DEF LEPPARD – MIRRORBALL

Out now on Frontiers Records

Before I start this review I want to go on record and say that Def Leppard were one of the main reasons I got into rock music back in the mid 1980’s. Their first four albums are all top notch despite the stylistic change over the albums.  Decent songs will always be decent songs no matter how they are packaged and I can honestly still enjoy anything from those albums in 2011.

That said aside from a few numbers on “Adrenalize” I haven’t cared for anything the band have done in almost 20 years, where the emphasis on the studio albums seemed more about staying “current” and the bands starting sounding more like anyone as opposed to Def Leppard.  Sales figures suggest the buying public also thought so.  Where the likes of Bon Jovi have gone from strength to strength, Def Leppard have faltered in the publics eyes if the charts and more tellingly singles charts are to be believed.

That said despite diminishing returns on album sales the live shows have still been packing them in worldwide and its perhaps surprising its taken roughly 25 years for their first live album to see the light of day.  To sweeten the deal there is the added incentive (possibly) of three new studio cuts in “Undefeated”, “Its All About Believin” and “Kings Of The World”.

Perhaps not surprisingly the track listing plays it safe with all the big hits as well as the better known tracks that didn’t dent the charts.  All is good on this front and as you would expect but the first thing to hit you is how stale this album sounds.

Joe Elliot has never been the best live vocalist but actually sounds half decent here. The problem is more the digital sounding overly effected guitar work, where the live feeling is really taken out of Def Leppard arena.  The only thing to make you think this isn’t the studio albums with some hall reverb thrown on and a different vocal track from Elliot is Phil Collen’s apparent need to shred sloppily and often out of key whenever he can squeeze a few extra notes into an arrangement.  Vivian Campbell by contrast is mostly faceless to the point of despair. If he still possesses the chops he owned in Dio he can eat Collen for breakfast in the technique department and its only really on the excellent instrumental “Switch 625” do we get to really hear him dig into the strings.  Presumably the pay cheque is enough to make him overlook the fact that he could be pushing the band into new areas.

For the most part there is nothing here to really challenge the studio versions in terms of live excitement.  On a positive side it’s nice to hear “Too Late For Love” in the live arena, and the acoustic rendition of “Bringin On The Heartbreak” is well done but not much else really excites this listener.

Of the 3 new tracks there is not much here to get too excited about.  “Undefeated” is decent enough but you get the feeling it’s being held back on a leash half the time.  The ballad “Kings Of The World” sees the band trying to be Queen but Joe will never be Freddy Mercury. The track comes across more as a tribute to Queen than a bona-fide Leppard tracks, that said its better than anything on the last couple of studio albums. Album closer and final newie “It’s All About Believin” is stock AOR with a chorus key change that never really sits right with the verses.  All the Leppard trademarks are here i.e. arpeggiated chords and BIG harmonised vocals but ultimately its rather bland.

Overall “Mirrorball” is somewhat of a let down.  Sure it will probably appease the bands main fanbase who might well want to hear tracks played as per the albums with little variance, nor indeed will notice Collen’s sloppy guitar work but for those of us that like to hear new things in the live arena its all rather safe, bland and ultimately dull.

I really wanted to like this album. I really want Def Leppard to rediscover their early fire, forget about trying to chart and just rock again but I don’t think the band have that in them anymore and ultimately I am left disappointed in more ways that one.

Rating – 50%

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