Def Leppard: Slang (Deluxe Edition)
Many bands have an album squirreled away deep in their catalogue which, while lambasted on release, offers an insight into a different side of what makes them tick. Some are unmitigated disasters, others such as The Elder by Kiss, Destiny by Saxon, or Generation 13 from Saga, reveal over the years an underappreciated depth and skill, going on to become cult fan favourites in the process. For my money you can also add the 1996 release Slang by Def Leppard to that list, with the Sheffield based band adding a grittier and less polished (and possibly a reaction to Grunge) side to their previously mega-selling formula. Both Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987) had catapulted the Lep's to huge success, but with 92's Adrenalize, things has stalled slightly and critical acclaim had turned into accusations of tired retreads and, without their sadly deceased guitarist Steve Clarke, a lack of ideas - Slang would see the studio introduction proper of his replacement Vivian Campbell (Dio/Whitesnake/Shadow King). The reaction from the band was an almost complete removal of the ultra-layered vocals and production sheen that had so characterised the hits that made their name, with an introduction of deeper ideas and influences employed instead.
The first sign of change came in the removal of the jagged Def Leppard logo that had graced every album and single cover to this point (and since), preparing the band's fans for Middle Eastern influences, stripped back acoustic moments and singer Joe Elliott being revealed in a more bare and less forgiving light. Critics hated it and while Slang still crashed into the top ten in both the US and UK, it was in comparison to the three albums which preceded it, a commercial failure. Musically, there's an argument it is still their most interesting outing to date. "Truth?" opens proceedings with thunderous beats, a gyrating staccato riff and brooding, distorted backing vocals. It is a huge jump from Hysteria to this, yet if anyone had taken off the blinkers, they'd have realised that what it really was, was something like (Hysteria album track) "Gods Of War" with the layers of production guru Mutt Lange removed. Played at volume it is a mighty statement and one that holds up superbly close to two decades down the line. The sitar and ethnic instruments added to sampled beats which heralds in "Turn To Dust" turns even further left, much more down to earth in construction and ambitious (in a completely different way) in arrangement to the huge choruses and layers of what this band were famous for and again it works tremendously well. The title track does offer a proper singalong opportunity, however again it comes through sampled beats and stop start guitars. Don't be put off though, it's genuinely great stuff.
"All I Want Is Everything" is simply another superb ballad from a band known for them, while "Where Does Love Go When It Dies" takes a more acoustic route, with an (almost) equally adept result. "Deliver Me" again adds a dirtier, heavy edge and shows the Lep's were probably more in tune with the times than their fans wanted, although "Gift Of Flesh" nods back to the band's Mott The Hoople roots, through a strident, joyous riff while "Pearl Of Euphoria" closes the album in atmospheric, enigmatic and more mature style than DL ever had before.
So what makes this version deluxe? Well, there are three versions available, a double vinyl which adds seven bonus tracks, five of which, "Move With Me Slowly", "Truth? (original version)", "Burn Out", "Worlds Collide" and "Can't Keep Away From The Flame" are b-sides from the many singles Slang produced. The original version of "Truth?" reveals a slower, less ambitious beginning to the song, while the other four tracks could easily slip onto the main album, making this version a worthy purchase if you don't already have them. The last two, "All On Your Touch (2012 revisit)" - a slower, less effective number that strides the style of Slang and Hysteria clumsily and "Black Train", which is an early take on "Gift Of Flesh" add further interest.
The second version offers all of the above tracks, plus a further twelve demos and early takes of what went on to be crafted into the main album. It is an interesting journey, for while the songs are instantly recognisable; having the opportunity to hear half finished lyrics being la-la-la'd and riffs and beats without the samples and studio trickery, does offer a universally slower and less intricate look at these songs early in their construction. For true Leppard fans, this is a must have.
The third version? Well, that's an i-tunes exclusive which houses everything from the 2CD version and adds a further eight additional bonus tracks containing a mix of further Slang demos and songs recorded for Movie Soundtracks from around the same time...oh and i-tunes will also have a "Slang video collection" available at the same time...
Slang is the underappreciated and undervalued gem in the Def Leppard catalogue. If you don't have it, you really should give it a fair hearing to discover its worth. If you already do, then this expanded edition offers a welcome and valuable insight into the most adventurous album Def Leppard have ever provided.
2. Turn to Dust
4. All I Want Is Everything
5. Work It Out
6. Breathe a Sigh
7. Deliver Me
8. Gift of Flesh
9. Blood Runs Cold
10. Where Does Love Go When It Dies
11. Pearl of Euphoria
12. Move with Me Slowly
13. Truth? (Original Version)
14. Burn Out
15. Worlds Collide
16. Can't Keep Away from the Flame
1. Turn to Dust (1st Draft)
2. Raise Your Love
3. All I Want Is Everything (1st Draft)
4. Work It Out (1st Draft)
5. Breathe a Sigh (Rough Mix)
6. Deliver Me (Rough Mix)
7. Black Train
8. Blood Runs Cold (Rough Mix)
9. Where Does Love Go When It Dies (1st Draft)
10. Pearl of Euphoria (Rough Mix)
11. All on Your Touch (2012 Revisit)
12. Anger Me (Deliver Me -1st Draft)
13. Move on Up (Viv Demo)
14. Gift of Flesh (Phil Vocal)
Added: February 15th 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Def Leppard Online
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