Reviews

Def Leppard delivers massive box set from the start of the band

By Mike Sorensen
Posted: Mar. 20, 2020 12:01 am

Even with the world in a topsy-turvy place, there are still a few things that we can all rely on: The sunrises in the east, spring is slowly blossoming, and music is still a vital part of so many of our lives. One band that's recognized that for over four decades now are the legendary rockers that make up Def Leppard. From their founding in 1977 to the much-anticipated co-headlining Stadium Tour coming later this year (knock wood!), Def Leppard has been at the forefront of many changes in the rock scene, starting with the British invasion, through the “hair metal” days, and into the iconic status that they hold today. Def Leppard has overcome obstacles that would have – and have – destroyed other acts, from the death of guitarist Steve Clark to Rick Allen's grisly car accident that cost him his arm and should have ended his career as a drummer. But the band has barely slowed down, and has maintained the same line-up as much as circumstances have allowed. That dedication has given them a longevity that's the envy of so many of their peers, both active and those fallen to along the wayside.

That longevity is also the focus of a new release from the band, coming out today (March 20th). In honour of the 40th anniversary of their debut album, “On Through The Night,” Def Leppard is giving the world “The Early Years 79-81” box set. This collection is packed full of everything you would want from the early days of the Brit boys. Frontman Joe Elliot said “[T]he fans asked, and we listed. Really excited to have our early years reworked with a load of rare material[.]” The 5-disc deluxe set is anchored by beautifully remastered versions of the first two albums, the aforementioned “On Through The Night” and “High 'N' Dry.” The new edition of these already-classic albums sounds amazing, and that's not even commenting on how well the songs hold up today.

Building on that foundation, the next disc in the set is rare live recording. Titled “When The Walls Came Tumbling Down – Live In Oxford 24/4/1980,” the sound quality on this recording is astonishing for a concert that was forty years ago! The band has said this concert comes to you warts and all, and there's no denying that this is a true live recording. But as far as warts, this band sounded better in their third year together than a lot of acts sound today with newer, fancier gear, more time together, and state-of-the-art everything. That's a testament to the truth in real live music. Yes, there are hitches here and there. A note might be missed or a pop in the sound system. But that's the beauty of live, and this recording captures it all in a way that really makes you a part of the experience.

The fourth disc, “Too Many Jitterbugs – B-Sides and Rarities,” contains exactly what it says. With songs like “Getcha Rocks Off,” “Ride Into The Sun,” and “The Overture” from the original Def Leppard EP to single versions of hits like “Let It Go” (not the song from that movie!) and “Bringin' On The Heartbreak,” the real stand-out and much-in-demand tracks land in the middle of this disc. Two previously unreleased recordings – “Rock Brigade” and “Glad I'm Alive” – that were produced by the legendary Nick Tauber have been known to be out there, and fans have been chomping at the bit to hear them. With this set, they finally have that opportunity.

The final disc of the set is called “Raw – Early BBC Recordings” and, again, that's exactly what's on there. Collecting thirteen tracks that were recorded at different BBC radio sessions between March and July 1979 and live at the Reading Festival in August of 1980, this disc is like an aural time-machine that takes you on a trip through those first couple of years as the band grooves into their sound and starts to build their audience.

The discs are accompanied in the box set by a history of the band, written and collected by Paul Elliot (no relation to Joe!), with stories from the band, rare photos, and shots of merchandise and memorabilia from those early years. For those of you who aren't interested in so much greatness and only want some really killer new versions of the first albums, both of them will be released as remastered single-CDs or LPs. So you definitely have options. Whichever way you might want to go, you can take your pick over at https://defleppard.lnk.to/EarlyYears or at the music outlet of your choice (note: availability and/or shipping may be limited due to current circumstances).

There's no doubt that there's a lot of uncertainty in the air right now. If you ask a music fan, though, they can tell you that the right songs at the right time can help weather most any storm. The tracks collected in this set may have been that for many people already over the course of forty-plus year. It's possible it could be that for others again, now. And if they're not, if they don't strike quite that deeply, then the worst case is that you'd still end up with a great collection of some of the best rock music that's come out of Britain in your library.

And that's not such a bad thing.