Last week I surprised myself and reviewed an album from a band I thought had long been relegated to touring outside the United States or doing the casino or state fair circuit within. The band was Whitesnake and to my surprise I found a quality product. This is the case with today’s band as well. When I heard that this band was coming to Omaha, and performing at the Quest Center no less, I couldn’t believe it. Another metal glam band who dominated the eighties and early ninties, selling over 65 million albums worldwide. The band who has had more than it’s share of tragedy and yet has incredible staying power. When some bands would have given up and just moved on, these guys re-grouped and made adjustments. I writing about the band noted for making tattered, hole riddled, jeans popular for many years to come. The band named for an audio challenged big cat, Def Leppard. The Leppards have been making some good music of late. I loved the album Yeah released in 2006. The album contained all UK glammer band covers. Songs that pay homeage to bands from their childhood. My favorite song on the album was the T.Rex cover “Rock On”. They also did a great job covering Rod Stewart and the Small Faces “Stay With Me”.
Today the covers are gone and their newest album contains 11 brand new unreleased tracks. Def Leppard’s first release of new material in over six years. The album is called “Songs From Sparkle Lounge“, and was released worldwide on April 28th, 2008. The band’s lead singer Joe Elliot stated in an interview that the album name is in reference to the area backstage where the band would work on new material. The album debuted at number 5 on The Billboard 200 in America. Most of the tracks are very solid recorded performances from these die-hard rockers, but let me begin with the first track. The first song on the album is called “Go” and is an appropriate first song. The song is vintage Def Leppard without the production polish of their past popular songs which is a good thing. Most comtemporary bands are striving for a more raw recorded sound. The next track is called “Nine Lives”. It is the first single of the album and was recorded and co-written by popular country artist Tim McGraw. The song starts out kind of country with McGraw providing the opening vocals but when Joe Elliott and the Leppards join in, the country sound is substituted for that grinding hard rock crunchiness. The song is just good ole’ time rock n’ roll with fun meaningless lyrics.
Nine lives, nine times to die
I’ve been bitten once
but I won’t be twice shy
nine lives, nine times to die
come on and show me your hand
cause it’s your turn to cry
The next song is called “C’mon C’mon” and sounds like a left over from the previous glam cover album with the patented Def Leppard touch and feel. You will find the familiar marching snare rhythm reminiscent of their past hit “Rocket” along with a cool crashing guitar power chord. The fourth track “Love” slows things down quite a bit. It is really the only ballad on the album. It does highlight the vocal abilities of Joe Elliot. The song sounds and feels like a cross between Queen and ELO.
The album highlights include “Go”, “Nine Lives” (you rockin’ TM), “C’mon C’mon”, “Cruise Control” a very well written song that is obviously about extreme muslims which is not a big surprise for a band who live in the UK where extreme Islam has effected more than a few British lives. The telling lyrics say:
I hear my god he calls my name
I must atone all men can change
and for my god I ring the bell
I will condemn the infidel
Daylight shines upon the hour of my soul
I step in to the sun
I shield my eyes from the glory of the morning
And blow it all to kingdom come
I love the wah effect on the guitar solo which is heard throughout the song. The fast paced guitar laden “Bad Actress” is a very kewl song for any guitar connoisseur. “Gotta Let It Go” written by Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell is a nice blues influenced rocker.
“Songs From The Sparkle Lounge” is part elements from their successful albums of the eighties with their catchy hooks and rhythms, part classic rock sound from the UK glam days, and part raw, unpolished production. It is good to see that a band with their kind of staying power can still make a good album. I salute the older “rock brigade” and give “Songs From The Sparkle Lounge” four out of five stars.
Please check out the Def Leppard video for “Nine Lives” featuring Tim McGraw.
May 20, 2008 at 10:54 pm
I remember when Def Leppard was touring in the early 80s in Omaha for two nights. They stopped in Blair (hometown) and ate at the Pizza Hut. Ironically, nobody got real excited about them – not any fanfare. In fact, one of the guys that I knew who was working there said that everybody thought that they were a bunch of hippies.
Remember they started hitting it big before the age of MTV. Most people had no idea what the band looked like. People loved their music but they didn’t really have an identifiable frontman in 83. So, people in the Blair Pizza Hut thought they were a bunch of hippie wannabes.
My how things have changed since the early years of their succes.s
May 21, 2008 at 10:15 am
Great story Steve. MTV sure made bands recognizable, although most bands provided images of themselves either on their album cover or in the sleeve. Prior to 1983 Def Leppard would’ve been unknown by most until the album Pyromania came out that year. That and the advent of MTV they quickly became very well known hippies.
May 22, 2008 at 8:16 pm
Interesting… these are two acts that I would not expect together but they seem to jell well. I suppose it is good marketing for Tim McGraw to introduce himself to a new audience and it should improve exposure for Def Leppard – looks and sounds like a win-win!