I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Music Brokers (Argentina), 2021
Disc 1: "The Many Faces of Def Leppard," 10 tracks
Disc 2: "The Songs," 14 tracks
Disc 3: "The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Scene," 12 tracks
It's time to review yet another volume in the irresistibly cheap, occasionally odd, but always interesting Many Faces of... series of bargain priced, triple-disc tribute compilations. This time out, the guests of honor are multi-platinum British rock legends, Def Leppard.
The Many Faces series has become a minor obsession of mine since I first discovered them in my local Wal-Mart earlier this year (I can't pass up a 3-CD set for only $6.97!). In addition to this Def Leppard collection, I've also purchased (and reviewed on this site) the Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Metallica volumes, and I'm waiting for a Ramones edition to come in the mail as I write this. At the rate I'm snapping up these bizarre Argentinian imports, I'll be the world's foremost authority on the Many Faces series in no time (haha).
Def Leppard's first three albums — 1980's On Through The Night, 1981's High N Dry, and 1983's breakthrough Pyromania — were all essential to my development as a young metal head. But, I started losing interest in them around the time 1987's mega-selling Hysteria came along, as my tastes turned towards thrash metal, punk rock, and other heavier fare while the Leps were becoming progressively slicker and more pop-oriented. I may not have paid much attention to the Leps' post-Hysteria, but I can't deny that their longevity and success certainly makes them worthy of a tribute album.
Disc 1: "The Many Faces Of Def Leppard"
Disc 1 is a "family tree" collection of songs by bands and projects featuring Def Leppard members past and present. Guitarist Pete Willis, who left the band during the recording of Pyromania, figures heavily on this disc, first on two tracks from his post-Lep band, Roadhouse, and two more from Gogmagog, a short-lived metal band featuring Willis, former Iron Maiden frontman Paul DiAnno, and future Maiden guitarist Janick Gers. I'd read about both of these bands over the years, but had never actually heard them. RoadHouse's "All Join Hands" and "Tower Of Love" aren't very far removed from Leppard's standard brand of slick, melodic hard rock, and Gogmagog's "I Will Be There" and "Living In A F**king Time Warp" are entertaining slabs of '80s commercial metal.
(By the way, I feel compelled to correct whoever referred to Pete as "late guitarist Pete Willis" in the liner notes to this collection — the last time I checked, he was still very much alive. The writer must have confused him with the late Steve Clark, who passed away in 1991. Some pretty shoddy research there, Music Brokers!)
Elsewhere on Disc 1, you get two songs from current Leppard guitarist Phil Collen's side band, Man Raze, who were new to me. "Over My Dead Body" and "Turn It Up" are both very cool hard rockers with an unexpectedly heavy edge to them. I may have to investigate more from this project.
Collen's current guitar partner, Vivian Campbell, appears on the schmaltzy single "Doin' Fine," from an obscure collaboration with legendary drummer Carmine Appice. The strange pop rock track "On A Lonely Road" by the The Frog & The Rick Vito Band (who?) apparently features Joe Elliott on vocals, though I wouldn't have noticed if the liner notes didn't mention it. The first disc closes out with the forgettable "Roll Me Over" by the obscure early 70s rock combo Hocus, which featured future Leppard and AC/DC mega producer Mutt Lange on bass.
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Man Raze (feat. Phil Collen) - "Over My Dead Body"
Disc 2: "The Songs"
Disc 2 consists of fourteen Leppard covers recycled from an awkwardly-titled 2014 Versailles Records tribute release, Love Me Like A Bomb: A Millennium Tribute to Def Leppard's Greatest Hits 1980-2014. There are a couple of familiar players amongst the cast list, but for the most part these covers are little more than low-rent karaoke renditions, performed by an assortment of no-names. (Who the hell is Richard Kendrick? Wicked Garden? Derrick LeFevre? Santagata? Get the idea?). None of the covers are particularly terrible, but they're banged out in a very assembly-line fashion, without much energy or excitement. The few highlights are Mystic Force's excellent rip through "Wasted," which provides some much needed heavy metal muscle, and a rockin' rendition of "On Through The Night" by the late Randy Castillo (Ozzy/Motley Crue), Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns), Erik Turner and Jerry Dixon (Warrant), and Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt). This disc could've used a few more tracks like that.
Mystic Force - "Wasted"
Disc 3: "The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Scene"
Over the years, Def Leppard has tried their best to downplay their part in the late '70s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) scene, but early in their career the young band regularly shared stages with the likes of Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne, so they can never completely distance themselves from their metal roots. Disc 3 is a cool collection of other NWOBHM bands that Def Leppard may have rubbed shoulders with back in the day, like the always-welcome Saxon ("Solid Ball Of Rock"), Tokyo Blade ("Tough Guys Tumble"), and Alcatrazz (who were few years too late to be part of the NWOBHM, but what the hell, "General Hospital" is a bad-ass track).
Hawkwind's original version of "Motorhead" seems like an odd choice for inclusion here, not only because they pre-date the NWOBHM, but they were never really "metal" either (and besides, Lemmy probably would've dismissed the Leps as "poncey hairdressers"). I had only ever heard Motorhead's version of the track, though, so it was cool to finally hear this one, complete with saxophone and violin solos!
Nit-pickers should be aware that several of the songs on this disc are also included on the NWOBHM compilations in other Many Faces of... editions. Witchfynde's "Give 'Em Hell" can also be found on The Many Faces of Metallica, while Paul DiAnno's "Remember Tomorrow" and "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and Stratus' "Even If It Takes" also appear on The Many Faces of Iron Maiden. I was bummed by the re-runs at first, but given the sheer number of titles Music Brokers has released in this series, I suppose some duplication is inevitable.
Saxon - "Solid Ball Of Rock"
Summing It Up
Each edition of the Many Faces series has been a bit of a mixed bag, but if you dig deep enough there's usually enough cool, obscure goodies included that make them worth the cheap price. The NWOBHM compilation was the highlight of this triple-pack for me, and most of the "Family Tree" cuts on Disc 1 were decent listens as well. The "tribute" portion in the middle of the sandwich could definitely have used more firepower, however.
Diehard Def Leppard fans and collectors of British rock memorabilia should get at least a few kicks from this volume of the seemingly never ending Many Faces series.
© 2022 Keith Abt