bonus track!  “Miss You In a Heartbeat” (Acoustic, Acoustic Version).  This third version of the ballad is the softest.  It is the piano-based version, but without the backing band.  Just Joe, the piano, and Phil on an acoustic guitar solo.  A nice surprise.

There are more demo versions of these songs on the B-sides of singles, that we will get to when we arrive at the appropriate disc in the CD Collection Volume 2.

As it turns out, Retro-Active was not entirely the clearing of the vaults we thought it was.  There was still one more song with Steve Clark unfinished.  One more compilation to release.  The future was on the horizon, but the past had to be dealt with first.  Which doesn’t diminish Retro-Active in any way.  Where there is repeat of tracks, it is justified by the versions being completely different in tone and direction.  It plays like a “new Def Leppard studio album” to the layman, but a compilation of the deepest cuts to the faithful.  Cuts that have been freshened up and don’t repeat the exact B-sides in their collections.  A win/win.

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

Next:

16. Visualize DVD

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Two Steps Behind” (1993 CD single)

This is the sixth and final part in a series on singles from Def Leppard’s Adrenalize era, including hard to find B-sides!  This is a bit of a “bonus” review, since this song wasn’t actually on Adrenalize!

DEL LEP SINGLE_0014DEF LEPPARD – “Two Steps Behind” (1993 Phonogram)

From a B-side to an A-side in its own right, “Two Steps Behind” has seen more releases than most Def Leppard songs. Sure, it’s significant that it was Def Leppard’s first acoustic song, but it’s really not that exciting.  When Arnold Schwarzenegger comes a-knockin’ and says “I need a rock band to give me ballad for my new movie” in that threatening Arnie voice of his, nobody’s going to refuse him.*

However it unfolded, “Two Steps Behind” was selected for the Arnie turd, Last Action Hero in 1992, next to bands such as AC/DC, Alice in Chains and Megadeth.  In comparison to the aggressive contributions from them, Def Leppard’s track seemed hopelessly behind the times.  It still charted in the US, going to #5.  It was spruced up with strings courtesy of Michael Kamen, and was given a high-budget music video.

This single falls between two albums.  Visually, the cover art recalls the prior Def Leppard singles with its yellow and red lego, but features the photographic style that the Retro-Active singles would sport.  Since it cleans up a few B-sides from the era that didn’t carry over onto Retro-Active, I’ve decided to include it here.

The first B-side is a “warts and all” acoustic version of “Tonight”.  This was later released on the deluxe Adrenalize as the “Sun Studios version”.  In many regards, it’s as good as the original.  Perhaps it’s even better, with its sparse but rich sound.  Without the layers of a typical Def Leppard recording, the song breaths like never before.

The final track on the single (and this series!) to discuss is “S.M.C.” which is still unavailable anywhere else.  Unfortunately it is only 1:14 long.  Written and performed solely by Collen, it is a pretty acoustic instrumental track.  Jaunty and light, it sounds classical in vibe.  Leppard fans would be well advised to seek out this single, to add this brief guitar workout to their Leppard libraries.

4/5 stars

* I’m not sure that this is exactly how it played out, but it could have!

DEL LEP SINGLE_0015

Adrenalize singles:

Part 1:  “Let’s Get Rocked”
Part 2: “Make Love Like a Man”
Part 3: “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”
Part 4: “Heaven Is”
Part 5: “Tonight”
Bonus Part 6: “Two Steps Behind”

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Make Love Like a Man” (1992 CD single)

Part two in a series on singles from Def Leppard’s Adrenalize, including hard to find B-sides!

DEL LEP SINGLE_0003DEF LEPPARD – “Make Love Like a Man” (1992 Phonogram CD single)

For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why this song from Adrenalize was ever chosen as a single, let alone the second one.  As stated in my album review, it “sounds like a hard rock version of a Shania Twain hit”.  No thank you.

Def Leppard singles are always exciting for collecting B-sides, but “Make Love Like A Man” was the first one to include three brand new songs. Each one was completely different from the other, while remaining of very high quality.

First up is a not-cover of “Miss You In A Heartbeat”, originally recorded by Paul Rodgers’ band The Law. Phil Collen wrote it, but The Law was first to release it in 1991. Atmospheric, moody, but bright, it was a worthy successor to the lofty heights of Hysteria.  It’s superior to some of the songs that made it to Adrenalize, and it’s certainly better than its own A-side.  In fact, a bare piano version was later as released as a single in its own right, supporting Retro-Active in 1993.

Next is cover of The Sweet’s “Action”. This is the original mix.  The one on Retro-Active has re-recorded snare drums and possibly additional backing vocals.   Leppard have played this one live, steadily for years.  It fills the niche of a solid rocker with a solid riff needed on this otherwise fairly mellow single.  Like “Miss You In A Heartbeat”, it too was released as a single in 1994, but with the re-recorded drums.

“Two Steps Behind” was the band’s first ever acoustic recording, a trend picking up at the time. It was a bit of a throw-away at the time, with a sparse unadorned arrangement and a pleasant but ordinary melody.  However, it too was released a single as well!  It was chosen for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero soundtrack, and had strings added courtesy of Michael Kamen.  Once again this is the original version and the first to feature “new guy” Vivian Campbell!

In the context of 1992, this was a pretty special single.  Viv’s first Leppard recording, Lep’s first acoustic foray, and some quality tunes ensured solid play time that summer.  A-side aside, this was Leppard’s most satisfying single for the dollar yet.

4/5 stars

DEL LEP SINGLE_0004

Adrenalize singles part 1:  “Let’s Get Rocked”

Up next:  “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Acoustic Medley 2012” (iTunes single)

Acoustic Medley

DEF LEPPARD – “Acoustic Medley 2012” (iTunes single)

Def Leppard have released the second in their series of iTunes re-recordings.  The first, a double single of “Pour Some Sugar”/”Rock of Ages”, was a pretty straight “forgery” (to use Joe Elliot’s phrase).  The second, entitled “Acoustic Medley 2012” is exactly what it sounds like it would be.  Apparently, Leppard were playing this medley live, and decided to commit a studio version to tape.

The songs in the medley are: “Where Does Love Go When It Dies”, “Now”, “When Love and Hate Collide”, “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”, and “Two Steps Behind”.  Total time:  7:32.  The first two songs in the medley, I give Def Lep full points for.  I’ve always been a sucker for the Slang album, so to hear something from Slang again, is just…wow.  Maybe this is being done to pre-hype the Slang deluxe edition due 2013, eh?

“Now”, and the X album in general I’ve never been a huge fan of, as I made clear in my review.  I give the band credit for putting “Now” back out there, since they rarely touch that album anymore.   I’m all for obscure material being resurrected.

The other three tunes in the medley are a bit ho-hum, but taken as a whole it’s incredible how well they all work together.  “Two Steps Behind” gets the majority of time in the medley, a song that I really never need to hear again.  It’s pretty much identical to the standard version from the Retro-Active CD.

As mentioned, this is an iTunes-only release, but I’d love to see a physical product.  Limited edition vinyl?  I would buy that.  Are you listening, Joe?

4/5 stars