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DEF LEPPARD - The Best Of   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Saturday, 23 October 2004

Do ya wanna get rocked? Open up the vault then!

Let's be honest. I love Def Leppard. One of the formative bands of my teenage years, they were everything my 16 year old needed. Loud shiny guitars, loud shiny choruses, and just a hint of rebellion enough to sit in with the other bands which rock n rolled my life back then. Iron Maiden. Guns N  Roses. Motley Crue. Poison. Bands with big guitars, big choruses and big hair. Especially the Hair.

Now all those bands are still ploughing on, after numerous line up changes, the reformation tours, playing all those songs from those days. All except Def Leppard, and the reason? They never split up. Therefore they never reformed. They never could have the big  reformation tour  hype; and therefore they could never have a come-back, because they never went away.

All this puts them in a difficult position, especially with the record company. Gone are the glory days of selling 10, 12 or even a paltry 7 million per album off the block - as Pyromania, Hysteria and Adrenalize did, respectively. Now they are lucky to peak at about 2 million an album, bought by an existing fanbase. Most record companies would kill to have a band who can sell 2 million everytime with a minimum of publicity and promotion; that's as many as the Stereophonics sell, and look at the number of pages they get. Very simply, Def Leppard are in many ways a self-sustaining money machine for the record company, which makes this even more bizarre.

It simply comes down to politics: Their last album X was the last one for their current record company, apparently, and the record company in the US only pressed out 200,000 copies to sell (as many as Hysteria was selling a week at its peak). People would walk into stores trying to buy it and finding it was unavailable for weeks on end. Off contract, with a new album of covers announced and recorded and then cancelled, being put back in the can, what purpose can this serve? Except to re-establish the band's back catalogue, put them back in the public eye and give them a better deal with the next record company.  No wonder apparently the band themselves are less than happy.

Either way, whilst the politics behind this suck - it's easy to be cynical - what does this serve the fan? A new Best Of ? Well, for a start there's only one unreleased song here, a cover of The KinksWaterloo Sunset, and that's only if you buy the limited double CD, which you can't anywhere outside the UK. And then the kicker comes.

Because if you're a fan, you probably already own this album. Not in the way that say, between the two discs, only 2 out of the 34 songs aren't on existing albums, but because the first disc, is simply the previous greatest hits album 'VAULT' , from 1995. With exactly the same songs in exactly the same order, aside from one song from 2002's 'X' thrown in the middle. And they didn't even write that one themselves - which means on disc one of the standard edition, there's not one song the band have written in the past decade. For a band who have released 3 albums of material since, this doesn't show much faith in any of the new stuff. Tellingly, this is coming out in the US as  'Supervault' : an updated replacement version of the existing hits CD.

A quick scan over the message boards of the official site show one thing: the fans want new stuff. Something they don't already own. They want a CD - such as the mooted 'Retroactive II' - which would round up the multitude of non-album B-sides from the past decade instead. They want a live album, desperately. I mean, there's already 18 live tracks on CD B-sides across the years. It wouldn't take a genius to bung them all together on a double CD and make everyone happy, especially the collectors who can't find these things for love or money.

But the fans? If they do buy this at all, then they'll buy this simply out of loyalty. The general public? Well, they probably bought it in 1995, and now, with no promotion, no new single, no new incentive, this will probably stay sat on the shelf. I mean, Ooh look! New Artwork! Oooh, a second disc - of which you own 93% of the material anyway. So is the new song worth shelling out 12.99 for a simple cover version? Nope.

What you get instead is two discs of some of the finest rock-pop-metal you've ever heard, all wrapped up in a confusing, disorientating running order which plays to many of their weaknesses, not their strengths. There's no sense of musical progression or genius, and at worst, you're only five minutes away from an AOR staple. Disc 1 is chock full of hits, in a bizarre running order. Starting with your biggest hit is one thing, but it dispells any sense of compiling an album as if you'd just recorded all those songs and then decided to present them with any sense of consistency or balance. You might as well have just stuck the iPod on random, and see what happens. That's why you get a set-closing anthem such as the immortal 'Lets get Rocked'  sandwiched between two lighter-waving ballads;  'Love Bites' and 'Two Steps Behind', ruining any rhythm the album may produce. And then sandwiching weak filler tracks like 'Heaven Is' in between two tracks from the groundbreaking Hysteria just highlights how the band started treading water on its follow up - the comparative failure that was  Adrenalize, a mere 7 million copes and counting. The same applies when sandwiching the pure rock perfection that is 'Armageddon It'  between two medium paced tracks - including the especially dire  'Have you ever needed someone so bad' from its follow up. And then disc one features the brilliant, vibrant  'Hysteria' and ends with their 1982 MTV staple ballad -  'Bringin' On the heartbreak' . Which was designed to segue into 'Switch 625' on the original album, courtesy of a bass part shared by the two. Now, on the single remix of  'Heartbreak', it was removed, giving the song a clean end. Here they just fade out the album, making it sound like there's another track on the way. But there isn't. The CD just stops. CLUNK. Shoddy and amateurish.

Disc Two is a more interesting proposition - a Greatest Hits Part II, the interesting incentive for fans who didn't buy 'Vault'  10 years ago. Again, with a bizarre hotchpot running order than will stick tracks 22 years apart side by side, which clash more than a zebra crossing. As for this second disc, it fails in its purpose to round up the other hits the band have had both before and since the first disc was issued in 1995. It eschews the majority of their singles and hits since 1995, omitting some of the more obvious tracks. In total, this double disc misses out 6 of their 26 Uk singles, bolstering its running order with album tracks and the occasional foreign release. Consequently, we get 7 tracks from Hysteria , 7 tracks from Pyromania (out of 10). Again, this fails because it fails to represents its purpose as a collection of singles - missing is their debut single of 'Ride Into The Sun' and the single recording of 'Hello America' ; both of which have been unavailble for nigh on 25 years. Also missing is 1993's 'Tonight', half of the singles from 1996's 'Slang' CD ('All I want is Everything','Breathe a Sigh'), the European single of  'Miss you in a Heartbeat' - still far and away one of the best tracks the band ever did; and both sides of the double A side 1999 single 'Goodbye'/'Back in Your Face'. No wonder this CD fails to work as a comprehensive collection of their singles.

There's nothing here for the fans except a lousy cover version, and no real incentive for the casual buyer. What would impress the fans more is compiling a double CD of the long out of print rarities that have been unavailable since being released on singles up to 25 years ago, bolstered with some known to exist rarities such as  Swing 625, or a live album. Hell, as I said earlier, there's a double CD worth of live B-sides which would require zero effort to make and would sell out of the box to fans starved of new stuff to listen to. Both of which would have made far more commercial sense to the fans. But this ultimately satisfies no-one. It's nothing that anyone who already owns the albums can't do with 5 minutes on Kazaa and a CD burner.

Let's be honest. I love Def Leppard. And I despise this record, even if it has some of the best rock music ever made on it, but this really has absolutely no reason to exist.

Great band. Great songs. Pisspoor collection, jumbled up and random and a pointless, pointless release. I suppose a rock is out of the question?

DISC ONE: (aka 'Supervault')

1. Pour Some Sugar On Me 2. Photograph 3. Love Bites 4. Let s Get Rocked 5. Two Steps Behind 6. Animal 7.Heaven Is 8. Rocket 9. When Love & Hate Collide 10. Action 11. Long, Long Way To Go 12. Make Love Like A Man 13. Armageddon It 14. Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad 15. Rock Of Ages 16. Hysteria 17. Bringin' On The Heartbreak
1. Rock Rock (Till You Drop) 2. Waterloo Sunset 3. Promises 4. Slang 5. Foolin  6. Now 7. Rock Brigade 8. Women 9. Let It Go  10. Too Late For Love 11. High  n  Dry (Saturday Night) 12. Work It Out 13. Billy s Got A Gun 14. Another Hit And Run 15. Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion) 16. Wasted 17. Die Hard The Hunter


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