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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)

 

#998: Yeah…Nah!

Part Thirty-Three of the Def Leppard Review Series

There comes in a time in many, but not all, bands’ lives.  Its a fan moment, not a band moment, but just as important.  It’s the point in time when a fan starts losing interest.  Every fan has their own reasons.  I can chart the trajectory of my own Def Leppard love on a graph.

In grades 10 and 11, when Hysteria was at its peak, Def Leppard were my favourite band.  I cut them some slack for the lack of anything truly new on Adrenalize, given what the band had endured to get there.  Slang was the spiritual successor to Hysteria, returning to musical experimentation and dramatic change.  But it didn’t catch on, so Leppard were forced to contrive a “return to roots” on Euphoria, which failed to resonate with me.  The X debacle with all the boy-band pretensions was a right turnoff.  Only on Sparkle Lounge did the trajectory start to return in the right direction.

But…it was not the same.  A trust had been broken.  The band that I had loved in highschool (when my previous favourite band, Kiss, made some dubious direction choices in the late 80s) had taken some serious detours over the years that left me unsure.  As much as Kiss had let the quality slide themselves, I had a hard time forgiving Def Leppard over X.  And I don’t think that feeling from the before-fore times ever really comes back.

The Taylor Swift thing was like a reminder.  “Def Leppard are going to do things that you don’t like much.”  Nothing against Taylor who has her own style of art.  There is an entire demographic of fans that are not going to listen to a collaboration with Taylor Swift.  Many of them are reading this now.  Meanwhile, there are fans who have delighted to one degree or another in every twist and turn in the Def Leppard discography.  And that’s fine too.  There is no right or wrong.  It’s only fair for you to know where the head of the reviewer is.  This is your disclaimer.

Because of my love for this band, I’ll always give them a fair shot.  I just won’t always care.  And that’s the big difference.  Def Leppard went from a band that I cared deeply about, to one that I was buying music from out of routine instead of passion.  Similarly, with these reviews, they are being written out of diligence and not a place of deep commitment.  It is becoming harder work, so beware!

Thanks to Holen for the inspiration

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

Next:

34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge

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

REVIEW: Def Leppard – X (Japanese import!)

This review is because of Rob Vuckovich, whom I like to describe as “one of the Jedi Masters who instructed me”.  Vuckovich complained that I rate everything so high.  That’s because, in general, I tend to write about things I like.  However just for Rob, I dug up an album that I hate.  Here you go.

DEF LEPPARD – X (Japanese import, 2002)

This was the lowest point for Def Lep. Writing with Max “Backstreet Boys” Martin? Screw that, man. The only sounds on this album that wasn’t filtered through a computer was the sound of Steve Clark rolling in his grave.

I mean, damn. Listen to “Unbelievable”. See what I mean?  That’s pop radio crapola written by not one, not two, but three pop uber-writers.

“Now” isn’t bad; it has some guitar on it, but what’s with the programmed opening? What’s with these drum machines? Why such a slow tempo and wimpy chorus? The best song is called “Torn to Shreds”, but even that’s a power ballad.

“Long Long Way To Go” has some nice acoustic work (and there’s a superior acoustic version on the Japanese import), but it’s otherwise one of the wimpiest songs in this band’s tarnished history.  Know why?  It too was written entirely by outside writers.

The Japanese import also has another bonus track, “Kiss the Day”, another slow and wimpy pseudo-rocker.  While not a bonus track per se, the official website used to offer a song called “Perfect Girl”, which is a better demo of “Gravity”.

Buy On Through The Night, not X.

1/5 stars.