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"Def Leppard's greatest hits", screams the cover of this compilation album, "Vault". Sure, they're their "greatest" hits, and by that, it means the songs that got Def Leppard into megastardom in the mid-late 80's. It's referring to the songs that are more pop-oriented, the ones that had hit singles, the ones that got stuck in our heads and drove us into insanity. If you bought this compilation first, you'd have absolutely no idea of Def Leppard's NWOBHM roots, 'cos they're not on here.
My friend, you have opened a "Vault" you shouldn't have opened, 'cos all you'll find in there is nothing but some of the worst bubblegum garbage that ever dared to brand itself as "metal". Starting off with the infamous "Pour Some Sugar On Me", it gives a very bad first impression on the listener, displaying some oversynthesized pop material. Since this is the "U.S. video mix", it's basically even worse than the original that's on "Hysteria". We're greeted with repeated loops of Joe Elliot singing the opening line and computerized drumbeats, which basically take up much of the song. Another song that has been altered is "Rocket", although it would serve as more of an advantage since the two minutes of random synthesizer noise present in the original have been taken out, making it (slightly) more tolerable. That still doesn't excuse the fact that there is little to no trace of Def Leppard's original material, like the stuff found on "On Through the Night". Those were masterpieces, not the stuff on "Hysteria".
Basically the only indicator we get of Def Leppard's NWOBHM past is the ballad, "Bringin' on the Heartbreak", which was the very ballad that was said to have brought Def Leppard to MTV's attention, and thus began their slippery slope towards being woefully inadequate musicians. It's actually not that bad of a song, as it contains more of a haunting and emotional vibe rather than a pretentious and overdone, but it's and indicator that it's the only song form Def Leppard's NWOBHM days that Bludgeon Riffola decided to add to the compilation 'cos it was a ballad. To add insult to injury, the instrumental track which was supposed to come after it, "Switch 625", which displays some of Steve Clark's stellar riffage, is cut out as well. What an insult. They're scorning some of Clark's finest efforts in favor of exhibiting the stuff that made Def Leppard the washed-up robber barons they are now. That would have closed the album perfectly, but nope, they had to go out using a ballad; the thing that they thought was the only thing that Def Leppard was capable of. How sad.
My friend, this "Vault" was locked for a reason; it was not to keep the burglars out, it was to keep the abominable pop songs in. Now that you have opened it, you've unleashed some terrible horrors, and now, you have to suffer the consequences by listening to this candy-coated junk. You should've known better than to be so foolish in assuming you'd get something worth listening to.
So, there are three different tracklists on this thing, huh?. Well, the UK one is the obvious loser right off the bat, replacing the metallic firestorm "Foolin'" and the solid balladeer "Miss You in a Heartbeat" with two terrible tracks from Adrenalize (the worst album I've heard of theirs) and "Action", a fairly obscure cover of a Helix song, a deep album cut from one of the real darkhorses of the catalogue. The US version is the opposite of what I just described, while the Japanese drops the two additional UK Adrenalize tracks in favour of another punchy Pyromania classic and another lame ballad. Well, Japanese version wins I think.
So, the normal logic would be to simply import the Japanese version, but that's ridiculous. This record covers five albums, three of which are highly recommended. So really, if you want these songs, buy the real albums for the price of the import. Obviously I say this every time I do a compilation review, but that's my warning.
Anyway, track selection. Five from Hysteria, one song for every three million buyers I guess (do the math). They really have to be here because that record basically took the charts hostage for months with single after single, in fact, the lead-off single "Women" not even included here. That song is better than "Hysteria", although I could see the inclusion of the live version of that song (no really, the song is quite good live).
Astoundingly only three from Pyromania (US), "Rock of Ages", "Photograph", and "Foolin'" being obvious inclusions, although one would think that they are no more obvious that the superb "Too Late for Love" or fan favs like "Stagefright" and "Rock Rock 'til You Drop" (I know, Japanese version), but whatever. Really, if you like hair at all you should own that one already.
Three from Adrenalize, three more than you need. Next.
Two from Retro-Active, and both of them ballads. Bah.
One from High N' Dry, an insult to the album. Arguably three of the songs from this one became sizeable hits, so it's a little baffling why these were ignored.
Zero from On Through the Night. Totally ridiculous.
Here is yet another compilation that ignores all but one section of the catalogue, and it ain't a band like Rainbow where that's a good idea. It has some interesting thoughts from the band on each track, but the cover art is pretty blase too. This thing is yet another cash-in, and it worked well as it's moved a good four million copies to date.
2008 Note: And hey, it's way better than the more recent compilation the band has since released.