Viva! Hysteria & More

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Breathe A Sigh” (2 part CD single)

Part 5 of 5 in my series of Def Leppard Slang reviews! I do listen to feedback and this series basically came from Heavy Metal Overload wanting to know more details about what these singles had.  Ultimately I choose to write about what I want to listen to at that moment, but if you have any requests don’t be shy and leave a comment! 

Part 1:  “Slang”

Part 2:  “Work It Out”

Part 3:  “All I Want Is Everything”

Part 4:  Slang (2 CD edition of the album)

DEF LEPPARD – “Breathe A Sigh” (2 part Mercury CD single)

Regardless of its perceived lack of success, Slang did spawn four singles.  The fourth and final single was 1996’s “Breathe A Sigh”.  I remember seeing this at HMV Toronto with T-Rev back in 1997.  I looked at the singles, which were not cheap (around $15 each).  I analyzed the track lists and said, “All the bonus tracks are live.  I’ll come back for this another time.”

It took me 15 years to finally get these!  What I failed to take into account was how cool the selection of live tracks is.  Pyromania‘s “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” is up first on disc 1, less screechy than the beloved original but still on fire.  “Deliver Me” from the Slang album is next, which remains its only release as a live performance.  It’s a very 90’s sounding song, soft/heavy/soft/heavy.  The tremendously fun “Slang” itself is last, a song that has been revived for their Viva! Hysteria & More show in Las Vegas.

The second CD (available separately of course) had three more live tracks.  I believe I am well on record as holding the High N’ Dry album in very high esteem!  “Another Hit & Run” from that album is one of Leppard’s all time best heavy tracks, and it’s always welcome in the setlist as far as I’m concerned.  What’s amazing is that the Def Leppard that recorded High N’ Dry had two completely different guitar players and a drummer that had both arms.  They still own it when they play it, and it smokes.  Joe’s voice is noticeably lower.  Two Slang singles finish off the CD:  the ballad “All I Want Is Everything” and the rhythmic “Work It Out”.   Both songs are hit quality, although the energy level is noticeably lower here than the old classics.

I wonder if one of the big issues with Slang was that its darker sound didn’t translate well in concert.  With the exception of “Slang” itself, I wouldn’t describe these live versions as joyful affairs.

As for the song, “Breath A Sigh” itself?  At this point it was easily the softest song that Def Leppard had ever done.  They would later go even softer on the dreadful X album.  I enjoy its tasty R&B flavourings.  It was a cool choice as a single even if it didn’t go mega.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Slang” single (Souvenir Pack)

SLANG SINGLE

DEF LEPPARD – “Slang” (1996 Souvenir Pack, Mercury)

I think Slang is a great album, and I think I’m going to talk about it soon , as I’m on a bit of a Def Lep kick these days.  Yesterday I ripped this CD single, a 1996 “souvenir pack” with two bonus tracks and four post cards commemorating the band’s “Three Continents in One Day” concerts.  Vancouver was the last stop — look how tired Rick Allen must be in the photo.

CARDS 2

Slang, in many respects, was as forward-looking from Hysteria as Hysteria was from Pyromania.  It was a reset, a brand new way of doing things, more organic and modern.  Yet at the same time, even though it sounds nothing like classic Leppard, it still retains the impeccable attention to detail.  Production-wise, it’s not the same beast, but it’s still a beast.

“Slang” itself was a brave choice for a single, and it did alienate many old-school fans, at least where I was working.  Others dug it and got it.  It’s a fun song verging on rap-rock, but really, isn’t that OK?  Didn’t Def Lep kinda-sorta probe those waters with some of the singles from Hysteria?  Bottom line, it’s catchy, fun, has the Def Leppard vibe without sounding like anything they’d done before.  It’s a good song.  The fact that they played it live during Viva! Hysteria in Vegas is proof!

The B-sides on the single include a “strings and piano only” version of “When Love & Hate Collide”, perhaps the most overrated Def Leppard song ever.  I have so many versions of it, I really am not certain if this version is on anything else.  It does have vocals, and even a guitar solo despite the description!  This is just a remix with most of the instrumentation stripped off.

The other B-side is a really cool non-album track called “Can’t Keep Away from the Flame”.  It’s acoustic but upbeat and cool.  Production-wise, this is very basic compared to Slang:  acoustic guitars, vocals, shakers.  But it’s also really good, with a cool guitar part, totally memorable.  Since then, Leppard’s recorded a lot more acoustic music but for 1996 this was definitely a standout.

According to the price tag, I bought this at Dr. Disc in Kitchener Ontario in May 1996, for the princely sum of $13.99.  Money well spent, I have enjoyed these songs a lot over the years.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Hysteria 2013” (iTunes single)

HYSTERIA 2013

DEF LEPPARD – “Hysteria (2013 re-recorded version)” (iTunes single)

Just in time for their Viva! Hysteria & More tenure in Vegas, comes another re-recorded “forgery” (Joe’s words).  This one is really good.  It takes a bit to figure out which version it is, in fact.  Musically, you can barely hear any differences, although the production sounds slightly less shimmery and saturated.  A few guitar parts (probably Vivian) sound mildly different.  Vocally, you can slightly tell it’s not the same version, but what’s incredible is how much Joe Elliott 2013 sounds like Joe Elliott 1987.  I read that Joe spent a lot of time getting his voice into that shape again.

“Hysteria” has long been one of my favourite Def Leppard songs, probably since I first heard it.  I think it’s an incredible song, one of the best from this commercial phase of Def Leppard’s career.  Time stands still when I hear it.  An original version is always going to mean more to the real fan.  That’s just the way it is, that’s psychology.  These forgeries were designed so Leppard could sell their music on iTunes on their own terms (ie; make more money than the label was offering them).  It’s business — I have no problem with it.  For $1.29, I have an alternate version of this track.  I didn’t have to, I wasn’t tricked into it, and the song is clearly labelled as a 2013 re-recording.

Necessary for those who “have to own it all”, or those who want a quick easy cheap way of getting a studio version of the song online (like, say people downloading it for a wedding).  This will be of little value to anyone else.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Hello America” / “Good Morning Freedom” (single)

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HELLO AMERICA FRONT

DEF LEPPARD – “Hello America” / “Good Morning Freedom” (1980 Vertigo/Phonogram)

“Hello America” was the third of three singles from Def Leppard’s debut album, the first two being “Wasted” and “Rock Brigade”.  Like many kids in the late 80’s, I first heard the song “Hello America” on Def Leppard’s video anthology, Historia.  It was a weird video, with Rick Allen’s drums up front and the band in behind!  Nobody would ever say that this was one of Def Leppard’s all time best songs, but it’s catchy with a driving riff.  Joe Elliot hadn’t really found his voice yet.  This is standard hard rock, but not outstanding.  The guitar solo by Steve Clark is quite excellent.

Please note, Leppard’s first single for “Wasted” had an alternate recording of “Hello America” on the B-side.  This is not that version.  This is the standard album version.

The B-side, like the A-side, was produced by (Colonel) Tom Allom who had also produced Judas Priest’s British Steel around the same time.  “Good Morning Freedom” was not on the On Through the Night LP, however.  This is an exclusive track.  Just over three minutes long, “Good Morning Freedom” is a good song, much in the same vein as the rest of Leppard’s music at the time.  “Good Morning Freedom” (parsed as “Goodmorning Freedom” on the vinyl itself) is very New Wave of British Heavy Metal in style.  It almost sounds like an Iron Maiden B-side from the same period.  The track boasts a driving rhythm, rock-solid riff, but also another shaky Joe Elliot lead vocal.  Not an outstanding song, but most definitely collectible.  The tune is credited to Elliot, Clark, guitarist Pete Willis and bassist Rick Savage.  It’s notable for its Rick Allen drum intro.

Not a bad single, comes with a picture sleeve, and rocks harder than their later material.

3/5 stars

Def Lep playing “Good Morning Freedom” in Vegas as part of Viva! Hysteria