Def Leppard – Songs From The Sparkle Lounge (2008, Island)
- Nine Lives
- C’mon, C’mon
- Cruise Control
- Only The Good Die Young
- Bad Actress
- Come Undone
- Gotta Let It Go
Joe Elliot – Lead Vocals
Rick Savage – Bass, Backing Vocals, & additional guitars
Phil Collen – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Vivian Campbell – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Rick Allen – Drums & Backing Vocals
Tim McGraw – Vocals on ‘Nine Lives’
Produced by: Def Leppard & Roann McHugh
Total Time = 39:23
So Def Leppard is back with a brand new studio album fresh off their surprisingly successful covers record YEAH!. It’s been a long time since the boys from Sheffield did a proper studio record, the last one was 2002’s X. X was an top flight album that mixed the best of the ’80s with the Leps more modern Pop tendencies. So what would a new record six years later bring? You can never be sure because the band downplays their Hard Rock roots all the time and they have recently become overly enamored with their influences from the late ’60s/early ’70s.
Opening the album is ‘Go’, a song that has a guitar intro with a very familiar tone. Listen to ‘Women’ off HYSTERIA (1987), that guitar intro has the same tone as the one starting ‘Go’. The intro is one of the main underlying riffs through the entire song. It’s a good enough song to open, sort of a mid-paced moody track. Lead single ‘Nine Lives’, with special guest Tim McGraw on co-lead vocals, is a decent pop rocker…..if fans want the old school Def Leppard then this song is as close as they’ll get. There’s a good hook to the chorus, big vocals, solos…..everything that you can imagine. Listen for the quick recycled guitar part from ‘Armageddon It’ off HYSTERIA.
‘C’mon C’mon’ is very boring even though it’s uptempo. I’ll be honest, I hate the song! The lyrics are too easy and too rhymey and the chorus is just “C’mon, C’mon” repeated over and over. The song sounds like a ’70s Gary Glitter leftover! All is made up for with ‘Love’, a very pretty acoustic based ballad that comes right out of the Freddie Mercury/Queen playbook. Just like the Scorpions, Def Leppard does great ballads, and ‘Love’ shines with excellent vocals and lush backings. The orchestrated backing vocals are trademark Queen and I’d like to know if that is actually Brian May on the guitar solo because, if it isn’t, Viv Campbell or Phil Collen do a superb mimic. ‘Tomorrow’ has a very groovy bass line that really moves the song while the band channels a combination of sounds from their last album, X, and 1999’s EUPHORIA for this mid-paced song.
‘Cruise Control’ is another mid-paced affair that is, well, on cruise control. Aside from some cool solos, I’m not really digging it. ‘Hallucinate’ bounces back by rocking harder with the trademark backing vocals and duelling guitars, nice to finally hear Viv Campbell let loose a little! Usually Phil Collen takes all the leads but the song calls for the guitarists to trade off. ‘Hallucinate’ has that ’80s feel to it but it would be better fit on EUPHORIA or X because Joe’s voice isn’t as high pitched as it once was. Def Leppard has a solid niche carved in the mid-paced songs with big choruses and ‘Only The Good Die Young’ (the 2nd of three Viv Campbell compositions) fills the void. Again, the band does these type of songs well: solid guitars with nice fills and solos, Joe is in fine mid-register voice, and the gang backing traxks flesh it out. High on melody and hooks.
The pace picks up again with the fast rocker ‘Bad Actress’. The Leps always say that they would rather be considered a Pop Rock band than a Hard Rock band but, when they want to cut loose they do it well. The solos here are some of the fastest I’ve heard the boys play in almost 10 years! Hitting the mid-pace hard again, ‘Come Undone’ follows the Lep formula to a tee. The guitars sound heavy and the backing vocals help Joe Elliot out quite a bit. There’s a hook in there that has me liking the song but we’ve already heard it before becasue the album is chock full of this kind of song. Still, the song has that special Lep quality that draws you in. Same with ‘Gotta Let It Go’, there’s a certain Lep-ness to it that draws you in and you enjoy the song. I like the little falsetto action Mr. Elliot drops in just before the chorus and the guitars really drive the song home.
Def Leppard stopped being a Hard Rock band after PYROMANIA. If you can deal with that, then you will like this record. The guys have always said everything they could to keep Def Leppard from being cornered into that genre and they back up their talk by updating their sound. If you take the last three Def Lep albums (EUPHORIA, X, and YEAH!) and combine them, that’s the sound you get on SONGS FROM THE SPARKLE LOUNGE. You get the big ’80s (EUPHORIA), the ’70’s influences (YEAH!), and the modern touches (X). Each song has melodies, hooks, solid guitar, great solos, big backing vocals, and competent lead vocals. It’s obvious Joe Elliot has lost some of that high register with age but he can still sing and does so very well on every song…..I’d prefer to hear him do ‘Nine Lives’ on his own. Aside from the one repetitive mess of a song in ‘C’mon C’mon’, I liked every song on the album. When my year end picks come out in December, don’t be surprised if this is record is up there, I really enjoy it!
Favorite songs: ‘Nine Lives’, ‘Love’, ‘Hallucinate’, ‘Only The Good Die Young’, ‘Bad Actress’