Released: 2005, Universal Music
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Going all the way back to the summer of 1988, I remember taking in Def Leppard on their gargantuan HYSTERIA tour (with Tesla opening) and, along with the rest of the packed house at Calgary’s Saddledome, being completely blown away by the light show, hit after hit and their novel “in the round” stage setup. HYSTERIA was a big part of my formative metal years and while some may dismiss the band as “pop rock,” no one was mightier than Def Leppard from 1983 through 1992.
Riding the wave of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal of the late 70s and early 80s, the Sheffield lads first two albums—1980’s ON THROUGH THE NIGHT and 1982’s HIGH ‘N DRY—envelop all the majesty of the NWOBHM movement with raw, tight riffing and meat-and-potatoes production. Following that, the band would enlist uber-producer “Mutt” Lange, who helped create two of the most successful albums of all time in 1983’s PYROMANIA and 1987’s HYSTERIA and shaped the band’s now-signature sound. Though less successful than its two predecessors, 1992’s ADRENALIZE, which seems hideously over-produced now, carried on the polished sheen and spawned several more hits. Unfortunately, the hits waned with the changing musical climate of the 90s and experimentation on 1996’s SLANG all but alienated their core fans. 1999’s EUPHORIA saw a return to the sound that sold millions but with a softer edge and 2002’s X explored the AOR side of the band.
With ROCK OF AGES: THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION, Universal Music has compiled an exhausting two-disc, thirty-five track set that, for the first time, covers the band’s twenty five career. Truth be told, there is not a single song missed here, although not exactly hits, per se, “Hello America,” “Lady Strange,” “Me & My Wine,” “Stagefright,” “Gods of War,” “Tear It Down” and “Day After Day” could have easily replaced some of the more obscure album cuts like the instrumental “Switch 625”” or “Billy’s Got A Gun,” for example, but that’s just nitpicking. Disc one is the “hits” disc mainly while the early and late-period tracks fill the second CD. The band’s instantly recognizable vocal harmonies is one of their trademarks and songs like “Too Late For Love,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock of Ages” exemplify this. As long-time fans of early 70s British pop/rock like Mott The Hoople, that influence is felt on tracks like “Heaven Is” and a new song, “No Matter What,” a Badfinger cover taken from their upcoming “covers” album later this year. Poor sequencing is evident on “Slang,” with its hideous rapped lyrics and drum machine that seems especially hokey next to the vintage track “Another Hit and Run” from HIGH ‘N DRY. The band tried to be modern on the SLANG record and failed miserably but included are two tracks from it, for better or for worse. The good thing about this collection is that there is no glossing over of the “lean years.” It’s here, warts and all, for new fans and completists alike. The 24-page booklet is chock full of information including track-by-track commentary from the band and loads of photos, too.
For around $12, ROCK OF AGES: THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION is a no-brainer. Every hit (a few misses, too) and some top-notch album cuts for padding will appease any long-time fan and as a starter set, one couldn’t do much better. Finally, I can ditch everything after ADRENALIZE and still have the good tracks from when the band eased into balladeers of soccer Moms everywhere with Aerosmith!
KILLER KUTS: Just look at the tracklist and pick one!!