Like many long time Leppard fans, I was thrilled when they were scheduled to release ‘Vault’ as their greatest hits album many years ago (gee, has it been almost a decade already??), but when I finally saw it, I was profoundly disappointed. It was more like a ‘Hysteria’ tribute than anything else. Nothing against that particular album…it WAS enormously popular, and I believe was the 2nd best selling record of the 80’s (behind ‘Thriller’) but c’MON! The absolute stupidity of ignoring their entire first album??!! What the heck…? I am happy to know I was not the only person who felt this way.
Jump ahead a few years, when the recording trend seems to be centered around How many versions of Greatest Hits by bands can we come up with? After several different incarnations of Def Leppard’s Best Of stuff, we finally see a TWO record set that seems to (for the most part) give a decent, well-rounded view of this monumentally successful and horribly underrated band. First off they finally focused some attention to their first record, ‘On Through The Night’ by including ‘Wasted’ and ‘Rock Brigade’ but even though I enjoy both of these songs, it probably would have been a better choice to add ‘Hello America’ rather than Wasted. Either way, a pretty decent addition, and nice to see their first album recognized.
High & Dry has always been my personal favorite record by this band. Ignored by so many (so called) fans and once again, under-appreciated, this is Leppard at their creative and rocking best. I don’t believe any of their records matches this one for it’s sheer rocking dominance and incredibly catchy hooks and driving songs. Finally adding ‘Switch 625′ to the end of ‘Bringing On the Heartbreak’ was a natural which SHOULD have been done on ALL previous editions of their so-called Best Of releases. I could squabble over the addition of some songs over others, but without including almost every single track, nobody would ever be truly satisfied, so I felt they did right with this selection.
Pyromania certainly was the record that put Def Leppard on the map (at least in America). I was surprised to read in the liner notes how it wasn’t until Hysteria that they finally made it big in their own country. A surprise to be sure. I was familiar with the band since before Pyromania hit the shelves in the States, so I wasn’t surprised at ALL when this record went through the roof after the release of ‘Photograph’ (one of my least favorite of their bigger hits). But overall I felt they gave a great rendition of what this record had to offer.
Hysteria is really the record which re-defined Pop/Metal in America, and also put Leppard on the map in England. I still recall hearing ‘Animal’ for the first time in San Diego and without even being told who sang it, I just KNEW who it was. That perfect Leppard sound is quite unique in the world of music. Once again, nobody will be 100% satisfied with every selection from this album because somebody will ALWAYS believe they sacrificed one song for the addition of another, but after thinking about it, they DID include all the major popular hits. I would have been thrilled if they dropped ‘Rocket’ (their most popular ‘bad’ song) and added ‘Excitable’ instead, but lets not complain.
Adrenalize was another under-appreciated record which I found to be almost as good as Pyromania, and definitely gave us some great rockin’ songs. The notable absence of ‘Make Love Like A Man’ is probably the biggest omission on this entire compilation. But again, only a minor complaint.
Almost everything after Adrenalize has been an odd mixture of experimentation and sometimes it paid off (Euphoria was pretty good overall) and sometimes the fans reacted with an almost snubbing of ‘Slang’ and ‘Retro Active’. Both records were not appreciated for what the band were trying to accomplish (at least this is MY opinion) and the dismal record sales sent a pretty clear message to the band: STOP EXPERIMENTING AND GET BACK TO YOUR ROCKIN’ ROOTS. Unfortunately they continued the trend and gave us ‘X’ which was a full record of nothing but semi-lame Power Ballads, none of which were radio-friendly (I should know since I’ve been in radio 15+ years). I was SO looking forward to this album, and I was SO disappointed when they added absolutely NO hard-driving songs at all. I am still mystified by this odd decision. Again, the fans (which are quite diverse and many) for the most part virtually ignored this record because sales-wise, it was quite a disappointment to the Record Execs, and rightly so. Us fans have come to expect a few things from this band, and songs with heavy guitars and BIG sound is what we want and usually get, but with ‘X’ we were let down in a BIG way. I understand there are many who feel strongly that this record was and IS great and entirely upset at how the so-called Core Leppard Fans snubbed it. Oh well. I’m not going to like an album just because somebody ELSE liked it. I consider myself an honest-to-goodness hard-core LONG TIME Def Leppard fan (since 1981, PRE Pyromania) and I felt the record stunk to high heaven. I don’t like to say that about my favorite band, but like it or not, that is MY opinion. But I am happy to say that by and large, if I were to choose my personal own Best Of album of Leppard tunes, it would be pretty dang close to what Rock Of Ages ended up being. All things considered, as I said earlier, Finally, somebody got it right. Leppard Fans world-wide REJOICE!