I've been very fortunate in the albums I've gotten to review for About.com so far. I already have some (if not a lot) of the previous releases of about 85% of the bands and artists I've reviewed, and haven't had too many complaints about those that I've gotten to review.
Def Leppard is one of those bands. For the most part, I've really had no complaints about what they've done with each new release. The same pretty much applies when I've seen them live.
There was one exception -- Slang (1996) -- where, for me, they went off track to try and blend with the grunge market that was hip at the time.
This Lounge Really Sparkles
Their last two albums of original material -- X (2002) and Euphoria (1999) -- were excellent albums that really seemed to get overlooked, probably because of Slang before them.
So, to the new one with the odd title that apparently refers to the backstage area where they go back to get song ideas down when they are on tour. Sparkle Lounge. On the road recording studio. Good stuff, eh?
Opening track, "Go!" Wow! No doubt they're out to let the world know that they're still more than capable of hard rocking. Kind of reminds me of something as strong as "Gods Of War" from Hysteria, although the underlying riff sounds more like "Armageddon It" from the same album.
Although they are celebrating 30 years this year, the rumors that Tim McGraw would be on the album had me thinking are these guys going to do a Bon Jovi on us? Well, from the twangy intro and Tim McGraw's opening words, I was nervous. But then Joe Elliott picks up the vocal and before you know it, we're into familiar territory. Think "Animal" or "Photograph." I think it’s a great lead-off single and will be totally surprised if they don't have a massive hit on their hands!
Here we go again with "C’mon, C’mon." Think "Rocket" and "Let's Get Rocked" with Rick Allen giving us the Gary Glitter or Adam and The Ants drums, "Brrrrrrrummm, boom boom, brrrumm boom boom!" You’ll know when you hear it!
This album is so instant: huge hooks, big choruses and awesome production!
Could It Get Any Better?
Can it improve? Yes, indeed, and it's a power ballad, "Love," that does it beautifully. Here, I hear Queen meets the Beatles or ELO meets Mott The Hoople. It starts soft then builds into something huge, perfect harmony vocals that become epic, like ELO-style harmony, into a epic rocking Queen type ending. And the harmonies never stop! Fantastic track!
"Tomorrow" is another good 'un that gives hints of Hysteria album era and even the Euphoria track, "Promises." Keep it coming guys, this is an excellent album! That Sparkle Lounge is obviously paying for itself based on this!
"Cruise Control" is different, kind of semi-grunge type opening, it's the least-likely-to-grab-you track here.
"Hallucinate" has an opening riff that's a slight twist on "Photograph" but then plays like "Let It Go" from High and Dry. It's typical Leppard back on track! You really don't want to call it plagiarism of themselves, but then I guess if it works, who's complaining? Not me!
"Only The Good Die Young" starts almost Beatles-like ("Penny Lane") and then the chorus kicks in huge to remind us that this is the new Def Leppard album! Nice guitar solo here.
Hints of AC/DC with the next track, "Bad Actress." It's also akin to "Run Riot" (Hysteria) or "Rock! Rock! 'Til You Drop" (Pyromania). It rocks with some serious frenzied guitar work. "Whole Lotta Rosie," anyone?
"Come Undone" starts with a little swagger before getting into big chorus ground again and then I think the riff almost reminds me of Bryan Adams’ "It's Only Love" or even Leppard's cover of "No Matter What" on the Yeah! album.
"Gotta Let It Go" closes the album ... and did I just mention Bryan Adams? On the last track, a slight variation on "Run To You" with Leppard's intro here and through each verse. It tricks you with the soft touch before launching into something heavier with the chorus, "Gotta let it go! Gotta let it go!," shouts Joe Elliott. Gotta let what go, Joe? The album, perhaps, to share with others, because he knows it's so good you won't want to stop playing it? He's right!
This really is a great album to get Def Leppard back in everyone's focus, and they certainly have got mine!