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The CD Collection, Vol. 1 [Box] *
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  • Personnel: Pete Willis, Steve Clark (guitar); Rick Allen , Russell Buzz Major (drums).
  • Recording information: Startling Studios, Ascot (12/1979).
  • Illustrator: Melvin Smith.
  • Photographers: Robert Ellis ; Ross Halfin.
  • There were a lot of heavy metal bands in the 1980s and there were a lot of pop bands too; there weren't many who combined the two styles as well as Def Leppard did. This is a statement that the simply titled The CD Collection, Vol. 1 proves over and over during the course of its playing time. Made up of the four albums the band released during the 1980s, a live show recorded in 1983 (which was issued as part of the deluxe edition of Pyromania), a disc of B-sides and rarities, and a mini-disc of the band's self-titled 1979 EP, the set is filled with razor-sharp riffs, hooky choruses, thudding backbeats, inferno-hot guitar soloing, keening vocal harmonies, and the inimitable yelp of singer Joe Elliott as it runs through their early career. Starting with the EP, it's plain that Def Leppard had the goods right away, but all they needed was a producer to help them clean it up a little. Released in 1980, On Through the Night is an admirable first step with some fun rockers like "Hello America" and "Rocks Off," a metal anthem ("Wasted"), early attempts at the massed backing vocals they perfected later, and overall strong songs. The next step was a huge one. On 1981's High 'N' Dry the band hooked up with producer Mutt Lange, and both of their futures changed almost immediately. High 'N' Dry had some hits like the title track and "Let It Go," a huge power ballad, and the cleanest sound any of the albums they made together. There were also some tracks like "You Got Me Runnin'" that had the band dialing down the metal and hard rock sound in favor of something tighter and poppier. Sort of like a cuddly AC/DC. The next record the team made was their first classic: 1983's Pyromania basically took over the rock world and made major inroads on the pop charts too. Anchored by the brilliant "Photograph" and featuring great songs like "Rock of Ages" and "Foolin'," the record was by far their poppiest yet, with added synths (courtesy of Thomas Dolby) and laboratory-clean production by Lange. It was topped by 1987's Hysteria, a record so immense it was almost inescapable to anyone who owned a radio or television. Lange's production is almost over-the-top huge and the band plays for the back row, and in the process creates some of the best pop of the late '80s. It's great fun to listen to the records one after the other, charting the progression, rediscovering the deep-cut gems (like High 'N' Dry's instrumental "Switch 625" or Pyromania's chiming ballad "Too Late for Love"), and singing along with the hits. The set of rarities is a nice addition, especially the non-LP hit "Me and My Wine," and the whole collection has a nice crisp remastered sound that makes it a vital purchase for anyone who still had the old CDs. ~ Tim Sendra
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