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Overlooked Alternatives: Def Leppard, Elvis Costello, Flaming Lips, Aimee Mann, Jeff Tweedy, Marc Woodworth

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Def Leppard – Hysteria (Deluxe Edition): My history with Def Leppard may have started with Pyromania, one of the greatest hard rock albums ever, but Hysteria holds a very special place in my heart. Like a couple of my other favorite albums of all time (Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime and Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son), it came along at just the right time — late summer of 1987, mid-teenage years, when I picked it up based solely out of a love for Pyromania. Thereupon would begin a nearly two year stint of daily listening to this album, the kind of listening that seemed to only happen at that time in my life. After that, life got much busier and it became much more difficult to fit in a one-hour listening session every day. But for a couple of years there, I somehow managed to complete the ritual nearly every day, at least more than several times a week — something I can't say ever happens nowadays even with my most prized CDs. But I do still spin Hysteria and often find a brief glint of the same pull the album had for me 19 years ago.

This deluxe edition packs the original 12-song album in remastered format with four studio B-sides on disc 1, while disc 2 culls the live B-sides from the era together in one place with a number of remixes, rounded out by the hilarious-one-time "Release Me" sung by, I believe, their manager. I had all of these B-sides on 7" vinyl — and still do — that came in sleeves that would recreate the album cover in giant form. Of course, the band ended up only releaseing 7 singles off Hysteria ("only" 7 — ha!) so the remaining two spaces in the 9-piece puzzle will apparently remain forever empty. Regardless, I'm just thrilled to have everything in one place finally — when I tracked down all the 7"ers, I hastily made a tape copy of the B-sides and never played them again. That tape saw a lot of action — the B-sides from this era (besides the joke "Release Me," of course, and those unnecessary remixes) were spectacular leftovers. Some would end up on the rarities release RetroActive, but not in the form I originally heard them. So here is where I'll finally get to hear them again for the first time in about 15 years. I'm excited, to say the least.

Elvis Costello – Live: A Case For Song (DVD): Another one for the Christmas list — a re-release of a video from the '90s featuring Costello performing against a trio of ensembles — the Attractions, the Brodski Quartet, and the White City Septet.

The Flaming Lips – At War With The Mystics (Limited Edition CD/DVD): We knew this had to be coming, didn't we? What with Yoshimi receiving the CD/DVD treatment and then The Soft Bulletin getting it earlier this year, it was inevitable that Mystics was also going to be appended by a DVD with surround sound and bonus tracks. It's just a shame the album couldn't be better — it's one of the bigger disappointments for me this year. However, the DVD on this one is so jam-packed with extras I'm going to go ahead and take the dive in hopes that the non-album tracks redeem it — because "You Got To Hold On," from The W.A.N.D. single was as good as or better than much of what made it to the album ("Hold On" is also on the DVD).

Aimee Mann – One More Drifter In The Snow: A Christmas album from the Diva of Depressing? Actually, that sounds great! It just seems so out of character. If I have to buy a Christmas album, this is going to be the one. And probably the only one.

Jeff Tweedy – Sunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest (DVD): Wilco frontman Tweedy took his solo act to venues on the west coast and recorded the results for this DVD. As usual with the Wilco folks, they're making this a "value-added" effort — buyers of the DVD will gain access to mp3s of the songs performed on the DVD. Now that's the kind of fan-friendly service ALL bands should be paying attention to. I didn't have this DVD at the top of my must-buy list simply because I don't have a lot of time to sit down and watch anything at the moment, but when I read about this, I decided I wanted to vote with my wallet. There's only one way to show your support for selfless acts of kindness on the parts of artists and labels like this and that's to buy.

Marc Woodworth – 33 1/3rd Book Series: Guided By Voices' Bee Thousand (Book): The title says it all — a book on the creation of Guided By Voices' lo-fi classic. It just sounds interesting as hell, and Bob Pollard gave the book his approval, so there's that.

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About Tom Johnson

  • Mark Saleski

    that’s the kind of fan-friendly service ALL bands should be paying attention to.

    true. a friend of mine told me yesterday that Connor Obert’s new label Team Love puts everything they’ve got on their site for free (mp3 download)

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    I am actually pretty excited about the reissue of Hysteria. The original version sat on my shelves for eons between listens. I pulled it out one day and was shocked at how… thin and old and bad it sounded. I was shocked because at the time of its release, Mutt Lange had made that such a huge-sounding album. This is one of those times when a remaster is a good thing- no, a great thing. I actually got rid of my old version of the album. I convinced myself I had “outgrown” Def Leppard and didn’t like the old CD sound anyway. I am going to be buying this package. I didn’t get all of those bonus tracks at the time- I am looking forward to hearing them now. Def Leppard is one of the very few bands of my youth I can still enjoy.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    So I broke down and scored Hysteria. It sounds much better from a purely mastering/sonic level.

  • Steve

    Well, DJ, with a producer like Lange at the helm, that’s not a surprise, he’s one very gifted producer.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    I don’t think Lange had much to do with this re-mastering, Steve. Either way, this deluxe version sounds better than the initial CD pressing.

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    I haven’t a/b’d the two versions, but if the best-of is the same remastering, then the original is probably much better sonically – they simply blew the levels on almost everything but the High & Dry material on the best-of, it seems. However, in the book, it says that master mastering engineer Bob Ludwig was responsible for the mastering on the remaster (yeah, sorry, that was a bit confusing,) so it may be that this is an entirely new remaster than what was on the best-of. My concern was only to hear the b-side material this week – and what a fun listen that was!

    I have to admit a little bit of disappointment reading in the book about all the abandoned takes with different producers that could have been added to this set. While I like seeing the b-sides being included, it’s the remixes and “Release Me” that really serve very little purpose. That stuff will get one listen, at most, most likely. There could have been plenty of room for some of the more interesting and different original takes of the songs to see how different they might have turned out under, say, Jim Steinman as originally had been planned. Oh well. (Maybe those tapes no longer exist?)

    I really, really hope we get a deluxe of Pyromania sometime soon. I don’t know what material is out there, but I’m sure there’s got to be some live stuff and outtakes that could make for something interesting.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    No longer having the first version of Hysteria on CD, I can’t a/b it anymore, either. I don’t think this remaster is in anyway a revelation- just an improvement. I think the disc sounds better. How much? Hard to say.

    I would like a deluxe Pyromania, too.

    As for the material in the vaults, I think we are overdue for a Def Leppard box set where such rarities might one day be unleashed.

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    I gave some songs a quick a/b comparison yesterday in the car and can say in that environment that the remaster blows away the old one! “Animal,” my main choice because it was easy to switch back and forth and get quick results, packs a real punch and sounds much, much clearer in addition to being much louder. So in the trade pile goes the old Hysteria!

    I’d definitely go for a Lep box set – there’s got to be a bunch of good stuff out there. We’ve never gotten the early EP that got them signed, so that’s at least something. There’s probably a lot more from the 80s, and if not, there’s always live stuff – I think most fans would welcome a Pyromania tour CD/DVD release.