(This review was written before the release of North America’s “Rock Of Ages” compilation which is a very similar release.)
If one were to compile a true two-disc “Best Of” Def Leppard, truly using their best music, I imagine all you’d have to do is squeeze High ‘N’ Dry, Pyromania, and Hysteria onto two discs. Those three records encapsulated the most incredible music from the prime of Def Leppard. While they did some good music both before and after that, those three records were about Def Leppard creating magic.
This compilation, therefore, would be better titled as “Def Leppard’s Anthology”, because that is more accurate. While not chronological, Best Of Def Leppard is nicely sequenced with rockers & ballads, old songs & new songs, for a great listening experience. While many fans will quibble with the inclusion of some songs (perhaps “Now” or “When Love & Hate Collide”), just as many will argue about the exclusion of others (“Love And Affection” or “Mirror Mirror” to name two). I would have liked to have seen the criminally underrated Slang record be better represented here.
I won’t bore you with details of what songs could or should have been included; you can read the track list and decide these things for yourself. But here are the facts: Def Leppard’s catalogue has not been remastered as of yet, and this CD sounds great. It’s your chance to get excellent sounding versions of these songs for the first time. Another fact: You can quibble about the track list as much as you want, but it’s a fine listen all the way through. It paints a great picture of Def Leppard’s history, and it flows very well. Fact three: Lots of great rare pictures in the booklet. One more fact: The liner notes are very decent, basically an expanded version of the ones in the Vault album. Some are a bit more candid than one might expect, such as Phil Collen admitting several times that he doesn’t like playing ballads. All this time I’d pretty much blamed him for the progression (regression?) of Def Leppard’s sound over the last few years, but perhaps I shouldn’t have.
Some facts in the negative: The cover art is as bland and boring as any cover Def Leppard’s done since Hysteria. This is a band who, for a brief while, had album covers that had their own unique identity and screamed DEF LEPPARD. When you saw a Leppard cover, you knew who it was without reading the name, just like Iron Maiden. Now, for this album celebrating more than two decades of music, we get a logo over something that looks like sheet metal. C’mon, guys.
More factoids: Def Leppard shamefully bait us with one (I repeat–ONE) new song: A cover of “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks. You can’t go and buy it on a single, you have to get it here. And, shamefully, the boys even tell us in the liner notes that this is just a teaser for the covers album that they recorded this year.
Now, if you’re reading this, you are one of two types of people: A Def Leppard fan who’s trying to decide about adding this to your collection, or someone who’s trying to decide if this should be their very first Leppard purchase. For the new fans, this is an excellent introduction, very well rounded and even. Just make sure it’s not your last purchase, as there is so much more great music by this band for you to enjoy. And, for the old fans…yes, you should probably pick this up. Not for the one new song, but for the fact that it’s a trip listening to it! Read the liner notes, relive the music, invite your friends over to listen to it and debate about the track selections and your favourite Def Leppard albums.
This anthology of Def Leppard’s two decades (plus!) of rock and roll is best appreciated loud. And isn’t that really the way rock music should be?