Formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England, Def Leppard had high hopes to make it big. Though their first album On Through the Night (1980) didn’t do much for them, their second album, High ‘n’ Dry (1981), set the band up for what was to come in the near future; thanks to producer Mutt Lange, they developed a strong work ethic and began to find their sound. Once Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987) came along, Def Leppard became the biggest band in the world and nothing could stop them…that is until the saddest thing in the band’s career occurred. On January 8, 1991, guitarist Steve Clark passed away due to a mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs.
Def Leppard already overcame an obstacle with Rick Allen losing his left arm in a car accident, so they were no stranger to hardships, but Clark’s death meant that Def Leppard would never be the same again and the Volume Two box set proves it! This box set is the second of the four volumes in the Def Leppard collection set. It contains Adrenalize (1992), Retro Active (1993), Slang (1996), Euphoria (1999), a book detailing the band’s history at the time, and three CDs that contain bonus tracks, demos, and recordings from some live shows. I ordered Volume Two from Amazon on November 7, 2020, and it arrived on November 28, 2020. I wanted to add Adrenalize and Slang to my collection, so the box set was the most efficient way to go, and plus, one of the rarities CDs contains the demo version of “When Love & Hate Collide,” which features Clark’s final recorded guitar solo. We’ve got a lot to cover with this box set, so let’s get started!
I’ll eventually review all of the Def Leppard studio albums in my collection, but for now, I’ll just go over the highlights for each album in this set. Considering that Def Leppard was still mourning the loss of Clark while recording the album, it’s impressive that they managed to make such an upbeat and happy record (for the most part). Adrenalize contains the cartoonish “Let’s Get Rocked,” ballads like “Stand Up (Kick Love into Motion) and “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad,” a re-recorded version of “Tear it Down,” and the band’s tribute to Clark, “White Lightning.” Thankfully, the album was a success since it was released just before grunge took over and chaos began
To fit in with the changing times, Def Leppard decided to experiment with their sound and make a more raw and grittier sounding record. The result was Retro Active, a compilation album containing b-side tracks and unreleased recordings from 1984 to 1993. This album has a much darker tone and features bangers like “Desert Song” and “Fractured Love,” a track about heroin addiction called “From the Inside,” and an overplayed tune that I can only listen to at certain times, “Two Steps Behind.” According to the Def Leppard – CD Collection Volume 2 book, recording Retro Active gave the boys the confidence they needed to make another record with that same raw formula, Slang.
Def Leppard refused to make another record that sounded like Adrenalize and Hysteria, so they decided to do the opposite of that. The boys were going through marriages, divorces, deaths, and arrests, so they channeled their pain into their next studio album, Slang. With a more grunge-like sound, the album contains another tribute to Clark titled “Blood Runs Cold,” the upbeat title track, “All I Want is Everything,” and the underrated “Where Does Love Go When it Dies.” The boys spent less time on backing vocals and put more emphasis on the acoustics, as Allen returned to a semi-acoustic drum kit and the band recorded the album together, versus recording separately.
After the boys let out all their frustration in their previous record, Def Leppard decided to create a “classic” Def Leppard record for their next studio release. The name of the record was Euphoria because apparently the band’s biggest-selling records end with “ia” in the title (Pyromania and Hysteria). Despite the bad haircuts and dreadful wardrobe choices, the album still contains some decent tracks such as “Guilty,” the catchy “Promises,” the ballad “Goodbye,” and the dark and rocking track, “Paper Sun.” Euphoria succeeded in returning the band to its former glory (sort of) as it went to number 11 on the US and UK album charts, and “Promises” went to number one on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.
Next up, we have three CDs (Rarities 2, 3, and 4) that contain demos, bonus tracks, and live recordings from the 90s. I remember the day I received this box set from Amazon last November, it was two days before my birthday, and boy, what a treat! As soon as I opened the box set, I played Rarities 2 first because I wanted to listen to the demo of “When Love & Hate Collide;” I first heard it on YouTube in spring 2020 and fell in love with it immediately because the production gave the track an emotional impact, not just from Clark’s playing.
In addition to the demo of “When Love & Hate Collide,” Rarities 2 contains the demo of “Tonight,” Phil Collen’s demo of “Miss You in a Heartbeat” (which I prefer Collen’s vocals over Joe Elliott’s vocals for that track, sorry), and four live recordings from a gig that occurred on May 29, 1992 titled, In the Clubs…In Your Face – Live in Bonn, Germany. “Tonight” is one of my favorites from Adrenalize, so I love that the disc includes a demo and acoustic version of the track and I love that era of the band, so I’m glad to have recordings from a gig during that time. What I don’t get is, why would the boys include “Two Steps Behind” and “From the Inside” as bonus tracks when they were already included in Retro Active? I find that very strange.
Rarities 3 includes six live recordings from a gig that occurred on October 26, 1995 titled, Live at the Hard Rock Café, Singapore; a piano and strings version of “When Love & Hate Collide,” the original version of “Truth?”, and the bluesy bonus track from the Slang era titled, “Move with Me Slowly.” The piano and strings version of “When Love & Hate Collide” sounds like it could be played in a ballroom; there are no drums, so it’s very peaceful and soothing. The setlist for the Singapore gig is very typical, nothing from the first three records and it contains the “hits.” Since it was an acoustic show, though, I can see how it would’ve been hard to turn “You Got Me Runnin’” into an acoustic track. “Move with Me Slowly” is such a good track and it makes me sad the boys didn’t put it on the respective album, but thank goodness they released it on this set.
Rarities 4 contains two tracks Elliott wrote for the When Saturday Comes (1996) movie soundtrack, a few bonus tracks including the headbanging “When Worlds Collide,” and live recordings at gigs such as Live at the Molson Centre, Montreal that occurred on October 11, 1996, and Live at the Kokusai Forum Hall, Tokyo that occurred in 1999. First things first, Def Leppard’s b-sides/bonus tracks are the bomb; “Immortal” and “Burnout” prove my point! What’s also cool about this disc is that seven of the live tracks are from a blogger’s personal collection, someone I’ve met through WordPress; feel free to check him out at Mike Ladano!
According to my Amazon order history, I spent about $65 on this Volume Two box set, and for seven CDs, that’s not bad! The box set was released in 2019, so the price must’ve dropped since then. The box is sturdy and the albums are packaged in nice slip cases, with the exceptions of Retro Active and Euphoria, which came in album gatefolds. The book is also a fun read while listening to the albums, so you can engage with the music while reading the behind-the-scenes.
Compared to Volume One, Def Leppard is a different animal on this set because they changed their musical style as the times evolved, they got a new guitarist to replace Clark, and they experimented with their wardrobe. But change doesn’t have to be a bad thing; while Slang and Euphoria have their not-so-good moments, I give the boys props for experimenting with their sound and taking risks. Where would we be in life without change?
Besides that, this box set is worth it just to have a physical copy of Clark’s final recorded guitar solo. If you’re a newbie to the Def Leppard fandom or someone that loves the band in general, and are missing the 90s studio albums in your collection, then Volume Two is the best way to go! I’d give this Volume Two box set a 5 out of 5 stars.
Take care and see ya real soon!