DEF LEPPARD - The Early Years '79-'81

April 1, 2020, 2 months ago

(UMe/Virgin)

Rich Catino

Rating: 10.0

review hard rock rarities def leppard

DEF LEPPARD - The Early Years '79-'81

This Early Years set includes the Def Leppard debut On Through The Night and classic High 'N' Dry remastered, B-sides, rarities and remixes, Live From Reading and the first ever appearance of an unreleased show from Oxford in 1980, and it shows why Leppard stood out amongst the rest of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and the ingredients to what made the songs on Pyromania and Hysteria multi-platinum successes.

On Through The Night
Produced by Tom Allom (Judas Priest) in 1980, recorded and mixed in a month’s time at Startling Studios (formerly John Lennon’s Ascot Sound Studios) in Ascot (belonging to Ringo Starr), the album has finally been remastered. Still, given the recording itself the riffs are sonically rough, bass and drums not punchy in the mix. Joe Elliot’s vocal sounding, well, young, because they were, everyone only twenty at the time, drummer Rick Allen just seventeen. With that, the album surely has a youthful purity, New Wave Of British Heavy Metal charm, rockin’ in the spirit of UFO, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, KISS, and Sweet on openers “Rock Brigade” and “Hello America”. “Sorrow Is A Women” sees the influence from Mott the Hoople, the mix between guitars and mellow breaks. “It Could Be You”, “Satellite”, “Rocks Off” are solid rockers, “When The Walls Came Tumbling Down” starts light set up with a little spoken word before segueing into the chugging riffs. “Wasted” contains heavy metal riffing 101 for beginner guitarists, while Steve Clark and Pete Willis trading off and locking in riffs, with drum break, “Answer to the Master’ showed Leppard’s early abilities for musicianship. “Overture” combines a Rush-like intro with Thin Lizzy leads.

High 'N' Dry
Ok, if this album is not on your list of desert island must-haves, well, then your tastes must be questioned. Released in 1981, produced by Mutt Lange (who also brought the magic touch to the follow up Pyromania), High 'N' Dry focused and refined the elements from On Through The Night into bigger riffs, rhythms, vocals, and hooks. "Let It Go", "Another Hit And Run", "High 'n' Dry (Saturday Night)" a one, two, three punch of high energy fist pounding rockers with a metal edge. "Bringin' On the Heartbreak" the first power ballad, interestingly segues into Instrumental "Switch 625". For those of us (I was) with the vinyl at the time, side two/B opens with pedestrian rocker "You Got Me Runnin'", the only track that could be considered filler. Memorable twin leads start “Lady Strange”, "On Through the Night" would have worked well on the debut, Rick Savage’s bass the focus in "Mirror, Mirror (Look into My Eyes)", and “No No No" fast, angry, and edgy.

Live In Oxford 1980
This sixteen song live recording has been mixed, restored, mastered well, soundboard quality with minimal to none of the underlining crowd sounds during the songs often heard in older concert releases. Aside from the set mostly of On Through the Night tracks, “When The Rain Falls” evolves to a more polished and focused “Let It Go” with edgier lyrics. “Don't Matter To Me” another unreleased song, includes crowd participation, and quickened tempo “Ride Into the Sun” would be rerecorded for “Hysteria” single B-side.

B-Sides And Rarities, Early BBC Recordings
This is a cool batch of versions, most notably “Ride Into The Sun”, “Overture”, and “Getcha Rocks Off” from The Def Leppard EP in 1978, all three cleaned up well from the remastering. “Hello America” single version is lackluster, sounds like a work in progress. Unreleased “Glad I'm Alive” a simple ‘70s glam rocker, “Good Morning Freedom”, B side to “Hello America” single, has urgency in delivery. Don’t know how “Me and My Wine” (original version) initially didn’t make High ’N’ Dry instead of showing up later as a bonus track (especially when they shot a video for it!). The eight Early BBC Recordings display how well rehearsed and prepared the band were, as with the tracks from Live at the Reading Festival 1980, which includes an inferior early different version of "Rock Rock (Till You Drop)" called “Medicine Man”.


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