DEF LEPPARD – Retro-Active [Japan SHM-CD new remaster / Limited Release] (2023) HQ
A few days ago Universal Music Japan started a new reissue campaign of DEF LEPPARD albums pressed on SHM-CD, a Limited Edition release on miniLP faithfully replicating the album first edition LP in miniature and the original Japanese OBI. This reissue differs from the previous (now sold out) SHM-CD reissues, as features a new remastering.
After releasing only five albums over the course of a twelve-year period, Def Leppard used “Retro Active” to break that habit, provide a treat for diehard fans, and close the door on the Steve Clark-era of the band. The album features touched-up versions of B-sides and previously unreleased recordings from the band’s recording sessions between 1984 and 1993.
The concept behind the album was envisioned after the song ‘Two Steps Behind’, originally demoed solely by Elliott as an electric version in 1989, was recorded by the band as an acoustic ballad at the suggestion of guitarist Phil Collen.
When the producers of the film Last Action Hero contacted Def Leppard in 1993 to provide a new song for the soundtrack, the band were unable to record new material due to touring schedules and sent over the multitrack tape of the acoustic version of ‘Two Steps Behind’, which was given strings by conductor Michael Kamen in April 1993 and included onto the film soundtrack.
It would become Def Leppard’s last Top 20 single in the US, reaching No. 12, and would inspire the band to put the album together and re-record the electric version of the song.
Although many tracks were found on single releases, some parts were re-recorded on the road during the Adrenalize tour, so the versions found in “Retro Active” are different. The original B-side version of ‘She’s Too Tough’ and the electric version of ‘Miss You in a Heartbeat’ were originally released as bonus tracks for the Japanese pressing of Adrenalize. Originally written in 1985, it first appeared on the Helix album Wild in the Streets in 1987.
Two unfinished songs from the Hysteria recording sessions, “Desert Song” and “Fractured Love”, were completed exclusively for the album. And both are among my favorites here.
The album also has covers, one of them being Sweet’s ‘Action’ (which charted higher than the original in the UK) done in a killer, multi-layered Def-Leppard trademark form. This track is simply awesome, and worth the album alone.
The other cover is Mick Ronson’s ‘Only After Dark’, performed by Def Leppard with a slightly darker vibe than the original, showcasing a band’s different side.
Although guitarist Collen had written and demoed ‘Miss You in a Heartbeat’ in 1991, it was released first on the self-titled 1991 debut by The Law, a band featuring Paul Rodgers and The Who drummer Kenney Jones. After the band had recorded new vocal, bass and drum parts to the electric version of the song in April 1992, Collen overheard Elliott experimenting with the song with a piano.
Elliott then recorded a piano and vocal version to the song, and then Collen, bassist Rick Savage and drummer Rick Allen added acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitar and drum parts to it in June 1993, creating the acoustic version that would be released as a single.
The version of ‘Ride into the Sun’ is not the one that appeared on The Def Leppard E.P., but rather the 1987 re-recording. It differs slightly from the version of the recording used as a B-side in the Hysteria era, though. The one used as a B-side had a Rick Allen drum solo intro, whereas this one has a piano intro provided by Ian Hunter.
Retro Active features a hidden (final) track: the piano / vocal version of ‘Miss You in a Heartbeat’, which also features an alternate acoustic guitar solo by Collen.
“Retro Active” was the first Def Leppard album to feature songs recorded with newly added guitarist Vivian Campbell, and speaking about the material, these are not ‘outtakes’ at all.
Each song has its nerve, and in my opinion there’s not a single filler here. I love the mix of the multi-layered / over-produced style with the more rocking, early Def Leppard style here.
Additionally, there’s the double-vision lady/skull cover artwork designed by Hugh Syme, in my book one of the greatest Rock album covers of all time.
This new remaster sounds fabulous on SHM-CD.
ＵＮＩＶＥＲＳＡＬ ＭＵＳＩＣ ＪＡＰＡＮ / ＵＩＣＹ～80348
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01 – Desert Song
02 – Fractured Love
03 – Action
04 – Two Steps Behind (acoustic version)
05 – She’s Too Tough
06 – Miss You in a Heartbeat
07 – Only After Dark
08 – Ride Into the Sun
09 – From the Inside
10 – Ring of Fire
11 – I Wanna Be Your Hero
12 – Miss You in a Heartbeat (electric version)
13 – Two Steps Behind (electric version)
14 – Miss You in a Heartbeat (unplugged)
Joe Elliott – vocals, guitar, piano
Rick Allen – drums
Vivian Campbell – electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Steve Clark – electric guitars
Phil Collen – electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Rick Savage – bass, keyboards, backing vocals